Opinion | September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death in children and adolescents, but only four percent of all National Institute of Health (NIH) research funding goes towards a cure . Dr. Ashley Plant, a neuro-oncologist at Lurie Children’s says, “Not a lot of funding goes into studying pediatric cancers, while a lot goes into studying adult types of cancer. So the more awareness there is, the more support we get for finding new and better treatments.”


Why so little support and funding for kids and teens fighting such a horrific illness? Why such a small investment towards finding a cure? Why, in a country with so much innovation in medicine, with COVID vaccines so readily available? And the unanswerable question I often ask myself: Why me? As a 15-year-old who is battling cancer to this day, I know firsthand how horrible a disease it can be. I want to build awareness not only for funding towards a cure, but also to bring voice and support to other students at ETHS who are battling cancer or know someone who is. It took me much too long to realize, but now I know cancer is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve finally learned to accept what I’ve been through, and now I’m proud to say I’m a cancer survivor. 


When I was first diagnosed, I tried to hide my disease. I wore a wig to school, never talked about what I was going through, and basically lived a double life. I hated being a “sick kid,” and I promised myself I would do everything I could to conceal what I was going through—but people knew. I could feel the stares, hear the whispers. No one can truly understand the pain of cancer unless they’ve been through it, but I didn’t let many in on what I was going through. My initial experience with cancer was horribly lonely, even with the support of my family and a few close friends behind me. According to my neuro-oncologist, Dr. Plant, this struggle is far too common. 


“One thing we hear from our patients going through treatment is [that] they are nervous about talking to their peers. Then they feel kind of isolated and alone versus being able to talk about it in a way where others can actually provide support for them.”   


Gold ribbons are a sign of support for pediatric cancer and a way of building awareness towards curing the disease. For many, gold represents winning; a first place trophy or a gold medal—but for me, gold represents the fight for finding a cure, and learning to lift up each and every young person in the fight against cancer. So go gold for us this month. On September 29th, the girls varsity volleyball team will be selling gold gear during their game. A girls cross country meet will go gold later in September as well. Thank you to those coaches and teams. Let’s work to support the cause within the greater ETHS community!