My intern year I spent Thanksgiving taking care of children on the oncology unit. No turkey from the grill (my dad’s specialty) No cranberry sauce or homemade pumpkin pie. It was the first time I was alone for a holiday. It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself on a ward where parents would give up their turkey dinner…their cars and bank accounts…even body parts… for a chance to save their little ones.
The oncology unit has a surreal feeling about it. Children are still children, no matter what the circumstances. They play, sing, dance... oblivious to the fact that they are facing down a life-threatening condition.
Bald-headed, they dart down the hallways, clutching IV poles as they head toward play rooms stocked with pretend kitchen sets, bouncing balls and board games. Disney videos run endless loops, almost drowning out the constant beeping of the monitors that measure heart beats and blood pressures. They shriek with happiness when a stuffed animal is pulled from a gift bag, pout when vegetables show up on their lunch tray and whine it’s nap-time. These kids giggle, snort and pretend to fart.
But sometimes those noises...those completely normal childhood noises...invade rooms where they don’t belong. Rooms where a pale child lies too quietly, taking breaths that are too fragile. Rooms where a mother muffles her sobs and a doctor struggles to find one more treatment plan.
In those rooms, desperation and hope are so thick in the air that it's hard to take a breath.
This Thanksgiving I’m thinking about the children who will spend the holiday in the oncology unit. Nurses who will be too tired to even care what’s on their plate. Parents who will make the best of time spent in a strange and scary place. Doctors who will be forever touched (and changed) by the privilege of caring for these beautiful kids.
Every year 300,000 kids receive a diagnosis of cancer.
Once a death sentence, now 90% of kids with the most common type of cancer will survive.
Those cures exist because of research.
I'm thankful for Alan Ridenour. He's doing more than just thinking about children with cancer, he’s committed to supporting St. Baldrick’s Foundation--where they work to cure childhood cancers.
HOW ABOUT THIS?
You can help him here...