Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month?
With all going on with Covid this year, the other Big C has slipped under the net somewhat. There are around 500 cancer deaths a day in the UK at the moment - and not all of those are 'elderly' or have 'underlying health conditions' (aside from cancer, obvs).
This month we may be facing many changes, and I know we all have a lot to worry about. However, I'd like to take a few minutes of your attention to talk about childhood cancer.
Although I myself wasn't diagnosed with cancer as a child (I was 18 at the time), I very much feel empathy for the cause, as someone who is treated in a teenage/young adult ward and someone diagnosed still very young. I follow a range of cancer patients on social media, ranging from parents of very young children, to teens, people in their 20s/30s/40s. I know when I was diagnosed, I saw cancer as an old person's disease, but having been a part of the community for nearly 5 years now I know that it really isn't. Cancer is a tragic disease that can strike at any age - and it is never fair.
This month is dedicated to raising awareness of the children living with cancer around the world and in the UK. 12 children in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every day. 2 out of those 12 will not survive.
Sarcomas are common childhood cancers, another reason I have such a vested interest in the topic, with my type of sarcoma (Alveolar soft part) being most common in young people. Sarcoma is rare, as is developing cancer as a child, but both happen and are a massive issue. If you want to learn more about how sarcoma can affect children, watch Sarcoma UK's latest YouTube video following Amelie's experience with Ewing's sarcoma.
Today I want to raise awareness of the devastating long term impacts of cancer treatment on children. Of those who will survive, many will live the rest of their lives with side effects such as infertility, growth development issues, heart problems, anxiety/depression/PTSD, breathing problems, digestive system problems, and many more. Not to mention the increased risk of developing cancer again later in life. Some may say that's a small price to pay for life - but surely more of an effort should be made to support our young people, research and provide safer treatment options, and prevent the long term impacts?
There is so much focus on how awful the treatments are in the short term and how horrible it must be for the child - and of course, there should be focus on this! - but nobody talks about the aftermath. I believe this rings true for adult cancer too. Once you're through treatment and are 'cancer free' (if you're lucky enough to get to that point), you are expected to get on with life like normal, as if nothing happened. When in fact, many people suffer more post-treatment, mentally and physically.
Team Ellie is the blog of a young girl who was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma when she was just 15. A few years on now she raises awareness of the long term impacts her cancer and her treatment has had on her mind and body, a key one being infertility and having gone through the menopause as a teenager. Is this something you hear spoken about in mainstream media? Teenagers being told that yes, they will be infertile - and offered no support? Because, does it even matter? Surely they're not thinking about having kids already? Well, that shouldn't matter! It is a massive deal, no matter your age or situation, and I believe deserves way more attention.
Prospects for children with cancer have improved massively over the last 50 years. However, some children are still receiving the same old, harmful treatments that have not made any progress in 50 years. More research needs to be done to find less toxic treatments for children, and treatments tailored to their smaller, more vulnerable bodies. Moreover, while for some types of cancer, about 99% of children will survive 5 years, for others that figure is less than 50%. It shouldn't just be luck of the draw, there should be constant research going on to make sure every child has the same chances of survival.
Let's face is. Cancer is a pile of crap. But with more help, support, money - we can continue to improve the lives of everyone diagnosed with cancer and everyone living through it.
If you want to help the cause this year, you can buy a Childhood Cancer ribbon from the Children with Cancer UK charity website. Not only will you be donating a little bit of money through your purchase, but simply wearing the badge will help raise awareness to childhood cancer and hopefully open up more conversation/lead to further vital donations. You could also share this blog to raise awareness, or go follow some informative accounts on Instagram/Facebook, or sign up to some childhood cancer charity newsletters! It really is that simple.
Thanks for reading my blog today, I hope it didn't bring you down too much! There is always more to learn, so be sure to check out Children With Cancer UK and other charities such as Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG), and Solving Kids' Cancer.
Until next time,
P.S. This year I am taking part of the 500km Virtual Runner challenge, running/swimming/cycling 500k over the year, as well as taking on lots of random challenges each month! This is all in support of Sarcoma UK, the national sarcoma charity that funds vital research and support for patients and their families affected by the rare cancer. If you want to support me, then you can donate whatever you can through this link. Even £1 would be greatly appreciated, and you can donate completely anonymously!! Thank you!