When we are expecting a baby, our greatest wish before he comes into the world is that he is healthy. We hope that his brain is well-formed, his lungs are developed, his heart beats normally, and that he will have all the strength he needs to face his first days on earth.
We never think that our child will fall victim to a disease over which we have no control.
Cancer is probably one of the biggest challenges a family can face. Unfortunately, it is not something you can plan for, and even if you have to accept it, it doesn't mean that you understand why it has come to you.
One, or a thousand, is too many
Did you know that every year in Canada, more than 1,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 are diagnosed with cancer?
These children, from one day to the next, must become small adults and quickly understand that a villain has taken up residence in their bodies and that their little soldiers are fighting it every day.
They are asked to stay inside, to see their healthy friends playing outside, while they are at home, forced to rest until the next medical appointment.
These toddlers will not be able to live the first years of their youth like others. They will have to go to the hospital all the time to receive difficult treatments on their immune system.
They won't be able to play with their friends in the park, and school will be more difficult for them: they will be tired, and will have trouble concentrating.
1,000 sick children is 1,000 too many.
One child with cancer is one child too many.
A day dedicated to them
Thankfully, there are initiatives being taken every day by committed organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society, to contribute to "high-level research projects that improve cancer outcomes" and to help advance this field that affects so many people, big and small.
On February 4th, we are joining together to make our voices heard on World Cancer Day.
Because we have the potential to make a difference, to give our young people the opportunity to live a normal life, to play and learn.
By participating in this day, we are all helping research to find and improve ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
We offer a chance for people who have been affected by cancer to have their voices heard. We are reaching out to them in these difficult and emotional times.
We unite our voices to let everyone know that we want concrete action to improve cancer care.
We allow parents of sick children to speak out, to feel supported and to have the support they deserve.
We give the gift of hope for better health care and for scientific discoveries that can change the world.
World Cancer Day is a tribute to all those who have loved ones, children or loved ones who are currently fighting this disease that means nothing to laugh about.
World Cancer Day is about joining forces to shout out loud that our children deserve to play, laugh and live to their full potential.
To learn more about the initiative, click here.
How to help a family affected by cancer
It is very difficult to understand what is going on in the head and heart of a family that has a child with cancer. We can't know what they are going through, what they are feeling, but we can help them by showing empathy, listening and love.
The Canadian Cancer Society offers a variety of tips to help you support a loved one. These tips apply to parents of sick children, but also to the children themselves:
Start by listening
Often, the greatest need of parents is to say what's on their mind. It is to express their fears, their worries, their sorrows. Listen to them if they confide in you.
Don't be afraid to say the wrong thing
Be authentic, and don't be afraid to be clumsy. Know that it's hard to find the right words, but if you start with a sincere "how do you feel?" then everything will follow naturally.
Be specific when offering help
Helping your child fight cancer can be physically and psychologically draining. Don't ask your loved ones what you can do for them, take the initiative (I'll go shopping for you! I can help with the meal. I'll walk the dog for you).
We may not be able to understand the reality of a family affected by cancer, but at least there are resources available to help them through this difficult time.
If nothing else, World Cancer Day is about uniting us for a better future.