Sitting in this meeting, my heart fills with hope as I look around the room at people ready and willing to give of what precious spare time they have to this cause. I listen as the two strongest people I know take turns talking about this organization that has flourished phenomenally since they started it and the brave little boy who inspired the whole thing. About how, although he was the fuel behind the fire, there was a reason the organization wasn’t named after him. This organization is for him and others like him. It’s for children who are mid-battle and for those who don’t even know they’ll have to fight yet. Just because their son was taken from this world doesn’t mean their desire to end the disparaging lack of pediatric cancer research funding has lessened. If anything, it’s been strengthened. Gretchen pointed out that if someone had taken an initiative like this fifteen years ago, Liam might still be with us today. And what we all wouldn’t give to see his shining smile again.
One of the most disturbing facts I heard in this meeting was that it isn’t science that’s holding back pediatric cancer research. It’s money.
Money. It costs about $100,000 to fund a clinical trial. What do you think it takes for a professional athlete to make that much money? I’m fairly certain that in some cases, it’s as simple as being seen with a certain name brand on. Something they probably received for free, no less. The cast of the Jersey Shore makes $100,000 an episode. An episode. What kind of society do we live in that we are more willing to fund some twenty-somethings’ drinking habits for our entertainment than save the lives of our children?
I’m not knocking the entertainment industry. I think that Hollywood plays a huge role in our country’s culture and I am aware of the positive social aspects of the media. I just don’t understand where this money is coming from, who decides where it goes or who it goes to, and why comparable amounts aren’t being put into researching ways to save the lives of our future.
I have been having medical issues of my own the last few weeks. I’m sure everyone who has spoken to me in the past month knows this, because I haven’t exactly been silent about it. After tonight, I felt foolish. When it comes down to it, I have a stomach ache. Yes, it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable and I’m having it checked out to make sure it isn’t anything serious, but assuming it’s not getting any worse, it’s something that I theoretically could control with my diet. Yes, my diet would be boring and eating out would be virtually impossible, but it would be a viable lifestyle. And in all likelihood, whatever this might be is probably 100% curable and will be nothing more than an unfortunate memory in a few weeks.
Also, God forbid it’s something more serious like cancer, there is most likely plenty of treatment options because of generous funding, since i’m 24 and not 4.
Larry suggests this gross unevenness is because, as I just displayed, adults complain. A lot. Children are braver than us. They’re stronger and more hopeful than us. The adults with cancer? Their family and friends hear them complain (and rightfully so) and want to do something about it. Or their family complains and their friends want to do something about it. They start walks and hold drives and raise money. Children don’t complain. Parents with children who have cancer don’t want to think about it. If their child wins the battle, they never want to hear the C word again. If their child loses the battle, they never want to hear the C word again.
This is why Larry and Gretchen are two of the most amazing people I know. They have experienced an unthinkable tragedy. Every parent’s worst nightmare. They have lost a child and they are standing up and telling his story, telling their story. They are not running away from cancer. They are running towards it, with torches and pitchforks and an army of supporters behind them. They said that cancer isn’t going to go away if we don’t talk about it. In fact, cancer isn’t going to go away unless we talk about it.
So let’s stop wasting our breath complaining and stop wasting our money on reality television. Let’s start focusing our energy on something that will make a difference.