Look, I completely understand that it is the month I’m supposed to be drinking fancy coffees from pink ribbon paper cups, showcasing pink ribbon products and wearing pink ribbon awareness tees with my BFF’s, but that’s not gonna happen. I’m giving up all my pink ribbons.
Today I read on The Ronan Thompson Foundation Facebook Page that the Empire State Building was going to go Pink. The parents and children of childhood cancer have been fighting all year for them to go Gold and all they got were insults about how they were stalkers and harassers for trying to get their attention. This made me so upset that I cannot even fathom how those parents must feel. Part of me wanted to scream for them and the other part wanted to just weep, because this already happened once.
Last year they had asked the White House to go Gold and had created a petition with thousands of signatures for President Obama. Unfortunately, the White House refused to go Gold for Childhood Cancer in September. Of course they had received a letter from the President essentially stating that they aren’t biased in their support of “cancers”. Then October had come and the White House went Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.
How many times can America break their hearts with pink ribbons?
“As individuals and organizations supporting our nation’s children and adolescents with cancer we too can take a strong stance for our cause with both federal and private research funding. Breast cancer is the sixth most common cause of death by disease of women in America (behind heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disease and Alzheimer’s). In comparison, cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of America’s children. In terms of person years life lost (PYLL), the average age at diagnosis of breast cancer is 61, with a calculated 16 PYLL. In contrast, the average age that a child is diagnosed with cancer is 10. This calculates to 67 PYLL. Sixty seven years of life lost when a child dies from cancer.”
I’ve wondered for a long time why people don’t support childhood cancer the way they do breast cancer. Some people have told me it’s because it is too depressing; that no one wants to see a dying child. I suppose there could be some truth to this. It’s easier for people to see only the good things. There is always a great spin of strength, support and survival for women suffering from breast cancer. On the other hand, the survival rate of childhood cancer is much lower and those that do survive often suffer from severe life threatening illnesses for the rest of their lives. People can feel good about themselves when they see people and places offering those “last gifts” to the children and their happy last moments, but the struggle and fight before hand is not very Instagramable.
The only thing that seems to make a difference is when it becomes personal; that sad reality is happening for more and more people. Each year an estimate of 13,500 kids are diagnosed with cancer in the United States.
“In 2007, the NCI reported that the combined extramural and intramural funding for childhood cancer research was approximately $180 million. However, this estimate could be regarded as liberal as some of the associated research might not be perceived as directly benefiting childhood cancer. Other more conservative estimates, put childhood cancer research funding as low as $30 million annually.”
“To put this figure in perspective, the NCI allocated $572.4 million on breast cancer research in 2007. Other NIH Institutes funded breast cancer research at a level of $132.6 million in the same year; and the Department of Defense, which also supports breast cancer research, allocated an additional $138 million. As a comparison, breast cancer with its overall 5 year survival rate of close to 90% received $843 million in Federal research funding in 2007. This was in addition to the funds raised by breast cancer organizations through their pink ribbon campaigns and private donations.”
What gets to me the most is the fact that there are so many millions of parents in the United States and yet our largest support for cancer doesn’t go to children. That even though the White House is ran by parents and I’m sure the Empire State Building is ran by parents, that they can’t seem to support the children who need it most.
Cancer seems to like my family. It has taken my uncle, my grandmother, a part of my brother’s brain, attacked ovaries and breasts of the women in my family and is currently working its way through my only living grandparent. My support of cancer research is pretty vast, but my heart will always fight for the children. Maybe it is because the memory of my brother walking out of the room at 3 years old wondering why half his body wasn’t working haunts me, or the fact that I’m petrified of it hitting closer, but a lot of the reason is because I believe all children deserve the right to live. I have this belief that maybe, maybe, if we gave even 1/2 of the support we offer towards Breast Cancer Awareness for Childhood Cancer that we’d be giving them a fighting chance.
“The success of the pink ribbon campaign and its resulting funding for breast cancer research has resulted in an increase in the five year survival rate of that patient population. Their strength as advocates has resulted in a strong position for both federal and private research funding.”
“Our call to action is to increase the awareness of the incidence and devastation of this disease on America’s children. By raising awareness of the fact that childhood cancer remains the number one disease killer of America’s children, we can raise the awareness of the need for greater research funding.”
As a woman and a mother, I feel it is a small sacrifice to give whatever I would have given to pink ribbons this month to gold. I hope one day that the government and our country will be proud to bare the gold ribbon as it does the pink. That we can one day show the strength, support and rising survival of our children because we made it happen. We changed the future for millions of women battling breast cancer, can’t we try and do the same for our kids?