September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Today is an important day in our family. It’s September 12th. The Crapiversary of my sweet cousin Rachel’s passing. Rachel lost her fight to cancer in 2003, when she was only seven years old.
It just so happens that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I’ve been wanting to write a post about this important effort to bring more awareness to the need for funding and research and cures. I thought it was most fitting to do this on Rachel’s Day. Because she is truly the biggest reason I became so passionate about childhood cancer.
For a long time, this picture was my background on my computer. Rachel, the day of her First Communion. Happy and care free.
She didn’t have much time left after this picture was taken.
I never had the pleasure of meeting my sweet Rachel in person. Rachel’s lovely mother Betsy and my mother are cousins… so we were some kind of second cousins or something. You might think that’s weird, that I talk about her like we were so close, and yet I didn’t actually know her. I come from a MASSIVE family. Yet, despite being so large, we are very close. My great grandmother ensured that we all knew of each other even if we never had the pleasure of being in the same company. I do know her parents, and many of her other cousins, aunts, uncles. I was close to her grandmother (my great aunt) as I grew up.
I guess it doesn’t matter. She’s still my blood. And I cared for her. And when she died, I was crushed.
I was in my early twenties when Rachel was diagnosed with cancer at the age of four. I was not married yet, and I did not have any children. But the thought of going through something like that with a child of my own just broke my heart. I had never known any other sick children before. And I prayed that she would beat it.
She was never far from my mind. On my first deployment to Oman, I found a beautiful purple silk scarf for Rachel. She had lost all of her hair, and I hoped it might bring her some comfort. I heard back that she loved it. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to love it for long.
After Rachel passed away, her parents did something wonderful. They began a nonprofit organization to help others in her honor and memory.
Rachel’s Room. Rachel loved to read, so they started an educational nonprofit to help give teacher’s grants, scholarships for deserving students, and donate books. They also maintain an outdoor classroom.
The legacy of Rachel’s remarkable spirit comes in the form of this foundation established in her honor. Our goal is simple: to help spark a life-long love of learning in elementary students throughout New England. We think Rachel would be proud.
I know she would be proud!
Betsy and Bob, Rachel’s parents, also encourage people to make donations to the Tomorrow Fund, the only local nonprofit organization (in Providence, RI) that provides financial and emotional support to children with cancer and their families.
Many Mothers Make a Difference for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Sheila Quirke, also known as Mary Tyler Mom in the blogging world, also lost her young daughter, Donna, to cancer. I’ve talked about Donna on my blog before, and Donna Day. Sheila, also a contributor to Sunshine After the Storm, is pretty much my hero. She has dedicated her life to bringing about awareness of childhood cancer and raising funds… but also, doing good for others. She says that’s her way of mothering Donna in heaven. All throughout September, Sheila is sharing stories of childhood cancer. I hope you’ll check out Donna’s story.
I also want to share Joey’s story. Joey is my friend Kathy’s son. Kathy, a beautiful writer and blogger at Life With the Frog (and another contributor to Sunshine!) is Joey’s mother. Joey also lost his battle with cancer, in kindergarten.
Please Read more stories on Mary Tyler Mom at Chicago Now.
These stories don’t have happy endings, in the conventional sense. These children didn’t make it. But I can tell you in their short lives Donna, Rachel, and Joey have made a long lasting impact and a difference. Because their parents decided to do something about it. To make a difference. To be the change.
There are many more moms than Betsy, Sheila, and Kathy trying to make a difference. Sadly, too many children fight cancer.
Now it’s your turn. Whether it’s by supporting one of their organizations or doing something on your own… what can you do to make this world a better place for children with cancer? Will you do something to support Children’s Cancer Awareness Month?