Monday, January 22, 2018

Childhood Cancer Families are Heroes

It could not have been easy for Suzanne McNeil to go to the recent Solving Kids Cancer gala in New York  knowing her daughter’s video would be playing on a big screen. Suzanne lost her daughter Megan just a few months ago at the age of 20 from the childhood cancer she had battled so heroically for the last four years.

But she did go, urged on by the memory of Megan’s last days, during which time Megan asked her parents and friends to keep her work raising awareness for childhood cancer research going.

I am forever in awe of the childhood cancer families who work so hard to raise money and awareness to fight the diseases that their children battle(ed). It is agonizing and exhausting for them at times I am sure. And yet they must, because, for some, the only thing worse than sharing their story is not sharing their story.

For those in the battle, research is the only hope. A solution could come soon, perhaps in time for their child. It was only a generation ago that childhood leukemia claimed something like 80 per cent of sufferers. Now the numbers are reversed and climbing, with more than 80 per cent of those battling childhood leukemia surviving. I’ve heard the number quoted higher than 90 per cent in some circles.

These families would almost all rather be doing something else. Most are unpaid, and all are so very tired from the additional burdens that fighting childhood cancer has put on them. They are absolute heroes in my eyes.

None of this takes away from the vital work being done by professional fundraisers, marketers and public relations folks at any medical, research institution or drug company doing what they can to fight childhood cancer or any other disease for that matter. Goodness knows, I am one of them from time to time, and I have been inspired and humbled by extraordinary professionals doing everything they can to advance the cause.

But in my books, the families are heroes of the highest order. There is no profit to be made by drug companies to research certain diseases, all too often, childhood cancers. That’s not a dig. They are businesses and their responsibility in the world as it is now is to make money for their shareholders, and not to solve the world’s ills. It costs billions of dollars to create new drugs, and the money they’ll get back from creating drugs to treat certain childhood drugs won’t cover the investment. So setting up and funding research facilities has actually fallen, in some cases, to families.

Families put their exhaustion, their personal pain, their incredible fear of what might come or grief at what has already transpired aside to work for a day when no one else might endure what they have faced or face now.

And if that isn’t the mark of a hero, I don’t know what is.

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