When I got invited to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital a few weeks ago and become a blogger ambassador for them and their mission, I came thiiiiis close to declining.
I was afraid.
Afraid that I couldn’t handle the emotional elements of it.
I know, super selfish, but it’s all I could think about –the sadness, the fear, the pain, the loss.
It’s all you can see when you think about kids with cancer.
Especially as a parent.
But I am so thankful that I took a beat, got over myself, and accepted this opportunity.
We learned so much about childhood cancer treatment and research at St. Jude.
We learned about their mission and their goals and their methods and their legacy.
We got to meet and listen to so many wonderful people who have been touched by this disease.
They shared their unique stories, and their various outcomes.
Each journey was different, but they all had at least one thing in common, one thing they all remember experiencing similarly –the devastating impact of hearing the words, “your child has cancer.” It is literally the most frightening bit of news any person can ever imagine hearing.
I can’t even wrap my mind around the thought. I can’t even breath through the possibility.
So that truth is there.
And no amount of treatment or hope or smiling faces or colorful wall murals can erase that.
St. Jude is an answer.
I imagined that I would go there and spend the entire time like this…
I get choked up on my couch when the St. Jude commercials come on so my ability to manage that in person felt nonexistent.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to try.
Because St. Jude didn’t meet any of my expectations.
I spent the entire three days on the campus learning about their mission, seeing what their work does, meeting hopeful, courageous families in the middle of treatment, and those joyfully on the other side.
Most importantly, I learned about how they raise the funds to ensure that families never receive a bill from them for anything — because they truly believe that all a family should worry about when facing cancer is helping their child live.
Did you read that?
No family receives a bill. For anything. Ever.
They take care of travel and treatment and housing and food. They provide support for the entire family as they face arguably the most vicious and formidable adversary they will ever meet in life.
And they do it with kindness, and care, and joy, and hope.
Which is a big ask when you’re facing cancer as a child or with your child.
Having faith, keeping hope alive, being positive and truly believing that you are in the right place with the right people who will give your child the right treatment to beat this beast.
St. Jude makes that easier for people to do.
They relieve some of the burden. They erase some of the uncertainty. And, they infuse their families with hope and joy.
I know, it’s hard to believe that in a place where you walk around and see bald children, in hospital gowns, being pulled through the halls in little red wagons (they don’t use hospital beds to transport the patients), that there would be joy.
But it exists.
The people who make St. Jude go on a daily basis know better than anyone that they are there to work –to research and treat cancer, to heal and care for sick children, to help families cope with the pain and uncertainty of treatment, and the horrible reality of loss.
But they also don’t let the kids they are treating get lost in the shuffle, or consumed by the disease.
They do things to help the children experience childhood –because at the end of the day, no matter how their treatment goes, they don’t want that to be totally stolen from them and their families.
So they celebrate with Halloween parties and graduations. They throw proms and birthday parties. They send the children to school and help them continue to grow and learn. Thy get fun people like us to come in and host craft projects and other activities.
They give patients and families a place to live that feels like home (The Target House at St. Jude) and they give them as much time together as possible.
Because time is precious, especially when it isn’t definitively on your side.
This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
So let me take a moment to make you aware…
This year, 16,000 children in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer.
One in five of those kids won’t survive the illness.
Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14
Others will face life long challenges and other illnesses because of their disease and its treatment.
St. Jude has the world’s best survival rates for some of the most aggressive childhood cancers.
Since opening over 50 years ago, St. Jude has treated thousands of patients, and helped save many more with the research they do there.
And, families being treated by St. Jude never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food.
That is possible because of you.
They rely on donations to stay alive. To keep kids alive.
And it’s easy to help.
My mother donated money from her check every month she worked, including the ones we were struggling through, to St. Jude.
It was small, just a few dollars, but knew that even a small donation could make a difference.
You and your family can make a difference too!
This month, across the United States, St. Jude is hosting their St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer on Sept. 17, 24 and 25. Registration is $10 for adults and children ages 6 and older. That is really just two mornings of Starbucks. So you can make a difference and have a good time with your family all at the same time. You just have to make your coffee at home.
If you want to find other ways to help end childhood cancer, please take a moment to visit their site and learn how you and your kids can get involved.