Sunday, September 12, 2010

Did You Know That . . .

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Neither did I until two years ago.

Why is the ribbon (now on the top right of my blog) gold? Because gold is a precious metal . . . and what is more precious than our children?

I plan to post some thoughts through the month, but for today here are some numbers:

1. Every day in the U.S., an average of 35 children (between the ages of birth and 19) are diagnosed with cancer.

2. That's more than 12,000 children a year.

3. By far the most common form of childhood cancer is leukemia (40%), followed by brain and nervous system cancers (27%).

4. In 1977, the 5-year survival across childhood cancers was 50%. Today it's 80%

5. The increased success of treatment means there are now an estimated 270,000 survivors of childhood cancer.

6. Survivorship has a cost. Because treatment is given at a time when the body and brain are meant to be growing rapidly, two-thirds of survivors will face serious late effects later on (such as growth deficits, infertility, cognitive impairment, heart and lung damage, and even secondary cancers caused usually by radiation.)

7. Childhood cancers are different from adult cancers. Childhood cancers need to be researched independently. Depending on how you crunch the numbers, annual federal funding for childhood cancer research is between 30 and 180 million dollars.

8. Federal funding for breast cancer research is approximately 850 million dollars annually. In addition, the well-organized advocacy behind breast cancer research brought in an additional 250 million dollars.

9. The average age of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 61. PYLL (persons years life lost) for that woman is 16. The average age at cancer diagnosis for childen is 10. PYLL for a child who dies is 67.

10. Breast cancer is the sixth-leading cause of death-by-disease among women (behind heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer's). Childhood cancer is the number one cause of death-by-disease in children.

Behind the Numbers:

I'm not saying a child is more valuable than a woman. I'm not saying breast cancer research funding should be cut. I'm not saying anything but this: Give me breast cancer any day of the week . . . take my approximate PYLL of 37 . . . and let my son live to marry and be a father and everything else he dreams of being.

Perhaps instead of gold ribbons, advocates for childhood cancer research should post pictures, and stories.

Here are the numbers of my Jacob's story:

1. Diagnosed on January 2, 2008 with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

2. Approximately 250 children a year in the U.S. get some form of rhabdomyosarcoma. (In comparison, 3,000 children a year are diagnosed with leukemia.)

3. Jacob was given a Stage III, intermediate risk diagnosis. That gave him a 5-year survival rate of 70%.

4. No child should ever be given a survival rate. Survival should never have to be on the table.

5. Jacob's age at diagnosis: 11.

6. Months of weekly chemotherapy: 10.

7. Weeks of daily radiation treatments: 6

8. Weight lost in the first three months of treatment: 16 pounds (more than 15% of his weight.)

9. Hair lost: every last one.

10. First clear scan: April 21, 2008.

11. Number of clear scans since November 2008: 7.

12. Total nights in the hospital: 20.

13. Number of shots given by mom at home: 100.

14. Number of visits to ER with fevers: 2.

15. Number of days and nights spent worrying about every single person in my family because there was only so much I could do and so much more I couldn't and I knew I was missing things right and left: I'm still counting.

To read more about Jacob's personal story, go to Jacob's Journey.

And remember those children and their families whose lives will change forever today because a doctor tells them that child has cancer.

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