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The Equitable Inequities of Childhood Cancer

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Although I am an attorney, I try hard not to venture upon providing legal commentary. I watched with curiosity as the recent verdict was read in the case that riveted the country, The State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. Of course we all know that a 17-year-old male (I will not say child or man) lost his life following an altercation that should not have ever occurred. George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin are now both indelibly etched upon our collective consciousness for bad or worse. Their actions on the night in question have polarized so much of this country. This piece, however, is not about those individuals. Rather, I want to draw a comparison between how many in this country create divides by utilizing categories to neatly compartmentalize life and the completely equitable inequities of childhood cancer.

If you want to show how diverse yet symbiotic life can be in this country, I suggest you look to the world of childhood cancer. Childhood cancer, the number one disease killer of our kids in this country, touches upon every facet of our population regardless of race, religion, region or social status. Being an advocate and childhood cancer lobbyist, I have known children of all different races and religions who have lost their lives to cancer. And I have seen such amazing unity among all of these people and groups for one simple goal: the discovery of a cure for all of these kids. Period. They are not white children, they are not African-American children, they are not Asian, Indian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim. They are simply kids who have deserved better from our country. They are all children who deserved a chance to obtain one of life's promises, to grow old. This is a community of parents and children engaged in a daily struggle for life. The life of children who are being stricken and taken way too soon. It is a unified community together in a life or death fight.

Although an amazingly difficult topic to discuss and consider, the unity that exists between the parents and children in the childhood cancer community is a demonstration of how crisis should and does transcend all divides. Of course, if you would like to, you can make the argument that the more financially affluent have better access to care and thus better outcomes. That is a topic for a different conversation. The point is that childhood cancer does not discriminate. It does not celebrate holidays and single out any group for their religious preferences or lack thereof. Childhood cancer does not care whether the doctor is African-American and the child is white. Childhood cancer does not have media coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week seeking to create divides. Childhood cancer simply is. It exists as a killer that cares not for arbitrary divisions. We can and should learn from this example of unfortunate unity.

And that takes me back to what happened in Florida, the amount of coverage and type of coverage it generated. As a childhood cancer advocate, I ultimately wish that our kids obtained half the media coverage that some of the more sensational stories of our time are offered. The seven children who will die today deserve as much. The anonymity of their struggles is heartbreaking and devastating to the families who are forced to undertake this real life and death struggle. And frankly, this fact angers me.

Some may suggest that I am taking an easy topic and trying to make a comparison that ultimately has nothing in common. That is your prerogative, frankly. I am simply trying to highlight how there are few arbitrary divides in this community that are touched with tragedy on a daily basis. A community that has more in common than that which divides it. I seek outcry for the status that children with cancer are given in our country despite the potentially arbitrary divisions. There is no fairness involved when a child is diagnosed with cancer. It is not "fair" that my daughter was diagnosed, and it is certainly not fair that she lost her battle two weeks shy of her fifth birthday. Yet, there is an equitable nature to childhood cancer in that no single population group in this country is immune. And thus, as the community joins in the unity of a singular purpose, a cure, the general population can stand to learn from our plight. Ultimately, this may be way too optimistic in nature. I am more than ready to face this criticism. Maybe you have never faced a crisis that demonstrates no concern for the race or religion of the person attacked. For that, you should be thankful. Children can teach us so many amazing lessons. Unfortunately, those lessons are often lost upon people who fail to see the good in human nature despite some its bad actors.

Today, tomorrow and the next day, childhood cancer advocates will look blindly at those impacted and speak loudly for a cure. In the end it does not matter, it only matters if we save children with cancer. Idealistic? Maybe. The right course of action? Without question.