We all develop causes and issues that become important to us. During my pediatric training, childhood cancer became a cause for me that I started to care very deeply about and has remained important throughout the many twists and turns of my career.
We all have ways to help a cause. Some doctors battle this beast behind the bench of science. Others tackle it by treating the children with cancer. I do what I can by the many routes of advocacy in my online and offline work.
There were many times in my residency that the only way we could figure out how to help these kids and families was to sit with the kids and read books so the parents could have a break. I spent many an on call night in the rooms of toddlers with them on my lap while various chemotherapies coursed through their veins. Sometimes I just hung with teens talking about teen stuff so they could pass the time. Other times I just sat with moms and dads, usually not knowing what to say, but knowing they needed a break somehow.
Not too long ago I wrote an article trying to raise awareness about a cancer that is a real beast in childhood cancer - neuroblastoma. I had great luck getting it published in a few newspapers for the group I interviewed for the piece. One group, however, one of my usual "go-to" websites, tossed me a curve ball and sent me an email not wanting to run the piece. "Can you send us something that more families can relate to? Something happier? This really doesn't effect enough families to post on our site."
I recall feeling stunned. I tried to explain to this editor that cancer impacts entire communities and that our kids can very well, and often do, end up attending school with kids who are diagnosed with cancers or have parents who are being treated for cancers. I tried to make the case that it is appropriate for our kids to learn how to help other families because that is how they grown up to be compassionate adults.
I emphasized that life is bitter sweet and we owe it to the readers of our articles to expose them to the all aspects of life. It isn't right to emphasize only the sweet and candy coat or ignore the bitter. We may be able to fast forward through a tough scene in a movie but can not do that in life. Adults and kids need to learn to handle those moments with grace and courage and articles with tips for how to get through a bitter time and help others get through a bitter time are one way to help people do that. You don't get much more bitter than cancer. She wouldn't budge and the piece never ran on her website.
I thought of that editor as I read the recent study informing us that childhood cancer survivors are not getting appropriate follow-ups as adults. That study reminds us that childhood cancer is an adult concern. There are not only medical issues concerning screenings and early identifications of secondary cancers, but when adults themselves, our kids may end up marrying someone who battled cancer as a child or become friends with a childhood cancer survivor.
That website editor was shortsighted in not recognizing the importance of community and awareness when it comes to battling childhood cancer. Today we must fight for other people's children who need help because tomorrow we may need help fighting for our children.
This year, join me in fighting for the welfare for kids. I choose to fight for childhood cancer but you may choose to fight for a different cause. There are many beasts in childhood that need fighting and those beasts all need grownups brave enough to do something - anything - to contribute to the fight.
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