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Jonathan Agin Headshot

Family Guy, Brian Griffin and the Childhood Cancer Equation

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I admit it. I am a huge fan of the animated show Family Guy. The Griffin family has provided me with much distraction at some of the most stressful points of my daughter Alexis' cancer journey and beyond. Even now that it is close to three years since she passed away from an inoperable brain tumor, I still find that I watch old episodes to provide comical escape from the realities of this loss. Seth MacFarlane, if this somehow reaches you, thank you.

The most recent episode shocked many of us who watch week in and week out. Brian Griffin, the pretentious and ivy-league educated dog was killed off of the show. I will be the first to admit, this does not sit well with me in terms of future story lines. As the days following this twist ensued, I was amazed to watch as social media channels erupted with fans trying to create a wave of pressure to bring the character back. As I type this piece, over 120,000 people have signed a petition to bring Brian Griffin back. 120,000 people have been so moved by the loss of a cartoon character on a show to take several moments out of their day to try and convince Mr. MacFarlane to bring back this character. I get it, somewhat.

What I guess is more difficult to understand is why it is so hard to get that many people to sign a petition seeking increased funding for childhood cancer research. There is currently a petition in existence seeking to increase the allocation provided for all childhood cancer by NCI. It currently has a little over 1000 signatures even though it has been circulating for several months. Not even one percent of the amount that a petition has garnered in a little under a week to bring back a cartoon dog for kids with cancer. Other similar petitions exist, just do a quick search, and they too have only gained a fraction of the interest or publicity as the one to bring back the dog.

In the end, I suppose I am not all that surprised. Childhood cancer simply is not a hot topic. It is neither glamorous nor is it front and center in the collective consciousness of the masses. It does not hold a position in our Sunday night TV line up. And it is not entertaining. For those of us who advocate for change on the federal level for kids with cancer, we simply do not have the clout to obtain the type of groundswell that we see in the world of pop culture. Even if the childhood cancer community had half of the outcry and mobilization that we are seeing in this instance, there could be more of a grass-roots movement for change.

Numbers translate directly into attention. I do not want to use the word "awareness" as so often this term is misinterpreted or misapplied. Attention from a wider audience outside of the childhood cancer community. That is what is needed. It is not enough to simply see the ads for St. Jude and come to some misunderstanding that we are doing enough for kids with cancer in this country. We are not. We are failing on so many levels. And thus, engagement of people on this type of scale is beyond necessary. It is critical to be able to alter the message and the audience in a manner that directly translates into the type of numbers necessary to create the overwhelming voice on the federal level that will change the equation for children with cancer.

Ultimately, if Brian Griffin is not brought back to Family Guy, I will miss his character. I hope that the petitions work. If not, I will get over his absence and I can watch reruns. I will not however get over the absence of my daughter. Two weeks shy of her fifth birthday, her loss did not spark a national outrage followed by a petition to fund more research or create better regulatory schemes for drug development. There is no re-writing her back into my story. Children with cancer deserve petitions that reach millions of signatures with the ease with which the Family Guy petition reached 120,000. Numbers translate into attention. Our kids deserve attention. Our kids deserve more. Find a petition for childhood cancer today and take a couple moments of your time to help out children with cancer.