Monday, September 3, 2012

Childhood Cancer Awareness: Be Aware, Dwell on Joy

Yet again, it's September.  And yet again my Facebook feed is inundated by posts about "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month".  Okay.  Yeah.  Whatever.  That's fine.  I suppose there is value in reminding everyone you know once in a while that, "Hey, there are kids out there.  And some of them have cancer."  I cannot think of any particular value that might hold but maybe there is.  Some.  Somehow.  For the most part I just ignore it.  I repost my post about how to help a family with a sick kid.  And I move on with my life.  And I feel like I've earned that right and can do so without guilt since I am, in fact, fully aware of Childhood Cancer and I really really really couldn't possibly be more aware, now could I?  But then yesterday, as September (a glorious month that means new school supplies and leaves falling and cooler days and one month closer to the two and a half months of constant celebrating from Halloween all of the way to Ronin's birthday on New Years Day with birthdays, Christmas, and a wedding anniversary in between) made it's debut, I saw this.  You know?  These e-cards that people make to force their readers to think about something or laugh about something or nod, smiling in agreement with something?  One of those.  Only this one was about Childhood Cancer. 

 This e-card has really made me think.  It's made me reflect upon just how differently our family has chosen to experience this Childhood Cancer journey.  A few years ago, I went through a "Family Ties" phase.  We were able to TiVo it on some channel available on cable.  Every "commercial break" of nearly every episode left me stunned.  Every. Single. Time. there was a commercial break, I had to fast forward through some "advertisement" for St. Jude Hospital.  It was really starting to bother me.  In a major way.  Here I am trying to watch tv and escape for a little while and darn it, if they didn't keep shoving dying kids in my face.  What was UP with that?  After weeks of this, I posted a Facebook status about how unnerving it was to see these "ads" every time I sat down to watch "Family Ties".  And not just once, but like 5 times in each episode.  I remember one of my "friends" commenting that I was lucky to only be inconvenienced by looking at kids with cancer on television when her friend was dealing with a child who had brain cancer.  I was pretty sure she didn't understand my point.  Clearly it's not that I didn't CARE that there were kids at St. Jude dying.  It's just that... well... I didn't see why I needed to be reminded of it every 8 minutes.

And I have often thought of that incident over the past two years.  I've often asked myself if I feel differently now.   

Do I still have the same icky resentment toward that cable network for shoving bald dying kids in my face every 8 minutes while I tried to enjoy my program?

You betcha.  

I no more think it necessary to shove dying kids into the faces of television viewers now than I did on that day a few years ago, before I was the mother to a kid with cancer.

Do I believe that the most people in this world are going along, blindly unaware that there are kids with cancer?  No!  Absolutely not!  People know that kids get cancer.

Do I believe that if these aware people were sitting around dwelling on the fact, things would be different?
No!  I don't!

Do I think that when my child was diagnosed with cancer, the people in his world were "living blissfully unaware"?  Not even a little.

Our family received more support emotionally, spiritually, financially, and practically than I ever dreamed possible.  Almost every person my husband or I had ever known in the entire world stepped up and offered us some type of support.  From gifts of a thousand dollars in cash to a hug in a grocery store, we were lifted up by every. single. person we encountered.

So, clearly people are aware.  When they know a kid who is being affected personally by cancer, they step up.  When they hear of an opportunity to shave their heads for a local St. Baldrick's event, they step up.  When they are told of a bone marrow drive for a child who needs a transplant, they step up.

Does more money need to be raised?  Sure.
Do more people need to be on the bone marrow registry?  Absolutely.
Will passive aggressive e-cards make those things happen?  Seems unlikely.

Childhood cancer is something that happened to us.
It does not define me.  It does not define Hunter.

If my sweet friend can go through one of the most unspeakable tragedies a person could ever imagine and not let it define her, then we can survive childhood cancer and not let it define us.

Our leukemia journey has not made us more passionate about helping kids with cancer.  It's not made us feel as if we are supposed to be donating our time, money, and efforts more so now than before to "making a difference".  It's not made us into Childhood Cancer Warriors.

What it has done, however, it make us more passionate about life.  It has helped us see the good in all people.  It's allowed us to look at how precious every second we spend together is... because we may not have years and years and years together.  We must focus on now.  It's given us the gift of perspective.

I do not need the people around me to be more aware of Childhood Cancer.  I do not want my loved ones to feel guilt that they aren't "doing more" because of the things they read in their Facebook feed.  I do not want people I love to dwell on Childhood Cancer.  I'd not wish that kind of thinking or mindset on my worst enemy.  Dwelling on it and accusing our society of not doing enough isn't going to fix anything.

Our world would be a much better place if we all focused on the gifts in our lives.  Let the gifts and the joy define you.  And if you want to make a difference during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, make your Facebook feed full of useful links:

Be the Match
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Baldricks
33 Creative Ways to Help a Family with a Sick Child

Like A bona fide life on Facebook


  1. I love Hunter's sign. What a great attitude to have.

    I did wonder how you felt about that Facebook post, and whether your opinion changed.

    I think balance is good.

    It's fine to be made aware of things, but probably counterproductive when it becomes excessive.


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