It's Donna Day: we can’t let our children’s suffering wait in line behind our own

It's Donna Day: we can’t let our children’s suffering wait in line behind our own

Dying from cancer is mostly a story about suffering, the relentless loss of everything that makes life worth living. There is nothing romantic or ennobling about it.

The most human of responses is to turn away from suffering. Watching someone you love disintegrate or arch their back in pain or fade to gray, all of these things are overwhelming to see.

I understand why the video of a woman dancing with her surgical team before her mastectomy went viral. I really do. But cancer isn’t really about dancing. It isn’t about pink ribbons and heroes and angels and waging wars and winning battles. Not really.

Cancer is killing us. And when it doesn’t kill us, it often makes us weaker and sicker. It deafens us, cripples us, keeps us from eating, replaces our bladders with bags.

Hard to hear isn’t it? We really want to hear the stories of the survivors who go on to climb Everest. We want to know that cancer can be cured and that once it is cured, our lives blossom with meaning and purpose.

But, listen, it gets worse. Sometimes the people who suffer are babies, toddlers, preschoolers, ‘tweens. Cancer kills more kids each year than all other diseases combined. And when kids are diagnosed with cancer, 80% of the time the cancer has spread.

DonnaDay postThe parents of these youngest cancer patients must choose to have their children infused with poisons or to allow them to slide under powerful anesthesia so they can be cut by scalpels. The parents and the medical teams are willing to torture these children because they desperately want them to live.

Sometimes they do. They go on to be fully functioning grownups. Other times, they go on to live with learning disabilities, seizures, deafness, and immobility.

One one hand, there’s dying from cancer. On the other, there’s the suffering caused by the treatments, the “cures” for cancer. One common side effect from being treated for cancer as a child? Getting cancer as an adult.

I’m not in marketing. I’m sure if I were, I’d be told that I should show you dancing children before I ask you to give money to support research about childhood cancers. But I can’t go there. I want you to look at these pictures of Donna and know that she died from cancer.

1655874_10203282243523135_228057473_nI don’t want you to look away. I want you to know that her parents loved her (and still do) as much as any parents have ever loved a child. I want you to know that their loss is unspeakable.

I want you to look into the eyes of this little girl and know that she suffered. She needs you to see it. She needs a witness to her life and to her cancer. (You can read her story here at Mary Tyler Mom’s blog.)

Please know that there are thousands of other children too.

Research into bladder cancer, the kind I have, is pitifully underfunded. Treatment for bladder cancer hasn’t changed in 20 years. Twenty. Years. Believe me when I tell you that I’m hungry for researchers to pay more attention to bladder cancer.

But, if I could, I’d turn every penny of funding from bladder cancer research to pediatric cancer research. And breast cancer: I’d siphon every dollar spent on pink ribbons into labs, equipment and scientists for pediatric cancer research.

Why is that? You don’t need to ask, do you? You know, because you’ve looked into Donna’s eyes and you’ve really seen her. We can’t let our children’s suffering wait in line behind our own.

We have to ask the questions and build the labs and fund the research. It takes money spent in very focused ways.

Celebrate Donna’s life by giving money to St. Baldrick’s, one place where your money is guaranteed to go to research. Through St. Baldrick’s $127 million dollars has been directed toward research since 2005.

St. Baldrick’s spends money on clinical trials, education of oncology researchers, and on discovery-based research. They focus on cancer treatments and on survivorship, directing money toward cures as well as to treatments for the disabilities caused by the cures.

Donate your money here. Please. Do it now. And then share the link on Facebook and Twitter.

Do it for Donna and for your kids and grandkids, for the kids who don’t have family to speak of. Do it for the human race.

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