March 1, 2013
Today I am taking a break from regularly scheduled programming i.e. ridiculously long-winded and “wtf is she talking about?” kinda rants, in order to be a part of something special.
My friend Sheila, AKA Mary Tyler Mom, has asked me to join in on a special event called Donna Day. On Donna Day various bloggers take to their computers to honor the memory of Sheila’s daughter, Donna, and help raise money to fund cancer research. Sheila has written about her family’s experience with pediatric cancer in a series called Donna’s Cancer Story for Chicago Now and The Huffington post. Not only is Donna’s Cancer Story beautifully written, but it helps to shed light on the realities of pediatric cancer and give people a connection to this horrible disease.
Here are a few staggering statistics:
- More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined;
- Before the age of 20, 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will be diagnosed with cancer;
- worldwide, a child is diagnosed ever three minutes;
- the cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate, e.g., brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate, and some, like DIPG, are known to be fatal with no known treatment or cure;
- 73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment and 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.
I am no stranger to cancer. Like most people, I’ve lost family members from this disease, and I would venture to guess that all of us know too many people who have lost family and friends. And when the person who gets cancer is a child, that hits everyone like a ton of bricks. Kids aren’t supposed to get sick. Not like that. Childhood is supposed to be carefree and happy. All that kids are supposed to know about doctors is that they occasionally make you take yucky, pink, medicine, and give you shots. Kids should know nothing of chemo, hair loss, pain, loss of limbs, or death. Kids should know nothing of hospitals at all.
When I was a kid I thought hospitals were just for old people. That’s how it should be. Hospitals are where you go after you’ve lived a long, happy life. Hospitals are where you go after a magical childhood of believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny. Hospitals are where you go after countless birthday cakes, parties, and presents. Hospitals are where you go after you experience puppy love, real love, and marriage. Hospitals are where you go after you’ve had children, and they’ve have children, and if you’re lucky, those children have had children. Hospitals are where you go when you feel like you’ve done it all. Hospitals are where you go when you’re old. Not when you are 2, 4, 10-years old and are just beginning.
Last fall I was emailed by a woman name Jamie, whose daughter was going through treatment for bone cancer. She told me that they enjoyed reading my funny stories, and she thanked me for making them laugh during such a difficult time. I get lots of email like this, but this particular one really struck me because Caitlyn was only 12-years-old, which is nearly the same age as my son. The fact that Jamie and Caitlyn were taking the time to tell me “thank you,” during their darkest time, hit me pretty hard. After chemotherapy, amputation of her leg, and more chemotherapy, the cancer spread to Caitlyn’s lungs. Her family was told to take her home, make her comfortable, and enjoy the time they had left. Caitlyn passed away on November 28, 2012.
|This is Caitlyn.|
I think we all tend to shy away from stories like this. People don’t know how to handle it when someone’s child gets sick. Nobody wants to think about the fact that it could happen to their own kid. That’s a thought that no parent ever wants in their head. As a mother I know that I often shut down when I hear story like that, because I don’t want to imagine it being my child. Our minds can’t even bear to think about it. So we don’t. But I think we have to think about it in order to comprehend the reality of this disease. If we keep a numb distance from it, although it protects our minds, it actually hurts the chances of finding a cure. We have to put ourselves in their shoes in order to realize that we can help. This could all end. If more money is given to research, this could all end.
The purpose of Donna Day is to raise money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds more in childhood cancer research than any organization except the U.S. government. On March 30th, Chicago will be hosting the second annual head shaving event for St. Baldricks. This is an event in which people voluntarily shave their heads in order to inspire people to give donations. How ballsy is THAT? Especially for a woman. To shave your head in honor of these children who lost their own? It’s amazing to me to think about. I only WISH I had the nerve to do it. But if you are a wussy like me, you don’t have to shave your head. You cam donate in support of the people who are way braver than us. You can donate in support of the children who had no choice. Last year the Donna’s Good Things team had a goal to raise $20,000 and ended up raising $79,000. THAT was an amazing feat. This year, since they have lest shavers at the moment, the goal is $30,000. The oldest shavee for the team this year is an 89-year-old woman. And guess what? her daughter will be doing it too, for THE SECOND TIME!
To help support the Donna’s Good Things team, PLEASE click HERE to donate. No amount is too small. Seriously. Every penny helps. And if you want to shave your head, GO FOR IT! And get a unicorn tattooed on your head and really own the heck out of it! And send me pictures! I won’t show anyone. I swear! Seriously, who would I possibly tell????
Also, do me a favor and read Donna’s Cancer Story HERE, then read this piece HERE. It is honestly one of the most touching things I have ever had the pleasure of reading. These stories not only made me count my blessings, but they inspired me to do what I can to help others. I hope it will inspire you as well.
Thank you all. I know some of you get a little bummed when I don’t write about the funny nonsense. But this is more important. And the fact that so many people come here to read my nonsense means that I have the platform to trick a ton of people into reading about something important. THIS is important. But just in case you are pissy about being tricked, here is a picture of a tiny turtle named Turtle Fingeroni. He’s Italian. He’s a badass. He’s in the mob. If you don’t donate to Donna’a Good Things/St. Baldrick’s, he might break your legs. That’s not a threat, It’s just a fact.
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