Picture your child walking into a toy story to pick up a toy that they saved up their money for. Your child is all smiles, gleefully trotting down the aisle as they’ve waited “FOREVER” for their latest “have to have this mom!” toy. They run up to the checkout aisle, eagerly awaiting to pay for the toy themselves. The cashier tells them the total of their purchase and as they’re gathering their money that they did endless amount of chores for, you realize they’re $.96 short. Their sweet smile starts to fade as they realize they only have $.04 of the change they need.
As an adult, you know that it is not enough, it won’t get them the toy they so desperately want. Before you can even pull out your wallet so assist them, they ask the person behind you who won’t stop staring. “I’m so sorry to ask, but do you have $.96 I can have?” The person looks at your child, then at you, puzzled, but sympathetic. She’s wondering why you let your child make it to the register with only having $.04 in their wallet, when clearly they needed $.96 to get what they want. Your baby is at a cross road. They want the toy so bad, they’d almost run out of the store with it, committing a crime. You realize the look on her face and right as you’re going to tell the center of your world that you have the $.96, because you’d do anything in the world for them, the woman speaks. “Well, yes, I do have the $.96, but I can’t give it to you. I’ve been around for a lot longer than you, kid. I might need this one day.”
Second to accidents, cancer is the leading cause of death in children. Children are one of, if not the most vulnerable members of our society and they desperately need our protection. Childhood cancer and the lack of funding it receives from the National Institute of Health is a crisis, and we must face this crisis head on with knowledge, advocacy and a strong guard.
What is the crisis?
Of the billions of dollars spent each year on cancer research, childhood cancer research only receives 4% of the funding from the National Institute of Health (National Pediatric Cancer Foundation).
The National Cancer Institute has been fighting an aggressive, relentless, much needed war against cancer, yet 96% of their funding is focused on adult cancers. Childhood cancer rates continue to climb, and while there HAS been advancement over the years, childhood cancer continues to devastate families and take an average of 68.3 years off a life (CURE Search for Children’s Cancer).
Why is this happening? I do not know.
I can speculate that because adults have lifetimes of exposures to cancer causing agents, that cancer is prevalent in larger numbers, resulting in funds being driven by numbers. I could speculate that because children aren’t financially contributing to our economy, that big pharma doesn’t believe their profit is in childhood cancer drugs. But tell that to the families of 43 kids today that will get diagnosed with cancer and the 40,000 that are already going through treatment. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, “The majority of children with cancer continue to be treated by drugs that were developed in the 1950s, ‘60s and ’70s. In fact, there’s been just 3 new drugs approved by the FDA in the last 20 years to specifically treat childhood cancer, compared to the more than 185 new drugs approved to treat adult cancer types over the same time period.”
Are we making ANY improvements? Yes. Little, by little. Advocate by advocate. But we need more.
In February 2019, President Trump recognized pediatric cancer research as a national health priority during his State of the Union address. As far as I can remember (and I may be wrong), he is the first president to address this CRISIS head on, as he proposed $500 million over the next decade toward finding cures (HemOnc Today).
In 2020, President Trump presented his 2021 budget proposal that would slash the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3 billion, a 7% cut, while maintaining funding for a few priorities. The budget includes $50 million for the second year of the administration’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative. In 2021, it would link existing childhood cancer databases, create a data commons for preclinical studies and clinical data, and fund research on rare pediatric cancers (Science Mag).
As living, breathing members of our society, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect, shield and care for the dependent. There is no one more dependent on our resources than our children. While we continue to applaud and praise the National Cancer Institute and The National Institute of Health on the growing advancements in adult cancers, we must put more pressure on the advancements and funding on children’s cancers.
Now picture this, your child gets diagnosed with cancer. As you start to do research, you realize that the 1 in a million odds that you thought existed, are actually 1 in 285. You think that because children are so vulnerable and a treasure, that surely there is a lot of research funding. You’re horrified to find out that the $.96 that your child didn’t have for the toy they wanted, is actually what they need to save their life. You had no idea this other world existed, because you were never short the $.96. You never needed someone to shout “MORE THAN FOUR!” when you couldn’t catch your breath from the hospital stays. But now? Now it’s you. It’s your baby that isn’t getting the funding that they need. It’s you that is begging for advocacy now. It’s your family that is splitting their nights between hospital stays and home.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Picture the woman behind you now. Tap her on the shoulder and tell her that although she might not be able to relate on your level, she can still help. She can still advocate and donate to childhood cancer research organizations. She can give the $.96.
Can’t we all?
Join Erin Tracy, a pediatric oncology nurse in Jacksonville, Florida, at fourthandgoldllc.com as she continues her quest to Go For The Cure of childhood cancers.