"Death doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I'm willing to wait for it (Wait for it)
I'm willing to wait for it"
Cancer takes, and takes, and takes.
And we keep living anyway.
We control what we can, and in ways large and small we fight back.
Whether it's by persisting, or sharing our stories; pushing science forward, advocating, or giving a smile to a bald stranger in line at the supermarket.
Two months ago, Tara Brown from Kid's Cancer Care Alberta reached out to ask if I could do her a favour: Request that the City of Medicine Hat officially proclaim September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Every little bit of awareness helps, so I sent in the form and, lo and behold, it was signed and made official a mere four days later.
The statistics are stark: every year, an average of 190 kids in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer. Thirty die from it, and three-quarters of the survivors live with permanent side effects ranging from cognitive to fertility problems.
Numbers don't tell the whole story, of course. For every child affected, so too are their siblings, parents, extended family and friends. From financial hardships to relationship trauma, cancer does more damage to more people than you'd first expect.
What happens when your child suddenly needs to spend months on end in a hospital receiving treatment? One parent has to stay with them, so if they had a job, poof... it's gone.
One parent taking care of a child means any other kids often feel jealousy because they're not getting the same attention. Even if they do understand why, it's a massive, upsetting change.
Parents of kids with cancer have higher rates of divorce because of the stresses involved. Extended families can come together, but the opposite can also happen.
I remember one time in hospital where a patient in the room next to us was not doing well. They'd scream and yell and hit their parents and hospital staff, wishing they were dead instead of having to endure the chemotherapy. It was horrifying; we felt lucky that Dominic didn't truly know how bad his situation was. When you're older and know what cancer is, it's a lot scarier to then have it.
It's a little thing the city can do to recognize the many children in our community who have and continue to fight cancer. But it means something to those kids and those families to know that they are seen, that they are noticed and honoured.
There are other things we can do this month. Maybe you could wear something coloured gold, the colour representing childhood cancer. The Terry Fox Run happens in September (Sept. 19 is the main run; Sept. 29 they have a school run as well). And of course we're holding our annual #Dominicstrong online auction Sept. 24-26 via our Facebook page.
Because it's the month Dominic died, September is particularly tough for us. But we hope this proclamation gives a little boost to childhood cancer awareness.