Checking in with Kiersten…

February 4th was World Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. June is National Cancer Survivor Day. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Funny thing is for me, every day is Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Ever since June 9, 2001 I have been aware. It was a day that my whole world changed. I sometimes see posts on Facebook about someone wanting their friends to copy and repost about Cancer and someone fighting. I confess. I never repost. Those posts bug me, in fact. I don’t want anyone to ever feel guilty that they don’t post something about cancer. I also don’t want people to feel sorry for me because my son had cancer. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I would rather people be awed by my son, by his strength, by his quiet determination. By the way he has reacted to being a “cancer kid”. While I wish sometimes that it never happened to him, I do realize that because it did, I get to do the job I do and get to help people as a result. I think the first time the question of “Why him?”, was answered for me was when Austin was speaking in front of a group of school children about his experience. He was asked to speak because one of their classmates had been diagnosed with leukemia, just like Austin had been. Austin answered questions from the kids and I saw how he made a difference. That was the answer. Why him? Because he was there to share information and his experience so that more people could understand. And he continues to spread his knowledge to his teammates, to his peers and to raise awareness.

So what would I say in a Facebook post instead? I would say that every day 47 children are diagnosed with cancer. I would say that cancer does not discriminate. It does not care your race or religion, it is an equal opportunity offender and it has to be stopped. I would say there is not enough funding for childhood cancer. Only 4% of the $4.9 Billion budget of funding from the National Cancer Institute goes to fund Childhood Cancer research. 4%. Children have a life expectancy of a person in the United States is 78.74 years. That means a child like Austin who is diagnosed at the age of 4 has to deal with late effects, and a higher likelihood of a secondary cancer for 74 years. That’s a long time to have to deal with that. I would say, don’t feel sorry for someone, do something instead in their name. Get the awareness out, talk to your representatives about funding for childhood cancer research. It will do a lot more good than a simple Facebook post.