September is Childhood Cancer Month

| 11/09/2013

You have heard of the pink ribbon? Of course you have. Cayman will be a sea of pink in October, there will be gala dinners, events to raise awareness and to collect money. Our daughter Hannah will almost certainly not live long enough to have breasts, let alone have any chance of getting breast cancer. She will be six this month and has a less than 5% chance of living three years. (We say that to keep our sanity; the reality is more gloomy and this is likely to be her last birthday.)

She also has cancer, but it is a childhood brain cancer. Whereas 80% of breast cancer patients will survive, 80% of childhood brain cancer patients will die. Some childhood brain cancers have a 0% chance of survival.

That is just childhood brain cancer. There are many other childhood cancers such as various leukaemia's, neuroblastoma, Ewing's sarcoma and Wilm's tumour, and others. They are very different from adult cancers, and the risk factor for children's cancer is simply being a child, not lifestyle. Although their cancers are different, children have to make do with old drugs developed for adults which do them tremendous damage. Two thirds of kids who survive are left with disabilities and a high risk of secondary cancers later in life. The pharmaceutical companies contribute about 0% to childhood cancer research, but 60% to adult cancer research. The US government contributes only 4% of the National Cancer Institute funds to childhood cancer. Kids can't vote. Kids have no voice.

You probably do not know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the colour is gold. You can be excused for not knowing because no local news media has mentioned it, nor has the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. However, if you walk around Camana Bay at night it is gold as a result of efforts of friends on behalf of Hannah. Adults owe it to children to stand up for them and protect them and be their voice. In the cancer world this simply does not happen and is a shame on our society. People would like to pretend children do not get cancer, or only other people's children get cancer.

Hannah is not the only child in the Cayman Islands to have cancer. There are others we know have fought and won, others have fought and lost the battle, there others battling now. It affects 1 in 300 children and there are 12,500 children in the Cayman Islands aged 0-19. In asmall society such as ours you will already know someone whose child has or has had cancer, or if not you probably will do in the future.

The difference between adult and children's cancers is stark:
– The average age of diagnosis for an adult is 67, and the average life years lost 15.
– The average age of diagnosis for a child is 6, and the average life years lost is 71.

"Curing childhood cancer is the equivalent of curing breast cancer in terms of productive life years saved." Dr Eugene Kleinerman, head of paediatrics at the Children's Cancer Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Yet for every research dollar spent on breast cancer, childhood cancer received only 30 cents.

A child will be diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes. It is the leading cause of death by disease in the developed world, killing more children under 15 than diabetes, aids, asthma, cystic fibrosis and congenital abnormalities combined.

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know."  William Wilberforce.

Please help raise awareness in the Cayman Islands and go gold for September.

Gaylene and I will be shaving our heads in September to raise money for research for all childhood cancers and we will be joined by others. The event will be at the Wicket Bar, Cricket Square on Friday 20 September, from 5-7pm.  Please come and show your support.

We are on Facebook and our fundraising page is here —  click on the "donate" button.

Please go gold and spread the truth about childhood cancer because Awareness = Funding = Cures!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Truly my heart goes out to your precious daughter and to you and your wife Mr. Meeson. My prayers and thoughts are with you during this so difficult time. Miracles still do happen and I am claiming one for your daughter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a very sad story and my heart goes out to this family. The Cayman Islands Cancer Society does not raise money for research but they provide financial assistance to cancer patients in the Cayman Islands as well as education on many differenct types of cancers. I confess to only knowing the significance of the pink ribbon (my mother died of breast cancer)but there is a chart on the Cancer Society website.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well said, Nigel!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wishing you great success with this event…I could not see the date, could you kindly provide? All thoughts with you and your family.

      CNS: The date is 20th September – it's been added it to the VP also.