When your child is born you have many thoughts; thoughts of joy, thoughts of hope, and even thoughts of pride. But no parent ever wants to imagine the thought of losing their child before they have even had a chance to truly live their life. Unfortunately, parents with children who have fallen prey to childhood cancer live in fear of that thought every day. In the United Sates alone, more than 18,000 cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year. It is also estimated that childhood cancers are responsible for the untimely loss of more children than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, asthma and juvenile diabetes combined.Yet even with these statistics, even with the commercials, the fundraisers and the information about why you should be aware of childhood cancer, few things will ever have the impact that a personal story does; and there are few personal stories more heartfelt than that of young Donna.
You can read Donna’s story in its entirety on her mother’s blog http://www.chicagonow.com/mary-tyler-mom/donnas-cancer-story-2/. It is here Sheila Quirke works through her pain. “Learning about Donna’s story is so powerful because it is real.” Quirke says. “Reading it, you learn that pediatric cancer happens and is devastating, but you also learn that life can be beautiful and joyful, despite hardships.” Anyone who reads even one entry of this blog will immediately be drawn in. Between Donna’s amazing spirit and the spirit of her parents, even in the midst of tragedy, one cannot help but to feel a sense of inspiration.
The story of Donna also makes awareness and education that much more vital. While there are no definite signs of childhood cancers, there are some symptoms to watch out for. If your child’s behavior or eating habits are changing, if they are experiencing frequent headaches, mood swings, fevers, or pain, you should be concerned. Even persistent vomiting can be an early warning sign to parents; and while it may be standard thinking to assume your child is fine, if you find yourself concerned, you have every right to demand tests.
Even with the tragic loss of her daughter, Sheila Quirke remained positive and determined to raise awareness. In addition to her blog on Donna’s story, Quirke and her husband also founded www.donnasgoodthings.org, a charity website dedicated to supporting children facing adversity and as Quirke says, “encouraging others who were inspired by Donna’s story to perform good deeds in her name.”
If you are one of the many parents who are currently braving the face of cancer with your child, you may need more than the support of your loved ones to get you through. If you are struggling financially, local fundraisers can be the way to go. Whether through school, church or among friends, a fundraiser can help to alleviate the stress of bills from cancer treatment. For those in need of additional emotional support, there are several online resources such as www.caringbridge.org that supplies parents with a way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
“We found Donna’s CaringBridge site to be a lifeline during all phases of her treatment.” Quirke says. www.stbaldricks.org is another site dedicated to helping families.
There you can find everything from ways to connect with other parents to events you can organize or participate in; including their infamous Be a Shavee fundraiser where individuals vow to shave their heads in exchange for donations to support childhood cancers.
So if you are hesitant to donate, ambiguous to other’s stories, or simply ignorant to the facts; take a moment and educate yourself. The statistics are real and still growing in numbers every day. No one is 100% safe from childhood cancer’s vicious wrath. Be aware, be involved. Use emotion, inspiration, or even devastation as your reason for becoming active in doing your part to find cures for child cancers today!
Skinnymom Fact: Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years of age in the United States. So what are you waiting for? Get involved now!