We spend a lot of time, and rightly so, focussing on the kids who are fighting cancer, their parents, and their family members. Today, Lori and I were reminded of the other victims, the friends of the cancer children.
As much of a shock as it is for the family of a child with cancer, we need to remember the impact it has on the friends of the child as well. We all remember how life is as a child. As a kid we’re indestructible and life is a long journey where 20-year-olds are old people. Having to go to school is often the most stressful and biggest hardship they have to face in their day-to-day lives. We have hopes and dreams, we change our minds every other day about what we want to be when we grow up… because we can… our journey has just begun, and we have every opportunity ahead of us. Now, that’s exactly how it should be. Kids without stress, without having to worry about life’s realities, looking forward to the many incredible experiences they are going to have in the future.
Then their worlds, their beliefs, are turned upside-down. A friend, a child their own age, has been diagnosed with cancer. We know that many of our daughter’s friends parents struggled with how to break the news to their children. As much as you’re not ready to hear the news of your own child having cancer, no one prepares for having to tell their child that a friend of theirs has been diagnosed with cancer either. You are about to shatter their reality and innocence. For many children and parents, this will be the first adult type conversation they’ll have to give. How do you tell a 6 or 7-year-old that a friend has cancer? How do you explain what cancer is and why their friend just can’t be fixed by a doctor?
The thing is, kids are amazing. Perhaps it’s that they do still look at life with such hope and dreams, they believe with an unwavering conviction, that everything will be better and that they can help to make it possible. While Emily was battling cancer, her friends raised money to help her foundation, visited her, wrote her so many cards and notes, and even gave her a shout out during a major cheerleading competition that she couldn’t attend, knowing she was watching them online. Every smile they brought to Emily was a gift not only to her but to us as well.
As hard as that initial conversation is, the next one is even worse. When a cancer kid loses their battle, their friends, children themselves, must now face death, possibly for the first time in their lives. The illusion of being indestructible is lost forever. The idea that death is only for old people, gone in an instant. The belief that things always turn out okay, gone.
Children with cancer, their siblings, and their friends… all children who are forced to grow up and face life’s realities way too soon. So during this month of Childhood Cancer Awareness, let’s remember all the victims.
I for one am extremely grateful for all of Emily’s friends that were by her side, for the smiles and laughs they brought her, and for their continued support.