September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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To be told, “Your child has cancer” are some of the most devastating words any parent will hear. Every year, nearly 16,000 parents in the United States will hear those words. Although most children survive the disease, cancer is still the leading cause of disease-related deaths for children in the United States.

“When we consider what the families of children in our community are going through, we understand that having a strong support system in place for them is essential,” said Diana Peacher, CEO of the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert (CRCD). The closest hospital where they can be treated is Rady Children’s in San Diego. The logistics of that alone means that families must be split up – one parent with the child, the other with the rest of the family at home. And then there is the isolation. Who can you talk to that understands, where can you go for help?

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert has teamed up with the Caelynn Andrea Iten Foundation to hold a special reception for families who have children who are currently or have been in cancer treatment.

“Our goal”, stated Robin Iten, Executive Director of the Foundation, “is to create the opportunity for families to come together, to meet each other, and to begin to create a support system for themselves. We want them to know each other, lean on each other, and create the camaraderie that comes when people share like experiences.”

The reception will be held on Saturday, September 24 at the Fairfield Inn in El Centro from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Light hor d’oeuvres and beverages will be served. The reception is free and all families who have had children diagnosed with cancer are welcome to attend.

One of the CRCD families talked about the emotional, physical, and financial toll that the disease took on them. For nearly two years they made the trek to San Diego where their daughter was treated for Ewing’s Sarcoma. Multiple trips per week, multiple doctor’s appointments, multiple hospital stays, along with chemotherapy and radiation therapy was their norm. Today, there is no evidence of disease, and their little girl is a rambunctious, six-year-old.

But the toll of living through the experience continues. Their daughter endured delayed radiation damage and had to go through special therapy to repair her bone. She still suffers from nerve damage in her extremities because of the chemotherapy. Her parents worry about the long term effects of the chemotherapy including fertility, and, the possibility of recurrence is always in the background.

The financial toxicity for many families is also devastating. One family told CRCD that they were over $70,000 in debt after their child finished treatment. Trying to recover from that much debt is nearly impossible.

For more information, or to RSVP, contact the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert at 760-353-6571, www.crcdinc.org, or on Facebook at facebook.com/crcd.ic.