September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and we're taking the opportunity to honor the brave 13,500 children who are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year (that's more than a classroom of kids a day), as well as advocating for improved treatments and advanced research.
Though cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children under 15, this awareness month serves as an opportunity to highlight progress. For instance, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or set lifetime caps on essential health benefits.
And these children below help put a face on why these policies, research and advocacy matter. Read their stories and learn how you can help below.
1. This Gleeful Boy, Who Overcame Years Of Chemo.
This happy kid reportedly kept smiling through his battle with cancer and told Reddit how he beat it. One moved viewer wrote, "That kid looks basket-of-puppies happy."
2. Josh, Who Also Tackled Chemo.
And NFL players think they're tough? Josh was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010, but chemo is just one part of his daily routine. He earned cheers from all over the Internet for his return to the sport he loves in 2012. Check out his fundraising page here.
2. Zach, Whose Song We'll Never Stop Singing.
Zach Sobiech battled a rare kind of cancer for most of his teen years. In his final days, he created a documentary in which he left us with these lovely words:
"It’s really simple actually. Just try and make people happy. Maybe you have to learn it with time, maybe you have to learn it the hard way. But as long as you learn it, you’re going to make the world a better place." Check out Zach's fund here.
3. Alex, Who Sweetened Our Lives With Thousands Of Charity Lemonade Stands. .
Alex Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma before her first birthday. After receiving a stem cell transplant when she was 4, she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money. People all over the world were moved by her story, which helped launch the charity Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. She passed away at the age of 8, but helped raise $1 million to help find a cure for cancer.
5. Talia Joy Castellano, Who Became A YouTube Sensation.
During her six-year battle with neuroblastoma and leukemia, Talia, 13, inspired people with her tutorials and personal blogs about cancer. Talia certainly achieved her dream of becoming a star, even inspiring the entire Internet to fulfill her bucket list right alongside her.
6. When George Bush Made The Executive Decision To Shave His Head For This Guy.
41 shaved his head this week to show his solidarity w Patrick, the 2 year-old son of a member of his security detail. pic.twitter.com/XimZcTwEyi— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) July 24, 2013
This move was a cut above. Former President George H.W. Bush made an executive decision to shave his head for a 2-year-old leukemia patient whose dad works on his security detail. Learn about how to support Patrick here.
7. Alice, Who Fulfilled Her "Bucket List" Thanks To The Kindness Of Strangers.
Teenager Alice Pyne inspired us with her viral "bucket list" that mixed the whimsical (become a trending topic on Twitter) with the hopeful (that every British citizen sign up for bone marrow donation). Her passing touched off an outpouring of tributes, many of which said she had made the world a better place.
Also on HuffPost:
The actress was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 in 2008. One month later, after learning she had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene (also known as the breast cancer gene), she underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy, rather than opting for radiation or chemotherapy, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=5606034&page=1#.UMj-eHPjkgs">she told ABC's Good Morning America at the time</a>. "I didn't want to go back to the doctors every four months for testing and squishing and everything. I just wanted to kind of get rid of this whole thing for me. This was the choice that I made and it was a tough one," she said <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=5606034&page=1" target="_hplink">in the interview</a>. "Sometimes, you know, I cry. And sometimes I scream. And I get really angry. And I get really upset, you know, into wallowing in self-pity sometimes. And I think that it's all part of the healing." In 2011, Applegate <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20466433,00.html">gave birth to her first child</a>, daughter Sadie. "She's healed me in so many ways," she told <em>People</em> magazine.
The MTV star was first diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer in September 2005 at just 24 years old, <em>Glamour</em> reported in 2006 -- one ovary, several lymph nodes and part of one fallopian tube were removed, according to the magazine. "I had no idea why this was happening to me. I’m a healthy girl: I’m a vegetarian; I don’t smoke; I barely drink," <a href="http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2006/10/cancer-diary-diem-brown">she told <em>Glamour</em></a>. "I kept thinking, I have so much to do; I’m not ready to die." One month after surgery, Diem traveled to Australia for the Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV. Earlier this year, at age 30, Brown revealed that she is <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20603790,00.html">again battling ovarian cancer,</a> <em>People</em> reported. Over the past several months, she's been blogging about her experience for the publication (<a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20639905,00.html">check out a video of her post-chemo hair loss here</a>). She wrote in a <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20650760,00.html">recent People.com post</a>: <blockquote>A year ... If you would have told me that after I climbed an Icelandic glacier on MTV's The Challenge, I would find a cancer-filled cyst, freeze eggs, have two surgeries, start early menopause, go through chemo for a second time and film/post my chemo hair loss process make-up free and bald, I would tell you to put me back on that glacier! However, now I can look back at those seemingly overwhelming moments, happy to be where I am: Rounding out the end of this trying journey, ready to move on from my "frenemy" cancer once and for all.</blockquote>
Anthony Ryan Auld
The <a href="http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway/season-9/designers/anthony-ryan-auld">Project Runway season 9</a> contestant (and current contender on season two of Lifetime's Project Runway All Stars) was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 25, <a href="http://www.healthline.com/health/ryan-auld-project-runway#2">Healthline.com reports</a>. He had one testicle removed and then underwent about six months of chemotherapy in early 2009. "One of the things I got from my cancer experience is to be appreciative for every day that you're given," <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2012/11/15/anthony-ryan-auld-wins-project-runway-all-stars-challenge/1707295/">Auld told <em>USA Today</em> in November</a>. "Just the little things in the day. Regardless of if you get to have 10 minutes with your grandmother for the day or you get to call your mom and say I love you. You really have to take those and enjoy them." After his first Project Runway appearance, Auld launched a nonprofit called ROCKONE1, supporting cancer patients and their support networks through fashion, whether that means going shopping together or designing a new outfit, <a href="http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway-all-stars/season-2/designers/anthony-ryan-auld">according to <em>USA Today</em></a>.
