September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. At UNMH, where I work, they hang a huge banner across the Lomas bridge, which reminds us to think about the children, families and communities affected by childhood cancer. It also reminds us to think about what we can do. We can volunteer, we can donate or, if all that is too much, we can simply remember. Awareness means knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists. Raising awareness about the problem is the first step to fighting it.
And what is the problem? The problem is that, even though we have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer, there are still thousands of children every year who cannot be cured, and thousands more who are cured, but who live with the after-effects of cancer therapy for the rest of their lives. More research, more science, more clinical trials, more treatments, more education, more outreach and more follow-up is needed to ensure that more children are cured and go on to live high-quality, productive lives.
There have been concerted efforts to further this goal from local and national entities for the past 40 years. These efforts were made more visible and more tangible in September 2016, when President Obama issued a proclamation that September would be Childhood Cancer Awareness month, that year and every year after.
He said, “Every year, thousands of children across America are diagnosed with cancer, an often life-threatening illness that remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15. The causes of pediatric cancer are still largely unknown, and though new discoveries are resulting in new treatments, this heartbreaking disease continues to scar families and communities in ways that may never fully heal. This month, we remember the young lives taken too soon, stand with the families facing childhood cancer today, and rededicate ourselves to combating this terrible illness.