I never had a chance to post about the CureSearch Walk, as I was busy packing for my fantastic getaway. Thank you to those who joined us or donated on our behalf. We had a nice group of about 25 friends and neighbors who walked alongside us on a beautiful sunny morning. The kids, of course, thought it was all about making baboushkas out of their new bandanas and devouring free bagels. And when they called up those who had lost a loved one for the balloon release, Austin eagerly insisted on going up. “Oh-kaaaaayy,” I hesitated, trying to quickly determine which child we’d release a balloon for. I settled on our beloved Ariana (of course) and Dylan, another young friend whose story is too pathetically heartbreaking to relate on this dreary gray Wednesday.
The overall event was nice, raising more than $60,000 for research. My one friend who attended for the first time was amazed at how small it was, compared to the breast cancer events she’s used to. Which brings me to my own little pity fest, egged on by the ever-increasing pink in our world. I don’t mean to begrudge the breast cancer movement its marketing success. I am indeed amazed and impressed by the truly remarkable feat it has achieved in in just three decades, making this once-silent disease the darling of corporations and advertising campaigns. And of course I believe we need to fund breast cancer research and of course I believe that awareness raising is a part of that. And I hate to act like my disease is the only one that matters, because if we all thought that, we’d never make any progress.
But the fact that Childhood Cancer Awareness Month falls right before Breast Cancer Awareness Month does make for a stark comparison, as that wave of pink inevitably bleeds over the calendar’s edges. I remember last fall, over Labor Day weekend, a local design shop began setting up its two-story pink ribbon display facing a busy intersection. Now, I am perfectly fine with them supporting breast cancer awareness and research, but does anyone even know the ribbon color for childhood cancer? It was Labor Day, all of three days into September. Keep your pink confined to those 31 days, dammit!
Okay, that was harsh and selfish, and probably isn’t the answer at all. Maybe we don’t need to designate any set period of days or weeks to one disease versus another, just like we don’t need to confine black history to the month of February. Maybe we simply need to look at numbers and impact and fairly and appropriately fund research across the board. Easier said than done, I know. And it’s no doubt true that more adults get and die from cancer than young people do. But it’s frustrating to know that pediatric cancer kills more children each year than AIDS, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart defects, asthma and muscular dystrophy combined. But receives 4% of all national funding for cancer research and treatment. That alone should shock us into action. Not to mention the fact that of those children who do survive, one quarter suffer from life-threatening or life-altering complications from their treatment. And a major study out of Britain recently concluded that for survivors of childhood cancers “their risk of dying earlier than their peers who had never had cancer remained significantly elevated even after 45 years.”
So, I’m certainly not proposing that we stop or slow the progress made by movements like breast cancer awareness (although some people do raise very interesting questions about the tactics and especially about the promotion of products with pink ribbons that likely contain carcinogens, see here and here). But I am proposing that we focus on what’s actually important — in the case of breast cancer, what’s actually important is not saving the ta-tas but saving lives. And the same goes for our nation’s children. We must save them, every one.
There are too many balloons in this scene: