The month of September marks the bittersweet end to summer; it is also a time to celebrate with Labor Day picnics and back to school shopping. But for the past 10 years, month number nine has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I now celebrate September because it is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
No words can describe the feeling when the doctor looks you in the eye and says: “your child has cancer.” It was just after my son Trevor’s 13th birthday when I was told he had a highly malignant brain tumor; they call it Medulloblastoma. What a scary word! The Greek Physician Hypocrites depicted a tumor as a muddled, irritable cavity with spindly legs flaring out of control in all directions. WOW, that is even scarier, sounds like some kind of monster. Well, cancer is a monster.
Why did this monster attack my beautiful, healthy boy? Trevor was such an active, outgoing and athletic child. How could it be; one minute I was watching my son play football for his seventh grade team, the next minute I was watching him throw up from cancer treatment. I felt like my insides were being ripped out along with his when he would look at me with those sad, beautiful blue eyes and ask, “mom, am I going to die?”. I would have given anything to take this cancer from him.
It has been almost 11 years now, and thankfully Trevor and I survived the nightmare of cancer. Although we are survivors, we will forever endure the long-term challenges that cancer leaves in its wake. There are many times I find myself reflecting on this journey and wonder, what if? What if Trevor never got cancer? Would he be graduating with honors from a top tier college, possibly becoming a lawyer or a doctor? After all, Trevor was a straight A student before cancer. But according to childhood cancer facts, cancer and treatment can severely damage cognitive function, limiting the ability to retain knowledge. What if Trevor never got cancer? Would he be a pro golfer? He always wanted to be, he loves the game of golf. But because of cancer, his vision is somewhat impaired and his physical abilities have been slightly affected. What if Trevor never got cancer? Would he have been drafted by the NFL? Football was another sport he was passionate about. But cancer left him with a traumatic brain injury, so football was definitely out. What if Trevor never got cancer? Would he be celebrating Labor Day picnics with two or three kids of his own, taking them shopping for back to school clothes? Perhaps, but chances of that don’t look to promising. Not now, not after cancer. Studies have proven that the long term health affects from cancer treatment can impair a child’s growth, fertility and endocrine system.
These quality of life issues will last a lifetime. But with more awareness and funding for research, vast improvements are possible. With all of the negatives that cancer brings, this experience has also had a positive impact on my life. It has shown me the true meaning of helping others and giving back. You can never forget about cancer because it is always there. I will never know the answer to what if or why; but what I do know is I am the proud mother of a childhood brain cancer survivor.
By: Charlie Smith