At 12 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. But I didn’t understand it at the time.
These were difficult times for me, and my friends and family believed the diagnosis. I feared the worst for them and myself, but I was quickly diagnosed and given a four year survival rate.
I cried and cried, looking for the answer to why I was not going to live. My body broke, my body hurt.
But my arms always told me, as if to say, “stay strong. Be strong for yourself and for your family.” My heart healed when the tumor finally did.
That experience gave me a newfound respect for children. I could see why children kept their heads down, hunched forward, pulling at their arms. Those were also the arms of warriors, scared that the end of the world was about to come, that the lines on their arms, the walls they stood on, were the gates to their last moments.
And that was for a child. As I grow older, I can’t ignore the impact that childhood cancer has had on me. It shapes the way I live my life, the way I come to understand life, and the way I experience my friendships and relationships.
How far back do you go in your story? For most people, that story begins in childhood. For many of us, that story carries on as we get older. We sometimes forget that childhood cancer is the scourge of our country. More than 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. Approximately 45% of childhood cancer deaths are due to metastatic disease. On average, children battling cancer live to be just over 50 years old.
The numbers are mind boggling and the tears shed shed for children are often deeply felt. These thoughts are met with silence and heartbreak, but that is where change can begin. It must begin at home, among those in our families and close to home.
What might your son or daughter look like, or know, by the time they are teenagers? What do they do every day? Do they have the strength and determination to hang on? What will they wake up to every morning, to smile, to come into school and hold their friends? If they can’t, what kind of future will they face?
This is where parents and friends can help us break the silence. It is time we not only met the challenge, but shared the stories of the mothers and fathers who bore the burden of the pandemic. They are our friends, our children’s teachers, and our relatives. We should look them in the eye, pull them close, and share their story. We are a society living in denial about childhood cancer, about the power of the pandemic, and about what parents and teachers do on a daily basis to fight for their children’s survival.
What questions do you want answered? How do you want to empower yourself to share your experiences?
Rumi is the founder of GirvanKids, a nonprofit that uses the power of yoga to transform young people’s lives and give them the courage to live life with vigor. To learn more, visit GirvanKids.org.