September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Atia holding the $50k check presented to Comer Children's Hospital from Atia's Project Ladybug Fund.

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Over 13,000 children under the age of 19 are diagnosed with it in the United States every year. That translates to a total of 42 children every school day; one every 36 minutes; the equivalent of two average size classrooms.

It’s a word all parents fear; a word the whole world loathes. Some spell it with a capital letter; some with a lowercase. Sometimes it’s even referenced as a single letter, like Showtime's The Big C.

Almost everyone has been touched by it, either by battling it ourselves or knowing someone who has. It’s all around us and it’s the enemy! We shake our heads in disbelief when we hear about another person losing their battle; we get angry when we hear of an innocent child stricken with it.

There’s an entire month and special ribbon dedicated to it - September and Gold - any guesses?

For those of us in the trenches, or who have fought the completely unfair, sh*tty fight, we know all too well. We raise our voices loudly, and shout to the heavens. We beg people to listen. We wear our gold ribbons and post them everywhere we can. We spout facts at every opportunity. We tell our stories with a vengeance.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the Gold Ribbon is our emblem; our symbol of the strong, the brave, the heroic children and their families fighting for their lives every day.

During National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we honor the young lives taken too soon and the survivors who face chronic health challenges, we celebrate the progress made in treatment and recovery, and we rededicate ourselves to fighting this disease so all children may have the chance to live a full and healthy life. - Proclamation by the President of the United States of America.

I feel very fortunate to have this platform to share this information with you. Every week, I open my heart to you, taking you deep within our family’s daily struggles with childhood cancer, and this month my fellow bloggers have done the same.

Mary Tyler Mom, has taken to writing about her daughter’s 31 month battle with cancer – every day she chronicles Donna's journey, each day equating to one month of treatment. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s a story about strength and grace, love and injustice, bravery and resilience, hope and disappointment. You will be inspired, and it will most certainly remind you of what's important in life.

It's a bit fortuitous that September is Atia's birth month and also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, don't you think? I do.

As you know, last year (2010) we spent Atia's 3rd birthday in the hospital. It was a sad day, and I prayed we'd never spend another birthday there again, but prayers don't always get answered. On September 20th (2011), Atia's 4th birthday, we were back in the hospital...

Atia, Asher and I, along with several wonderful volunteers, gathered at Comer Children’s Hospital at The University of Chicago for a check presentation ceremony. With Atia standing proudly by my side, I had the honor of handing over a check for $50,000 on behalf of Atia's Project Ladybug Fund. The money was given to support Project Ladybug's ongoing programs, future initiatives and emergency funding for pediatric cancer patients and their families.


Dr. Rubin, Atia’s pediatric oncologist and our favorite doctor, was there to accept the gift. That day, we were surrounded by the very folks we'd celebrated her birthday with last year – Jenn, the childlife specialist, Erin and Michelle, the social workers, Kelly, Atia’s lead nurse and Dr. Rubin.

It was a beautiful ceremony and was one of those unexpected full circle moments. As I said in my speech that day, a year ago, I never could have imagined being in that conference room, handing over a $50k check , but there we were. Life is funny like that…

Funny that through heartache, tragedy, suffering and terror I have found my calling; forged a new path in life; found a happiness and fulfillment I've never known. My new mission, my life's work is to spread the word about childhood cancer. September IS Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and someday its gold ribbon will be as widely recognized and respected as the pink ribbon.

The kids deserve it. The families deserve it. It’s the right thing.

So today, I implore you to give your kids a hug and some extra love, for you never know when you could hear the dreadful words, “Your Child Has Cancer.”

Next Blog > "Pass It Forward"

Below are some staggering facts about Childhood Cancer; they will shock you!

About one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before their 20th birthday.

In the U.S., childhood cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children, killing more children than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.

1 in 5 kids with the disease won’t survive.

3 in 5 kids with cancer may have long term side-effects from the treatment.

On the average, 1 in every 4 elementary school has a child with cancer.

The average high school has 2 students who are a current or former cancer patient.

The average age of an adult diagnosed with cancer is 68; the average age of diagnosis for the childhood cancer is 6.

80% of children have metastatic disease at time of diagnosis as compared to only 20% of adults. (According to

There are currently more than 270,000 childhood cancer survivors in the U.S.

Late effects of childhood cancer treatment are common in survivors, and approximately one-third are moderate to severe.

Childhood cancer is not a single disease, but rather many different types that fall into 12 major categories: Leukemias (3), Brain/central nervous system (1), Lymphomas (2), Sarcomas (2), Liver Cancer (1), Kidney Cancer (1), Retinoblastoma and Germ Cell.

In almost all cases, childhood cancers arise from non-inherited mutations (or changes) in the genes of growing cells. As these errors occur randomly and unpredictably, there is currently no effective way to predict or prevent them.

Common cancer symptoms in children — fever, swollen glands, anemia, bruises and infection — are often suspected to be, and at the early stages are treated as, other childhood illnesses.

Only 3% of National Cancer Institute's $4.8 billion cancer research budget went to cover all 12 types of childhood cancer.

The funding for pediatric cancer clinical trials has gone down every year since 2003, and is currently $26.4 million. By comparison, NCI funding for AIDS research was $254 million in 2006; funding for breast cancer topped $584 million the same year.

Pharmaceutical companies fund over 50% of adult cancer research trials, but virtually nothing for children's cancer!

The American Cancer Society’s Annual Report shows $1 Billion in total public support and it’s Extramural/Intramural Funding in Priority Areas shows only $4 Million is directed to childhood cancers. Less than half a penny of each of these dollars is directed to the #1 killing disease for kids under the age of 20!

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