“Your son has cancer.” Never in a million years could I ever have predicted I would hear those words. Never in a million years could I have imagined how much it would hurt to watch his hair fall out. Never did I think I would feel the brokenness of watching my four year old tremble in fear, in pain, in desperation. The first time I watched the chemotherapy drugs injected into his body, I sobbed the most defeated cry I have ever cried. This was my baby; I had made his baby food, breastfed him for 16 months, kept every “toxic” item I encountered far out of his reach. Yet, here I sat watching as actual poison went into his body — the very poison that would deplete all his energy, all his spunk and spirit, and yet simultaneously save his life.
Childhood cancer spares no one; it does not care if you have done “all the right things”. It does not care if it rips apart your marriage or fills your children with fear. It does not care that your family is separated for days, weeks, months. It does not care if your bank account is depleted or your career suffers. Childhood cancer threatens the very life of its most innocent victims. There is nothing more cruel, more ugly, more evil than cancer. I would have given up a thousand times, but at four years old, he never did. I held his tiny body and promised him that he would be okay, and he believed me simply because I was his mommy. He did not know the “life expectancy” associated with his cancer, he did not know the effects of his chemotherapy or radiation treatments, but he believed it would all be okay because I told him so.
Why did my child get cancer? Why does anyone’s child get cancer? I do not know the answer to this question, and if I am honest it is one that still haunts me today. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month of awareness I wish we didn’t have because there were no children with cancer.
I Google search “childhood cancer” and I read it is rare, yet I know numerous families who have walked the same journey we have. I hear of “early detection” for adults — mammograms, colonoscopies, preventive care. Children deserve the same kind of attention and work toward earlier detection, better treatment options, and ultimately a cure.
I am also so incredibly grateful to live in the city of Birmingham, where we have Children’s of Alabama and UAB, both of which provided my son the very best medical care possible. Organizations such as Smile-A-Mile, aTeam Ministries, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts, and countless others work tirelessly to fight cancer and support the families affected by cancer. I highly encourage you to follow these amazing organizations and find a way to support their cause. While I pray you never have to become a “Clinic 8” patient, if you do, rest assured you will find the smartest, hardest working, most caring professionals who are truly advancing the future of cancer treatment right here in Birmingham. My son is alive today because of Children’s of Alabama. The depth of my gratitude can never be measured.