Marissa Jaret Winokur
At age 27, while auditioning for Broadway's Hairspray (which she later earned a Tony for), the actress was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a routine Pap smear, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20009915,00.html">People.com reported</a>. A few days after diagnosis, she had part of her cervix removed -- a week later, she found out the cancer had spread, meaning she needed to have a hysterectomy. "Shortly after the second surgery, I got the part [in Hairspray]. I didn't have time to be sick -- I so wanted this part," she wrote for <em>People</em>. I repeated over and over, "I'm going to be okay." Now a married mom (via a surrogate), Winkour has had stints on "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/17/marissa-jaret-winokur-lea_n_809932.html">The Talk</a>" and "Dancing With The Stars" over the past few years. And just this past October, she unveiled a dramatic <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-11-01/news/34862111_1_sizes-cervical-cancer-thin-crowd">60-pound weight loss</a>.
In April 2009, the then 30-year-old winner of Survivor: Africa was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's disease, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20279566,00.html">People.com reported at the time</a>. He underwent chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant -- 20 months after he went into remission, in September 2011, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20541727,00.html">according to People</a>, he found out the cancer had returned in his chest. Zohn underwent "smart" chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant in February 2012, <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/lymphoma/0518/ethan-zohn-im-getting-stronger-every-day.aspx">Everyday Health reports</a>. "I’m doing great,” he told the publication in May. "Maybe great isn’t the right word. I’m tired all the time, I don’t have a good appetite, I don’t have much energy, I’m weak, I’m skinny, I’m still bald ... but I’m getting stronger every day, and things are going according to plan in terms of my recovery. It’s all par for the course -- it’s just taking a little longer to get back to normal.”
At age 36, while undergoing in vitro fertilization for the third time, the E! News Host was diagnosed with breast cancer. After previous treatments were unsuccessful, she opted to have a double mastectomy in December 2011, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/05/double-mastectomy-giuliana-rancic-breast-cancer_n_1129433.html">HuffPost reported at the time</a>. "If I had chosen to just do another lumpectomy and then do radiation and then do anti-estrogen therapy, which means two to five years of medication, that basically puts me into early menopause, then I would have to put off having a baby for several years," she told TODAY! of her decision. "So that was something we took into account. But to be honest, at the end it all came down to was just choosing to live and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life." On Aug. 29, 2012, Rancic and husband Bill Rancic got their happy ending with the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/edward-duke-rancic-photo-giuliana-bill-rancic-baby-boy_n_1876694.html">birth of baby Edward Duke Rancic</a> via gestational surrogate.
At age 25, Reiser, screenwriter of the 2011 film 50/50, was experiencing strange symptoms, including weight loss, a horrible fatigue and night sweats. Convinced he was diabetic based on a Google search of his symptoms, he finally went to the doctor, who ran a series of tests. After several misdiagnoses, he was eventually properly diagnosed with a large tumor that had wrapped itself around his spine. "You've just suddenly been given the news that your body is attacking itself, your body is destroying itself from the inside," he told HuffPost Healthy Living during an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/dating-cancer-generation-why_n_2214749.html?utm_hp_ref=generation-why">interview for the Generation Why series</a>. "It was like this hurricane just swept through my body and left me in total disarray." Surgery successfully removed the tumor, and Reiser went on to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/30/5050-cancer-humor_n_988254.html">write 50/50</a>, which was inspired by his experience, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and real-life friend Seth Rogen.
The star of A&E's series "Paranormal State" announced he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this past August, at the age of 30, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20619106,00.html"><em>People</em> magazine reported</a>. Keeping his fans updated on social media throughout his battle, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RyanDBuell">he posted this message on December 11</a>: <blockquote>I know many amazing fans have been asking daily for updates on the status of my health. I can say that it has been the hardest year of my life, but I am also incredibly thankful for that. I had to put some of my dreams and goals aside to focus on myself. I'm also thankful for that. Although I feel that now is not the time to open up about it all, just know that I'm fighting the fight and I love you all!</blockquote>
Michael C. Hall
In early 2010, a spokesperson for the "Dexter" star revealed that he was undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/13/michael-c-hall-cancer-sho_n_422247.html">The Huffington Post reported</a>. "I feel fortunate to have been diagnosed with an imminently treatable and curable condition, and I thank my doctors and nurses for their expertise and care," he said in a statement at the time. At age 38, he was just a year younger than his father was when he died from prostate cancer at 39. "I think I’ve been preoccupied since I was 11, and my father died, with the idea of the age 39: Would I live that long? What would that be like?” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/arts/television/19hall.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&">he told <em>The New York Times</em> in 2010</a>. "To discover that I had the Hodgkin’s was alarming, but at the same time I felt kind of bemused, like: Wow. Huh. How interesting." In April 2010, his wife Jennifer Carpenter said that the actor was "fully recovered," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/23/michael-c-hall-fully-reco_n_550174.html">according to the AP</a>.
The Australian singer, now 44, was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/17/kylie-minogue-cancer_n_1972656.html">diagnosed with breast cancer</a> in 2005. "Everyone’s story is different. It depends what the cancer was, how it affected you, the treatment you had. There are so many variables but for a lot of people, myself included, it’s not like it happened, it was dealt with and it stops," <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2012/10/16/kylie-minogue-cancer-diagnosis-still-affects-me-but-ive-had-to-adapt-to-it-601837/">she told Metro in 2010</a>. "I have reminders of it every day so it definitely affects my life in a small part, so you just have to adapt and do things slightly differently ... just deal with it and move on."