February is a time of year when we are constantly reminded of love. Valentines Day cards, red and pink decorations on the isle end caps of Target, roses, edible arrangements, and of course heart shaped boxes filed with delicious candies. But that's not the real meaning of love. They are ways to show love. (Personally, I just showed myself $15 worth of love in heart shaped candies…oops.) But love cannot be sold, it can only be felt. It is an emotion that is given freely. Some people hold it close to them and only hand it out like a business card and others make it rain! No matter which person you are, or if you fall in between, love is an amazing thing. And we always are always in search for more.

This time of year is a time to recognize love and the people that you share heart felt emotion with. But how does it relate to pediatric cancer? Well, for starters, love is everywhere when you meet a family facing pediatric cancer, their entire tribe bands together around the family and shows so much support and generosity. Why? Childhood cancer is not an easy thing to cope with and there are many variables to deal with when going through the situation.

Here we will break down four reasons as to why L.O.V.E. is something you should think about a little deeper when it pertains to pediatric cancer.

Loss. Loss can mean a lot of different things when related to a cancer diagnosis; loss of hair, loss of appetite, loss of school because of frequent clinic visits, loss of time with friends. But in addition to what the child goes through, parents also go through a good bit of uphill battles.

Close your eyes for a moment. (OK, don't because you have to read this.) But seriously pause and think about if your child or a child you are close to was diagnosed with cancer. What are your first thoughts? Was it a million different ones? Exactly. Now imagine that this wasn't just a quick experiment and it is real life. Moms and Dads live with these thoughts day in and day out. The what ifs. Mental stability can easily slip away when you are placed on a pediatric cancer roller coaster. Parents are trying to deal with the thought of how to fight for their child's life, maintain a relationship with their spouse, make sure they include the sibling in things so they don't feel left out, take their child with cancer to clinic everyday, maintain a job, and make a little time for sleep. With all of these swirling around one could quickly have their balanced world take a hit. Parents that are fighting for their child's life are incredible and while we see this, sometimes employers do not. Over 84% of parents see some type of disruption in the workplace. This can include but not limit to quitting their job to take care of their child, losing of a job because of missed days, running out of days to take etc. Because of this ripple effect 20% of families loose up over 40% of their income and that alone causes huge loss in financial stability. Cancer does not choose what socioeconomic class to attach itself to, and sometimes families are already living paycheck to paycheck. Loss of money, loss of a job, loss of metal stability are all really hard losses to deal with. But if we are being completely honest here, we are leaving a big one out. Yes, sometimes this fight isn't always defeated. Loss of life is never easy but when it comes to a child, it is a loss that will never expire.

Optimism. Looking to the bright side during the time of childhood cancer is no easy task with all of the factors that play into the diagnosis. However, with the strength of love one can overcome. Staying positive and on the good side of things is one way to fight mental instability- while it doesn't always solve stress it does give one drive; and that is something that is much needed in a time of uncertainty. Parents tend to find the little milestones to be big steps; like when the young patient can easily go into the clinic with out being scared or resistant. Or when the child can finally take their oral chemo without spilling or spitting it up. Or when the child with cancer can have their port accessed without any freak outs. This is a huge milestone. The port is a device about the size of a quarter that is embedded under the skin and connects to a vein. This is where blood can be drawn or more importantly where chemo medications can be delivered through, you guessed it, a needle.

These breakthroughs are small but have large impacts on families and optimism. 84% of all children diagnosed with cancer will beat it! and that is definitely something to be optimistic about. It is no easy journey, but it is a statistic that is hopeful in itself.

Voice. So, a jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says "I'll serve you, but don't start anything." (Pause for pity laughter…) Maybe dad jokes aren't the best thing. But the point is, shouldn't we all be like a jumper cable? Be there when we are needed and start something if we need to? That sounds like a friend to me, a really good friend. Going down the road of pediatric cancer is never easy but having friends walk the road with you helps. Telling a friend that is fighting for their child's life that you will be there for them, to support them, and listen to them when they need an ear is sometimes all a parent needs. Or telling a child a good dad joke just to get them to smile can be monumental. Remember, even if you can't relate to the circumstances a pediatric family is going through, you can use your voice to comfort, make one laugh, or help tell a story to others.

Did you ever see the movie "Pay It Forward" with Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt? Long story short it is about a boy that comes up with this idea if one person does a nice gesture for three people, then those three people do a nice thing for three more people, etc, etc. It is an emotional and impactful movie that shows how one person can effect others. Now, lets apply this to pediatric cancer. If one person speaks out about their experience and journey, that can help another family and help educate ones that have no idea about how pediatric cancer affects lives. Would people become more educated on this topic if we all spoke up a little more? Voice is a powerful thing and that is why it is important to use it.

Educate. Sir Frances Bacon once said "knowledge is power." It is a simple and direct quote. However it is what you do with the knowledge that can be powerful. In our case, educating ourselves about pediatric cancer and talking to parents with children that have faced pediatric cancer are ways to quickly gain knowledge that can be applied to an action. Below are some pediatric cancer facts that can hopefully give you some knowledge to do something inspiring with your voice.

- Pediatric cancer begins in a child when normal cells grow uncontrollably, in most cases this creates a tumor. Tumors can either be non cancerous- benign, or malignant- cancerous- and can occur anywhere in the body. Cancer that occurs in children occurs randomly and does not discriminate against gender, ethnic background, economic class, or geographic region.

- Childhood Cancer is the number one cause of death from disease in the USA. That is more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, congenital anomalies and pediatric AIDS combined.

-Each and every school day (180 days) 46 children, or more than two classrooms are diagnosed with cancer. That is roughly 12,500 children every year just in the U.S. The average high school has two survivors of childhood cancer.

-84% of children with cancer will survive but that sometimes comes with side effects. 2/3 of survivors will experience at least one side effect from treatment- like a secondary cancer later in life, heart damage, kidney damage, lung damage, hearing loss, infertility, and alterations in growth and development.

-In 2013 there were 228 new cases of pediatric cancer in South Carolina alone. WOW!!

- The National Cancer Institute invested 5.07 BILLION DOLLARS into cancer research in 2012. Pediatric cancer research only received 208 million dollars for all 12 major childhood cancers. That is only 4% of the NCI budget.

- In the last 20 years only 3 new drugs have been approved by the FDA for Childhood Cancer treatment. One of those was released in 2015 and only available to patients participating in a clinical trial.

These are the reasons why we should show extra love to those that are going through a cancer diagnosis with their child. We may not be able to fully understand what a family is going through but one can give love freely and openly. So let's be those jumper cables! Let's use our voice and optimism to connect families and their stories to the people that need their battery sparked. The energy is inside them, they just need a jolt of education. So lets get out there this year and jump start 2017 for pediatric cancer! WE CAN DO THIS!

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