While September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I can think of no better time to reflect on how far we’ve come in understanding, treating and defeating childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Thanks in large part to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where I serve on the Twin Cities Advisory Council, the overall childhood cancer survival rate has increased from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since St. Jude opened more than 50 years ago.
But, when your child falls into the other 20 percent, then that percentage is no longer acceptable.
That was the reality for Paula Head and her family, whose youngest daughter, Carson Elizabeth, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on March 7, 2014, the day before her 8th birthday. She fought a long and courageous battle for 16 months before the world lost her to cancer.
When Carson realized her life was drawing to a close, she asked her parents to make sure that the money in her piggy bank went to St. Jude because she knew that every single penny counted, and it just might be her own pennies that helped find the cure to end childhood cancer.
No child should have to endure what Carson Elizabeth endured – one limb-sparing surgery, two lung thoracotomies, one surgery to completely move her heart over to get to the cancer growing behind it, three more surgeries, 36 weeks of chemo that she never got to finish, and multiple rounds of radiation.
Instead, perhaps Carson can be the hero for all of us, and the reminder that a cure for childhood cancer can be found in our lifetimes. And it could be your pennies that get us there.
As an active supporter of St. Jude for years, it is stories like this one that keep me pressing forward. But I’m far from alone in the fight to end childhood cancer. It has been inspiring to see the hundreds of supporters across our Twin Cities community come together in a number of ways for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Last month, in the Twin Cities and other regions all over the country, thousands of parents, families, and supporters collectively laced up their shoes for the St. Jude Walk/Run. They ran to support the families who rely on the incredible services and treatments available at St. Jude. They also ran to support the efforts they put into cities across the country, like Minneapolis-St. Paul, to understand what health equity means for our community. The St. Jude commitment to community health is second to none.
And, of course, they ran for angels like Carson Elizabeth, all the while holding onto the hope that cancer will end in our lifetime. We should never lose hope in saving the life of a child. At St. Jude, we’re in a race that won’t end until the childhood cancer survival rate reaches 100 percent.
I hope you’ll join me in the fight.