The hidden meaning of September

When you think September, what are the first things that spring to mind?

Back to school? Labour Day? Fall? Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes?

Up until last week those were all of the things I associated September with.

But last Wednesday I discovered something else. Though it’s definitely not as exciting as the changing of the seasons, it’s certainly more important.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

I had no idea and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

Like a pink ribbon that is symbolic of the fight against breast cancer, the daffodil which represents Fight Cancer month in April, or the poppies pinned to our lapels in November, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month has its own symbol too – a gold ribbon.

I think this is an important one.

I can’t even begin to imagine what a parent must go through when they first hear that their child has cancer.

It would be a parent’s worst nightmare. To see your child hooked up to tubes and machines and in the fight of their life must be, at times, unbearable.

To see their pain and not be able to take it away must be horrific.

Last week I interviewed a local woman who is raising money for childhood cancer research in honour of a family friend who lost her daughter to cancer.

She told me that her friends met several other children who were sick and never made it out of the hospital.

As horribly sad as that is, it’s reality.

This is something that is happening, every day.

According to the non-profit organization Unravel Pediatric Cancer, seven children in the United States alone die every day from pediatric cancer.

Closer to home, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, between 2009 and 2013 there were an average of 943 new cases of cancer in children between the ages of 0 to 14 years. There was an average of 119 childhood cancer deaths per year between 2008 and 2012 in children 14-years-old and younger.

Additionally, an average of 290 people in Canada between the ages of 15 and 29 die from cancer each year.

While childhood cancer is far less common than cancer among adults, it kills more children than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS do combined, and it is the second leading cause of death among Canadian children after injuries.

And it seems to be becoming more and more common. There have been countless stories covered by local media of Campbell River families trying to deal with the fallout of their child being diagnosed with cancer and having to leave their home for treatment.

It’s a struggle for these families who want to be by their child’s side but who can’t afford to miss work and have other children to support.

Childhood cancer is a devastating disease but only three per cent of all cancer research funding goes toward childhood cancer, according to the Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation.

Which is what makes Childhood Cancer Awareness month so important.

If more people are aware, perhaps it will get more people thinking and talking about a disease that’s not often talked about.

I understand it’s a sensitive topic and a hard discussion to have.

No one wants to see a child hurting and it can be hard knowing what to say to parents going through it.

The best we can all hope for is that our dollars will make a difference and one day there will be a cure.