Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer Survivors

Chapter 20. Homage

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Nelson Henderson

CELEBRATIONS OF LIFE . Perhaps you’ve attended one. Every year in early June, treatment centers across the country organize special events for National Cancer Survivors’ Day with games, entertainment, and refreshments. At some events, college scholarships are awarded. Maybe there is a friendly softball competition between survivors and staff. Or the doctors agree to take a turn in a dunk tank, good-naturedly letting themselves be dunked by kids and teens. Always, there is a chance to renew the bonds forged by shared experience and to reconnect with staff members on a relaxing and fun day.

But survivorship isn’t the only cause for celebration. We also celebrate the memory of all those who fought hard to survive but were ultimately overcome by cancer. Sometimes we remember in testimonials spoken from the heart, or messages written in memory books, or videotaped recollections, or in phrases and images sewn into patchwork quilts. All the children and families who came before gave priceless gifts that make survivorship, complicated as this book attests, possible today.

The truth is that there is no medicine in use today, no treatment regimen that now achieves remarkable survival rates, that wasn’t at one time considered investigational. Most young people with cancer have participated in clinical trials over the past 40 years. Step by step, as each clinical trial answered questions about more effective and safer treatments, treatment improved, and cure became possible. This is the legacy of the children and teenagers for whom survival wasn’t to be. And it’s the legacy of the families who cared for them, hoped for them, and remember them always.

So in this book about life after cancer in childhood, we pay homage to the memory of these young people and their families. Whether or not we have photos on our walls, or a collection of artwork, videos, or cards that remind us of the unique spirit of each child, each of them left a lasting impression in our hearts, and they made a lasting contribution toward the end of cancer. They are not forgotten.