September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. According to the American Childhood Cancer Association (ACCO), there are 15,780 children under the age of 21 diagnosed with cancer each year and approximately one in four of them will not survive the disease. The purpose of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is to bring light to the different types of cancer these children are facing, survivorship issues, and most importantly, to help raise funds for research and to support the families of the patients.
This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. In January of this year, my cousin’s daughter, Charlotte, was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, which is cancer of the liver. At the time of her diagnosis, she was only 15 months old, the same age as my son, as their birthdays are only 11 days apart from each other. Needless to say, this was devastating news. Hepatoblastoma occurs in less than 1 in 1 million children and babies. Charlotte’s only symptom at the time of the diagnosis was a fever and the diagnosis was first missed due to a rushed abdominal exam.
Charlotte Reece has spent the last nine months fighting like crazy for her precious life through six cycles of chemotherapy and two surgeries. Charlotte lost 65% of her liver along with the tumors that were removed during surgery.
How To Help
I felt so helpless when I first heard about Charlotte’s diagnosis and wanted to do things that would benefit not only Charlotte, but her whole family. Gift cards are always a great way to help, whether it is for groceries, gas, or restaurants. For Charlotte’s treatments, they were driving over an hour each way to the hospital, so gift cards for gas stations were very helpful. Helping out with meals is another way to help and there are great online resources for coordinating meals, such as Take Them A Meal. If the patient has siblings, offer to take them to and from school or activities; or simply take them out for a couple hours to do something fun. Also, when giving gifts to the patient, don’t forget about the siblings too. Other ways to pay it forward is hiring a cleaning service for their house or picking up a bill for them, such as utilities or groceries, so they have one less thing to worry about that month. Another powerful way to show your support is to volunteer or participate in a fundraiser in honor of the patient and tell the family that they are the inspiration for it.
Currently, there are no signs of cancer in Charlotte’s sweet little body, which is truly amazing, but she is dealing with some of the many side effects of her treatments, such as hearing loss. Children face so many more side effects from the treatments and medicines than adults do and these side effects are sometimes worse than the disease itself. Currently, adult medicines are being use to treat children because there aren’t child-specific medicines readily available. Adults generate more revenue for drug companies than children do thus getting most of the funding and research. More research is needed for children and this ugly disease, as well as for age-appropriate treatments! Go gold in September for the children and families dealing with childhood cancer.
Photos courtesy of Charlotte’s Story: childhood liver cancer
To make a difference in our community, check out BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation.