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What Only Parents Like Me Get About September

If you don't have a child with cancer, then September is different for you than it is for me. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and its color is gold. I am the grieving mother of a daughter who died of an aggressive brain tumor, so every month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Chances are, you associate both the color pink and the month of October with breast cancer. It's hard not to, with corporations and sports teams having jumped on the pink bandwagon years ago. Just this week I saw a pink concrete mixer and garbage truck chugging down the street. I've often poked fun at the many companies that try to profit off such an important women's health issue. Pink silicone batter spoon, anyone?

RELATED: Grieving the First Day of Kindergarten My Daughter Never Had

The association with gold and cancer is less widely recognized, just as children with cancer are less widely recognized. Up until March 23, 2007, I was guilty of that myself. Bald kids with cancer were something I would think about in the movie theater during the St. Jude's Thanks and Giving campaign. Or in the spring, when the American Cancer Society sells gold daffodils to raise money to give sick kids in the hospital teddy bears.

As if kids living and dying with cancer need teddy bears.

Funding for prostate cancer (a disease associated with older men) receives more research funding from the government than ALL childhood cancers combined

Yeah, if it's not already obvious, September is hard for me. It makes me weary and angry and hopeful and sad, often all at the same time. Since 2011, I have devoted each September to telling the story of childhood cancer using blogs, social media, the common refrain of "Please read and share!" and relying on lots and lots of good will from strangers on the Internet.

My philosophy has been that if someone knows a child with cancer, they will be moved to help a child with cancer. When something affects you personally, you want to learn more about the facts. Here are just a few from the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer that might make your jaw drop:

  • 1 in 285 children were diagnosed with cancer in 2014
  • There has been an increase in childhood cancer rates of 24 percent over the last 40 years
  • 1 in 2 children diagnosed with a brain tumor will die
  • Cancer is the No. 1 killer of children through disease
  • Only three drugs specific to pediatric cancer have been developed since 1980, compared to hundreds for adult cancers
  • Funding for prostate cancer (a disease associated with older men) receives more research funding from the government than ALL childhood cancers combined

Yes, the statistics are alarming and, I hope, give you pause. They still give me pause, and I've been living with them for over eight years. As someone who has worked tirelessly as an advocate for children with cancer, I am tired of fighting to raise awareness of these sickest of children. Many of my fellow cancer parents are, too, but we keep doing it, because if we don't, no one else will.

Newsweek nailed it with their July story, "Children's Cancer Is Unprofitable and Ignored." Oh, how I wish that were a headline from The Onion, because it sounds so absurd. Alas, it is not. The truth of the matter is that pharmaceutical companies do not invest dollars into research towards childhood cancer because there is so little profit to be made. No return on their investment.

Does that make your stomach turn? I hope so.

And in the three minutes it took for you to read this post, somewhere in the world a child was diagnosed with cancer.

The families that are most impacted by childhood cancer are the ones leading the charge to help others understand that September should mean something different to you now. These same families who have buried a child or are now left to care for a child that may look or act completely differently than the child they once knew need your help.

This September, keep an eye out for the gold ribbon of childhood cancer awareness. Know that behind every child diagnosed with cancer, there is a family that is devastated, regardless of the outcome, as the kids that survive often bear the scars of their treatment. And in the three minutes it took for you to read this post, somewhere in the world a child was diagnosed with cancer. On March 23, 2007, that child was mine. Her name was Donna.

RELATED: The Children's Book You Either Love Or Hate

You can read Donna's Cancer Story HERE. Since 2013, I have catalogued 90 stories of childhood cancer through The September Series that you can find HERE. After reading, please believe that you now know a child with cancer. They need your help.

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Photograph by: Chicagonow

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