Imagine. You are seven years old and you just started your new school year. You are so excited to be back with your friends every day, but quickly, your excitement turns into fear when you are told that you have been diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer. How would you deal with that? Or imagine that you are a parent to a young child, and you have just heard the words that every parent hopes and prays they never have to hear, “Your child has cancer.” Unfortunately, about forty-six kids and forty-six sets of parents have to hear those life-shattering words each day in the U.S.
We can only imagine what it is like to be the parent of a child who has been diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to see a glimpse into the life of someone who had exactly that experience. Stacey Lasorsa’s son, Mark, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of three years old. He was intensively treated at Yale, where his family pretty much lived, for two years and then continued to periodically visit until he was sixteen. “I was told I hit the jackpot. With the type of cancer that my son had, it was known that he was going to pull through from this, and there was a low risk that the cancer was going to come back.” Stacey told me that hearing someone else say that he was going to be fine were some of the most comforting words someone could have told her at that moment. She told me that one of her biggest fears after her son was diagnosed was that no one was going to reach out to her. She was scared that no one would want to call her and ask if she were okay because they were scared and didn’t know what to say to her. “It was just the opposite. So many people were sending us encouraging thoughts, and we really appreciated it.” Stacey told me that it may not seem like it at first, but there are many positive things to hang on to. Whether it be the people that you trust, the medical professionals that are caring for your child, or even the simple thoughts and prayers that people send your way.
Caitlin Gillen Endee is a pediatric oncology nurse at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York. She started her nursing career in San Diego at San Diego Children’s Hospital where she was an inpatient nurse there for four years. “It was a great experience for when I was young. I am not sure I could have done it now.” When asked about what was the hardest part of her experience in inpatient care she told me, “We spent a lot of time with the kids, so I would get very close to them. Getting connected and close to the kids and then watching them lose their battle was probably one of the most difficult things to go through.” The biggest part of my project is raising awareness, and I thought it would be important to get her advice on how the Shepaug community could raise more awareness. “Most people know what a pink ribbon represents, but not many people know what a yellow ribbon represents, so talking more about pediatric cancer and raising money for organizations goes a long way.” It is completely necessary that we keep childhood cancer in our thoughts and conversations because awareness brings change. An incredibly important part of being a nurse or any sort of healthcare professional is being able to bring comfort to the people that you are caring for. Caitlin told me, “Doing the little things for my patients seemed to make them feel a bit more comfortable. One time, I brought seashells to one of the little girls because she hadn’t seen the beach in some time.” Bringing some sort of normalcy to people’s lives can relieve some of the stress that is brought on during such a difficult time.
St. Jude is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to bringing comfort to their patients and to their families. Throughout the year, I have been working with them to raise more awareness. Additionally, I have raised over $800 to put towards their efforts for better quality of treatment for the children. The St. Jude mission statement is, “The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to advance cures and means of prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.” The donations that St. Jude receives benefit the patients and families in ways that are more helpful than anyone could possibly imagine. Stacey Lasorsa told me, “Pediatric cancer hospitals are great at caring for not just the children but also for the family. There is a lot that goes into being a medical professional, and the people at these hospitals do a really great job with it.” St. Jude does just that. They bring comfort to their patients and families in unique and noteworthy ways. The last thing that a parent wants to worry about while their child is getting treatment for cancer is the expenses that come along with it. That is why it is so essential that we have organizations like St. Jude that covers all expenses. However, St. Jude doesn’t just cover the costs. They are making daily improvements to the treatments of today so that no parent or child has to go through this, and they won’t stop until they reach this goal. In the fifty years that St. Jude has been open, the survival rate has gone from twenty to eighty percent, so it is obvious that they are making the necessary changes and progression that needs to happen in order for that survival rate to reach one hundred percent.
We need organizations like St. Jude and projects like mine to keep pressing on so that eventually, no parent has to hear the gut-wrenching phrase, “Your child has cancer” ever again. Only four percent of federal funding goes to childhood cancer research. In order to make the change that is necessary to improve the quality of treatment for these kids, we need to make necessary resources accessible to them. There are so many organizations out there that are dedicated to raising as much money and awareness that they can to help these children. Please donate, and bring as much awareness to childhood cancer as you can by talking about it. With the efforts of everyone, there is hope that one day no child will ever have to suffer through this horrible disease as so many have.