Here are some key statistics about childhood cancer:
- About 12,060 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 15 (after accidents).
- Leukemia, brain and nervous system tumors, and neuroblastoma are the three most common childhood cancers.
- About 1,340 children are expected to die of cancer in 2012.
Unbelievable, isn't it? While Hannah's cancer (glioblastoma multiforme) is not typically considered one of the childhood cancers, we have seen too many families whose lives have been changed forever by their child's cancer diagnosis to pretend this horrific disease doesn't exist.
This year, we decided to form a "While We're Waiting" team to participate in the walk. We looked forward to wearing our WWW t-shirts and spreading the word about the existence of this ministry for those parents who might need it.
Well, the day dawned cold and cloudy, with a blustery northwest wind. Our t-shirts were quickly covered up by jackets and hoodies, but hey, at least we had a team sign!
Before the walk began, a ceremony was held to honor the children who had lost their lives to cancer, as well as those who were survivors. All of the parents whose children had died were called up to the front, where we were each given a white balloon. Markers were distributed, and we were instructed to write our child's name on the balloon, along with a message, to be released at the signal. Then we stood and faced the audience as our children's names were read.
This was, by far, the hardest part of the day. Here we were, parents whose children had died from cancer, eye-to-eye with parents whose children were fighting cancer. We, with our arms and hearts empty, face-to-face with parents clinging tightly to their sick children. You could see it all over their faces ... They were desperate not to be where we were. And we, just as desperately, were wishing that we were anywhere but there. It was surreal. Then there was a brief moment of silence, and we released our balloons. And just like that, the moment was past.
The walk finally began under heavy cloud cover, with lightning flashing along the horizon and the rumble of thunder in the air. We made it across the Big Dam Bridge ...
... And were headed back toward Murray Park when the ominous-looking sky opened up, and the rain poured down. As we slogged through the icy raindrops, we discussed the fact that after you've slept countless nights in a chair beside a hospital bed, watched your child endure painful and sickness-inducing treatments, and held their hand while they took their last breath ... what's a little cold rain?
All in all, it was a good day. We were able to see several of the nurses who had become like family during our year-long tenure at Children's Hospital, which is always a special treat. We were able to see a couple of the children who were receiving treatments while Hannah was, and they are doing well. And we always enjoy spending time with our friends, the Browns and the Smiths. Two of the Brown's grandkids joined us on the walk, and their presence really brightened up the day.
And it was nice to get home, put on some warm, dry clothes, light a fire in the fireplace, and watch the Razorbacks actually win a game for a change!
I'm already looking forward to next year!