I was a nurse for 29+ years and have loved the opportunities that I had to care for children with cancer during that time. Knowing the role of a nurse and what an emotional toll childhood cancer takes on children and their families, people would often ask, “How can you care for these children?” The truth is that I never wanted to do anything else.
During my time as a nurse, I discovered several truths: (1) Many people are not aware of the large number of children being diagnosed with cancer until they have a child that receives the awful, and surprising diagnosis. Today, each and everyday, 43 children will be diagnosed with cancer. (2) Childhood cancer is not as rare as most people think it is. Worldwide, close to a quarter of a million children will get cancer each year. Many children are being diagnosed with thyroid, kidney, and brain cancers that were formally known as “adult cancers.
As someone who has been very closely involved with precious children being treated for cancer and watching what their families have to endure, it has angered me that so many companies have items that promote breast cancer awareness and other diseases, but seem to ignore the number one disease killer of children. I am also angered that baseball teams do pink on Mother’s Day for breast cancer and blue on Father’s Day for variety of men’s cancer conditions but overlook childhood cancer and it’s gold ribbon especially in September.
Awareness is needed for childhood cancer just as it was needed for HIV Aids, and Breast Cancer. It is the awareness that will eventually lead to the funding that is so desperately needed for pediatric cancer research. If people were fully aware of the plight of children with cancer, I am sure the National Cancer Institute would be spending more than 4% on pediatric cancer.
Many times when a child is diagnosed or in treatment, friends and families don’t know what to do, so they send or give them stuffed animals, mostly bears. The child gets attached to his bear and it goes wherever he goes. It provides comfort. Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych. Assoc said, “A teddy bear can provide comfort through hard times. When a child suffers a loss or when he or she is feeling fearful or upset, the inanimate object has the power to soothe and comfort. The animal “looks” as if it understands and cares, which allows a child to feel supported while he or she is all alone.”
Additionally, a bear for childhood cancer awareness would be a bear that could be purchased for children to provide comfort during their treatment or a family could purchase to honor a child that has lost their life to the monster known as childhood cancer. No kid can fight cancer alone and with the recognition that a bear or “special friend” can be so important to children during their treatment for cancer, I decided to do something. In order to improve awareness, and to benefit children with cancer, I started a petition and Facebook page (so far, we have shipped 350 bears to kids). I want to appeal to a company to manufacture a childhood cancer awareness bear. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition by clicking on the photo to the left. As of March 30, 2015, we only need 750 more signatures to reach our goal of 20,000!
If they made an awareness bear, companies that profit from the sale of stuffed animals could do themselves a big favor and also help children with cancer at the same time. I believe they don’t realize the profit potential in having a childhood cancer bear. Potential manufacturers may only be looking at the annual diagnosis rate. They may not even be aware that there are over 40,000 children undergoing treatment now and there are 400,000 survivors in the United States alone! Can you imagine how many bears could have been sold if they were available at the time of diagnosis? If they offered bears in blue, pink, yellow and brown, each with a beautiful gold ribbon, think of how many they could potentially sell? A lot of kids would want to own all of them. The possibilities are endless!
Author: Lynne Stiefler
Editor’s Note: Lynne is an unusual person. She has no children or grandchildren with cancer, but she is totally involved in helping them. She even shaved her head for the St. Baldrick’s cause on April 19th, 2015, at Mickey Finn’s in Victor, New York! This was her seventh year in a row! Thank you Lynn for all you do for children with cancer.