When Hayes was first diagnosed, my husband and I walked into the cancer unit of the hospital in shock. I had no idea that a cancer unit even existed, let alone the fact that it was overflowing with children. Literally overflowing…there was an “overflow” wing of the cancer unit. There was not enough room for all of the kids going through cancer treatment so they had to steal a wing from the surgical unit. It was a whole new world I honestly only saw in the commercials raising money on TV. I didn’t know it was real life! It was my life! I knew adults got cancer. I heard about it and I feared it, but it wasn’t until my son was diagnosed that I realized that the fear of adult cancer was nothing compared to the fear of your own child getting cancer.
As Americans, we are bombarded with information about adult cancers. There is a whole month dedicated to women’s breast cancer. My 10 year old son wears pink socks to his little league football games during the month of October. Breast cancer awareness is a worthy cause, but what is scary is that before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I had no idea that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Our children are being forgotten and ignored.
I remember one night in the hospital, it was probably 10:30 at night and there was a little 6 year old girl biking around the hallways of the cancer unit. This beautiful, bald girl wearing a surgical mask would bike down the hallway, flip a u-turn and head back full speed in the direction she had just come from, over and over again. I stopped to talk to her and she said she couldn’t sleep so she was out playing in the hallways with her aunt. Another morning I saw a 9 month old baby walking down the hallway with a baby walker, as giggly and as happy as can be, like there was nowhere else in the world better than being followed by his mom down that stark, white hallway. Another night I could hear teenage boys cheering in the room across the hall. A group of boys had come to visit their friend in the cancer unit and they were playing X-box, trying to make life as normal for their friend as they could. These cancer fighting kids know the names of their medicines and chemos better than they know the names of their classmates. A hospital is not a place to spend a childhood. Hayes spent 7 months of his early life in a hospital room where he missed out on huge developmental milestones. There has got to be a better way.
There is a forgotten group in our society. The day before Hayes was diagnosed, I didn’t know about childhood cancer either, but you better believe I remembered to get my yearly mammogram. This is why I feel so strongly about raising awareness. Our children deserve more attention and funding for research. The HayesTough Foundation is dedicated to this cause. I look forward to this fight and I know it won’t be easy. That is why I need your help. Together, we can make a difference and together, we can be a part of the good!