Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month? You probably didn’t. I never knew it until a few years back when I started following a bunch of kid’s stories of cancer on Facebook. (The sad reality is that there are SO many of these stories) Recently, I have had to unfollow many of these stories because as much as I wanted to follow them and pray for the best, often time’s things didn’t work out for the best and I became very depressed. I don’t know these kids or these families, but I feel like I could know them. I could be them.
Here are some very sad statistics about Childhood Cancer:
- Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
- 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive.
- Children’s cancer affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.
- The average age of children diagnosed is six.
- More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.
- 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
Here is one of the worst statistics of childhood cancer. Of all the money spent on researching cancer, ONLY 4 PERCENT of that money goes to researching childhood cancer. Tell me how our kids aren’t worth more than 4 %? Every single story I read, parents talk about their kids being worth more than 4. Isn’t your child worth more than 4%? Mine certainly is. So, these parents who have been devastated by cancer are fighting to help raise that percentage. I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t spend money on trying to cure adult cancers, but aren’t our children our future? This makes absolutely no sense.
This month, I’d like to tell you about a few of the children I followed over the past few years. These kids- and so many others- have really touched my life. I have never personally met any of these kids, but I feel like they changed me for the better.
Today, meet Jonny Wade. Gosh, I feel like I know Jonny. A lot of my friends and some family know of Jonny. I don’t recall how I found his story on Facebook, but once I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and his family and praying for them.
Jonny and his twin brother Jacky were 7 year old 1st graders, living with their parents in Illinois. They played with friends and their dog and loved video games. They were living normal, 7 year old lives. A week before Christmas 2014, Jonny got a very bad headache at school, but it went away. Over the next few days, he got more headaches and his parents took him to the doctor. Days before Christmas, he had a 5 hour surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor doctors found. It just blows my mind how quickly a families life can change.
Over the next year, Jonny endured four more brain surgeries, as well as eye surgeries, surgical port accesses, feeding tube insertions, radiation therapy, and more scans and needle sticks than the family could count. He constantly had tubes in his nose, chest and, later, in his belly. He was in pain. He suffered radiation burns, fatigue, daily nausea, vomiting, spinal headaches and the emotional pain of spending your days in the hospital instead of playing with your brother and friends. Remember.. he was SEVEN.
As his body got weaker, Jonny’s faith became stronger. He dealt with incredible pain and suffered greatly, but despite it all, he remained positive – even going so far as to put others before himself. Jonny told his parents, he “didn’t want any other kid to have cancer”. Sadly, Jonny died on Christmas eve at the age of 8.
I’m telling this story to try to help raise awareness of this horrible disease. Yes, it’s depressing, but there is also some good that has come out of Jonny’s story. His parents started the Kids Shouldn’t Have Cancer Foundation in memory of Jonny because Jonny believed he could and should make a difference. Jonny was not your typical 7 year old. He was so wise, and strong and had such unwavering faith. I wish I had the chance to meet this boy, but he will be in my heart forever. It’s amazing to think about how much a 7 year old boy, whom I never got to meet, has taught me. I’m so grateful for that.
When I have tough days as a parent, I always think of Jonny and other kids like him and remember how fortunate I am to have such a healthy child. I do my best not to take it all for granted. I remember to give one more kiss, a longer hug and another “I love you” because it can all be taken away so quickly.