Have you ever stopped to think about kids affected with cancer? Have you ever wondered what those little bodies go through? Like many of us, I certainly didn’t. I watched a few movies with kids with cancer, cried and felt sad for them for the 90-minute length of the movie and then put it out of my mind. It was only Hollywood after all. Except it is not! Until I became involved with the Teen Ontario East Pageant, I didn’t really understand the severity of a childhood cancer diagnosis, not only to the young patient but also to their family and friends. Through my reign as Miss Teen Ontario East 2016 and now as Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario I have had the opportunity to volunteer and meet some of these amazing young heroes. The children became real, their stories were no longer fiction and their struggles were heartbreaking. I have met some amazing young cancer champions over the past year and a half and their stories have impacted my life forever. You cannot truly comprehend the devastation that a childhood cancer diagnosis has on not only the child but also their family. Over the next few weeks as I prepare for the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant, I would like to try and bring their challenges to the forefront through my blog. I want to promote my Charity Platform; CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS to my readers in the hopes that maybe I will encourage even one reader to volunteer or donate towards one of the incredible charities that assist kids with cancer and their families. I want to educate my readers on Childhood Cancer; the disease, the patients, the effect the disease has on the patients and their families and the long-term outcomes that some of them are facing as they grow up. Creating an awareness of Childhood Cancer and the implications to those affected is the key to raising funds and ultimately finding a cure.
As I was preparing this introductory blog entry, I was researching childhood cancer statistics and it is certainly impacting information.
In Canada, 1700 children and youths between the ages of birth and 19 years of age are diagnosed with cancer each year. Each year! That is a staggering number! Although great strides in treatment and care have been made, childhood cancer is still the leading disease-related cause of death for Canadian children. While over 75% of children survive cancer, more than 50% of survivors of childhood cancer face late effects of their disease and treatment, including neurocognitive impairments, sterility and secondary cancers.
I have also learned over the past few months that there are different kinds of childhood cancers and that they each have their own treatment plan and resulting side effects. The most common childhood cancers include:
- Leukemia’s (cancers of the blood-producing tissues);
- Lymphomas (cancers of the lymphatic system);
- Brain tumors;
- Solid tumors (like bone cancers)
The Canadian Cancer Society has provided me with some scary statistics on Childhood cancer:
- Cancer is the number one disease killing children from age six months through to young adulthood;
- Every year approximately 230 Canadian children die from the disease;
- Treating a child with cancer demands a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week commitment of specialized care;
- Childhood cancers are generally more successfully treated than cancers in adults because the cancers grow more quickly and are, therefore, more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation;
- Childhood cancer treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or bone marrow transplants;
- Cancer treatments are long and often difficult to persevere but it is the immune system suppression and the resulting inability to go out into public that is for challenging for kids;
- The short-term effects of cancer and its treatments may include a compromised immune system, hair loss, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, mood problems and poor self-image (especially in teens);
- Cancer treatments often cause lifelong disabilities such as motor and cognitive impairments, loss of limbs, as well as heart, vision and hearing impairments;
- Treatments can last from six months to three years or longer; relapses are common.
Over the next few weeks on my blog, I would like to highlight a few cancer survivors who have been affected by different childhood cancer diagnosis. I want to tell you in the cancer survivor’s own words what their treatment was, how long it lasted and what side effects are common for their specific type of cancer. Until meeting these inspirational champions, I didn’t realize that cancer treatments were different depending on the diagnosis. I assumed they were all treated with the same chemotherapy and that their treatments were all done over the same period of time. I was naive! This is not the case!
I hope you will all take the time to read my blog entries on my Childhood Cancer Awareness Platform and you will become more in tune with what these amazing kids really go through. It is truly awe-inspiring!
Till next time,