The bald head, the thinning eyebrows, the shiny smile: Those things may not be out of the ordinary in any person you see off the street, but they are just a few traits of someone going through chemotherapy.
They may look the same as everyone else, but they are battling an invisible battle that can be seen only by machines and doctors.
Most people think only of adults who can rationalize pain and discomfort while going through chemo, but it is the kids that people forget.
Cancer in children is more emotionally overwhelming and disheartening than seeing it in any other type of person.
Depending on their age, kids may not be able to say when, how, where or what hurts. They just know that something hurts and someone has to make it stop. So the child cries out for help.
According to the American Cancer Society’s website and its full-time research teams:
In 2014, an estimated 15,780 new cases of cancer were diagnosed and 1,960 deaths occurred among children and adolescents aged birth to 19 years.
About one in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before age 20.
Today, about one in 530 young adults between the ages of 20 and 39 is a childhood cancer survivor.
Although those facts sound particularly scary, researchers actually have pointed to the direction of advancements, and there have been considerable improvements in the survival of childhood cancers.
The research affirms that while advances in survival for many types of malignancies have stemmed from advancements in surgical techniques, delivery of radiation therapy and use of chemotherapy, children treated for many cancers have a high risk of immediate and long-term health issues that interfere significantly with quality of life for these children and their families.
My eldest son, Justin, can attest to long-term health issues from chemotherapy. Justin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2006 at the age of 4.
During Justin’s six years of countless rounds of chemotherapy, spinal taps, bone marrow retrievals and physical therapy, he complained very little about discomfort; but when he was hurting, he let me know it.
Through the years, like any other kid, he became more vocal about life. Among his few physical complaints, his mental ability has been held back. He went from being a socially outgoing child to a shy and introverted adolescent, which has made him reserved from learning and cognitive reasoning.
Although chemotherapy has obvious side-effects, Justin also will tell you that he would rather have received chemotherapy than to have not received it, because he would not be here to speak about it.
Before you go and judge why a kid is crying so loudly, think a moment about what might be going on in that kid’s body that he or she can’t truly verbalize and can only cry out about in the only way they know how … by just crying.