One day I was the mother of newborn twins adjusting to motherhood and caring for my premature babies. Then just like that I was a cancer mom. My biggest, deepest, scariest fear had come true. My 4 month old daughter was now a cancer patient and I was thrown into a world that I never wanted.
It is just like this for every family whose child has cancer or any other serious disease. One day you are just flowing through life and dealing with the every day problems that all families deal with. And just like that your world is turned upside down. You no longer care if your family loses everything else, you just want your baby to be okay. You are willing to sacrifice your job, home, cars, well being, anything and everything it takes to make their cure happen.
But the sad reality is that while this cure happens for many children, it doesn’t for countless more. The world is incredibly misinformed about the realities of childhood cancer, believing that it is rare and that those children who do get cancer are simply bald, smiling and happy, just running in the halls of the hospital rather than at the park or at home. You might see their pictures, read their stories, shed a few tears and then move on.
I could choose to move on from childhood cancer now that my daughter is no longer a cancer patient. Olivia lost her battle at 20 months old, never having the freedom to crawl, walk or run. Her life on earth was never free. She was never healthy. I could choose to be angry and to stop fighting for the cure that can’t save my little girl. But I will never walk away.
Olivia was one of 7 children that died on October 22, 2013 in the U.S. And our family is one of the more than 90,000 families across the world that lost one of our children to childhood cancer that horrible year. And those numbers are not improving! 46 kids are still diagnosed with cancer every day in the U.S. And 7 more still die each day. Just this past Monday, a few members of our board went to Children’s Hospital Colorado to distribute gift cards, and the sights are still just as heartbreaking. We saw children crying. Mothers and fathers leaning over, almost in physical pain as they watched their child get poked and prodded, endure radiation, get pumped with more poison. We saw little children exiting the hospital after another day full of treatment with pale skin, bald heads, and empty expressions as they focused on each end every difficult step. They aren’t running with freedom. They are clinging to the hope that the treatment they are enduring will allow them to survive. But even then, what is the cost?
Most treatments for pediatric brain cancer are still limited in their life-saving abilities and cause great harm to those that receive them. Even those children that are able to survive and keep their lives endure a life of hardship with long-lasting effects from the treatments. Many have heart problems, infertility, loss of mental capacity, issues with limbs, and the list goes on and on.
We need better treatments for our children! And this cannot happen without the support of those families that haven’t been touched by childhood cancer. May is brain cancer awareness month and you CAN do something. So please do! Donate money. Spread awareness. Donate blood or platelets. Do whatever you can to help these children and their families. Don’t turn a blind eye and get annoyed with the amount of posts and the constant pleading. Just do something. If you do, you will be a part of saving the life of many children in the future.
Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.