Monday, September 7, 2015

September: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Ever since my little sister, Kaitlin, was diagnosed with leukemia back in 2007, September has always been a very important month for me. The first day of September marks the start of childhood cancer awareness month, and for some reason I've always found it to be a month full of hope. September is a chance to not only shed light on the statistics behind childhood cancer, but also to hear stories from families all over the world who have been effected by this terrible disease. I usually support childhood cancer awareness month simply by liking and sharing posts from others due to the fact that I can never quite figure out how to put into words what it is that I want to say; but, after talking to so many people who (ironically) weren't even aware that childhood cancer has its own awareness month, I feel like I should at least try to type up a post. Hopefully my words won't be in too much of a jumbled mess.

I want to start off by giving you some childhood cancer statistics:

These are just a few of the statistics, but I felt as though they were the most important. On November 9th of 2007 my little sister was one of those 46 kids, and it breaks my heart to think that before the clock strikes midnight tonight there will be another 46 kids as well as their families, going through what we went through that day. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Not knowing if someone that you love, may live, is torture.

Kaitlin was diagnosed just weeks after her third birthday. She only had THREE YEARS (1095 days) of being alive before her world was turned completely upside down, and that's something that's always really bothered me. Here I am, in my nineteenth year of life, and I've never once spent a night in the hospital. The sickest I've ever been was that one time when I was fourteen and I had the flu. So why is it that Kaitlin, being so young, is having to fight for her life? I'm not sure I will ever know the answer to this question. My only hope is that one day there won't be any siblings that have to ask themselves that question. That one day, cancer will only be talked about in history classes as 'The terrible disease, which claimed so many lives, but is no longer something to be concerned about because they found the cure'. That hopefully one day, no child will have to endure all that my little sister has and still is going through. As one of Kaitlin's oncologists once told my family and I, "I am looking forward to the day that I am out of a job, because hopefully that means that this disease is no longer in existence."

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! I know it wasn't eloquently worded, but I did my best. It's so hard to write about something that is this personal. I hope that you've taken away something from reading this, and that maybe you'll consider helping out the childhood cancer community by volunteering, registering, or donating. We could always use more support! And to those of you who right now are saying 'That's a nice thought, but why would I volunteer for something that's never affected my life'- Never did I ever think that my life would be so closely impacted by childhood cancer. Until that Friday night in November of 2007, the most affected I had ever been by childhood cancer was through the St. Jude commercials they played at the movie theater. You just never know what the future may hold.

Here are some different ways you could help out:

Register as a bone marrow donor with Be the Match.
Shave your head with the St. Baldrick's Foundation as a fundraiser.
Volunteer at your local Children's hospital.
Help out with foundations such as the Rally Foundation.
You could even organize your own fundraiser within your community.

I want to close this post by giving you a quick update as to how Kaitlin is doing today... Her cancer is in remission, but this doesn't mean she's completely out of the woods. As I said earlier, nearly 60% of the kids diagnosed will have to deal with chemo-related side effects for the rest of their lives- Kaitlin falls in that 60%. She has severe organ damage throughout her body, specifically in her heart, due to the chemotherapy. Luckily, she has a fantastic cardiologist who thus far has been successful in keeping her heart as stable as is possible. We're not sure what the future holds, but I try to not get too caught up in the 'what if' game. All that I care about right now is the fact that Kaitlin is still here, driving me crazy, as little sisters should. I'm lucky enough to still be able to talk about my little sister in the present tense, and that's something that I will never take for granted.

-Melissa P. Cooper

(P.S. Don't forget to use the hashtag #GoGold on any childhood cancer related posts you share on social media! Thanks again for caring enough to read all of this!)

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