Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Cures are so Hard

I had lunch with a friend today. I knew her daughter had leukemia when she was three or four, and then relapsed a few years later. She survived, and is now in college. My friend told me a bit more about the hardships this young woman has gone through. I will call her Jenna – for privacy reasons, this is not her real name.

Now by itself, the fact that Jenna survived is great. Not too many years ago, surviving for this young girl would have been a very long shot. And so we can be glad that there are cures that work. But the glass is no more than half full. True, people survive cancer more and more but at what cost?

Consider that the first time she had leukemia, Jenna had to undergo two years of chemotherapy at an age that no child can possibly understand the horrible things happening to them. In addition, she had to have frequent tests that caused her great pain and suffering – spinal taps, bone marrow cores, and other things. My friend told me of the heartbreak of watching four adults holding her tiny girl down as they extracted bone marrow, helpless to respond to her screams. It had to be done to save her life, but how could Jenna understand that? How could a four year old undergoing this understand that her mother is trying to save her, and that her mother is not a conspirator in her torture? To this day, as a young adult, Jenna can experience post-traumatic stress if she goes past a medical center. She has had many medical problems as a consequence of the hardship that chemo puts on our bodies, especially young bodies that are still forming and growing. She has to get periodic tests to check for heart damage, for example.

If you are doing Team in Training, Relay for Life, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Light the Night, or some other activity where we are trying to defeat cancers, I applaud you, because this is so important. But remember that the goal is not just to defeat cancers, but to defeat them without nearly destroying the patient. The job won’t be completed until we not only can save children (and adults) from cancer, but also save them the extreme pain and suffering that so many of them have to go through to live. I really believe that every dollar raised is a tiny step closer to that goal, so thank you if you are involved in some way.


Katie said...

Jenna is so lucky, and glad to hear she is on the path to healing. I think you bring up a very good point -- it's not just about finding a cure, it's about saving patients from suffering through treatment. While the survival rate is increasing, the measures taken to get to that point can be excruciating, especially for a child.

Thanks for continuing to be an inspiration to us all, Art!

Ashley said...

Well said, Art. And so touching. It's moments like this that I am reminded of why I do what I do - thank you for the reminder!

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Katie and Ashley for your comments. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we need more humane cures, not just more effective cures. And I think that all of us in particular hate to see children suffer like this.

SusieQ said...

Very powerful post - and it keeps me motivated to keep on fundraising. Thanks Art

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Susie. I hear stories like that and I realize how far we still have to come, and that we can't quit.