Before my only daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer at 4 months old I couldn’t have cared less about pediatric cancer. Sure, it was sad. But it was rare. I didn’t know anyone personally who had dealt with pediatric cancer in their family so I had no reason to get behind the cause.
My daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with a Grade 2 astrocytoma on July 16, 2012. Hearing the words, “your daughter has cancer,” will haunt me for the rest of my life. Those four words changed everything.
As Childhood Cancer Awareness Month kicks off I beg you not to make the mistake I made of ignoring pediatric cancer just because it hasn’t personally affected you. It isn’t as rare as you think. In fact, 91,000 children die worldwide from childhood cancer every single year. That’s a huge number!
And the reality is the statistics don’t matter when it is your child, your grandchild, or another child you love that is diagnosed with pediatric cancer. When it is your loved one it is positively infuriating to discover how little funding goes to trying to save our kids from this horrific disease.
The National Cancer Institute gives only 3.9 percent of their entire budget to all pediatric cancers. And before they give a grant of any size the research team has to have data backing up what they want to look into. That’s why foundations like ours matter. We are the source of the startup funds that allow scientists to look into new ideas that lead to the breakthroughs and the big funds from the NCI. Before we started the Olivia Caldwell Foundation I had no idea it worked that way. And I can tell you the more we learn about the way it all works, the more passionate I become.
Our kids aren’t statistics. My daughter was not just one of the 46 children to be diagnosed with cancer on that horrible July day. She was my baby. The girl I dreamed of, prayed for, and waited for. And thanks to pediatric cancer she is also the missing piece of me that I will never, ever get back. My beautiful Olivia passed away at just 20 months old on October 22, 2013. Pediatric cancer not only stole her ability to ever stand, say her first word, or crawl. It also stole her life, her future, and with her a big piece of my heart and soul. I will live out my days as an incomplete person.
You can do something. September is a month that matters. Childhood Cancer Awareness matters and it should matter to you whether you have ever been personally affected or not. These tiny warriors are our future. And they deserve to be able to live out that future outside the walls of the hospital. They deserve cancer treatments that don’t harm them irreparably or even kill them.
Please go gold in September. Change your profile picture. Share statistics. Donate. Attend a pediatric cancer fundraising event. Hold a fundraiser yourself. You can do something! Don’t just be sorry. Become a voice for our kids and give the gift of better cancer treatments.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research in memory of Olivia Caldwell, who passed away from brain cancer at 20 months old in October 2013. To date we have given $155,000 to pediatric cancer research. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.