We are nine days into September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. While I feel thrilled and encouraged by more Gold Lighting victories for childhood cancer awareness, there are times when I realize just how far we have to go before we even come close to becoming societies educated about the number one disease killing our children. One of these times struck me right between the eyes.
I learned, just a day ago, that Neil Armstrong’s daughter, Karen, died of a brain tumor in 1962. Wow.
Given the excitement of this kind of job, why did Armstrong choose to join the space program? Hansen says he isn’t sure, even after all his research, but he pointed to the fact that Neil’s daughter, Karen, died of cancer at the age of two in early 1962. “I think it had a very fundamental effect on Neil’s marriage, on his family, on Neil’s own career,” Hansen said.
“It was only four or five months after his daughter’s death that Armstrong put his name in for astronaut selection. Hansen believes that Armstrong “saw Apollo as a way of refocusing his energies and doing something important, and it was a way for him to really deal with his daughter’s death.”
~James R. Hansen, Biographer
Further, I learned that a child who is diagnosed with DIPG—the same type of cancer Karen died from—is treated today with the exact same treatment.
A child diagnosed with DIPG today is treated with the exact same treatment as a child who was diagnosed in 1962!
With the tremendous advances in every area of human life since 1962, it is appalling that this is true.
When Melinda and I were in Washington, D.C. this past June for Childhood Cancer Action Days, we planned extra time to visit museums. Something about seeing the exhibits where people gathered together to stand up for their human rights made me look at the current state of childhood cancer advocacy in a more focused light.
Solving the problems surrounding childhood cancer is not going to happen without a joining together of forces, without establishing specific goals, or without sacrifices. Just like Neil Armstrong refocused, today there are numerous bereaved parents who are “refocusing” their “energies and doing something important.” These parents are heroes. I would love to begin naming a list of them, but I know that is not what they want. They don’t want their names honored; they want their children honored. They want awareness that leads to funding for research that will bring less toxic treatments and cures for childhood cancer.
I won’t name them. History will name them. History will remember them. Your children and your grandchildren, and their grandchildren will have a better life here on Earth because of the sacrifices these heroes are choosing to make today. Someday in the future, I will stand in that same museum and read about these people and the great advances they achieved toward cures for childhood cancer.
The most recent communication I received from PAC2 states exactly where we need to begin to be certain that a child will not be diagnosed with cancer 52 years from now and receive the same treatment as today! After typing “52 years”, I cannot breathe…
What childhood cancer has in common with landing on the moon is history. The history of Neil Armstrong’s loss of his precious daughter, Karen, must awaken us. We have been “asleep,” for 52 years while our children have been crying out to us for help. Like Neil Armstrong, we have the opportunity to make history. In order to make history, we must create and carry out specific goals, just like they did in the 1960’s in their quest to land on the moon.
“Actually, with cancer, the end of each day is a goal, and waking up in the morning is a victory.”
~Melinda Marchiano, Grace: A Child’s Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery
It’s time to combine all forces on deck. There is not a moment to waste.
History is being made each moment. Take the #ChildhoodCancerChallenge
Commit. Sacrifice. Focus. Act. Adequate funding for childhood cancer research must begin today for quicker cures.
This will be better than any moon landing could ever be! The end of childhood cancer…
Guest Blogger: Lee Marchiano