World Cancer Day

Cindy Kerr / February 3, 2018

“We can. I can.”

It’s the theme of World Cancer Day, a day that calls on all of us to join the ongoing global fight against cancer. It’s a fight we have yet to win as we lose 8.8 million across the world every year to the disease.

The number of new cancer cases is expected to reach 15 million by 2020. 15 million lives impacted by a cancer diagnosis. That is a big part of the story—and one that we cannot ignore.

But that number, as unacceptable and heartbreaking as it is, says nothing about the people who are left behind. The parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and neighbors who mourn. And the millions more who survive.

For everyone we lose to this terrible disease, there is a circle of people who face the traumatic stress associated with seeing a loved one fight through—and finally succumb to—an unforgiving, indiscriminate illness. And there are even more people who beat cancer but are left looking over their shoulder, fighting off the memories of a disease that nearly took their lives. These people are praying for clean scans while accepting in their hearts that cancer may not be done with them yet.

When you consider the impact cancer has worldwide, it’s difficult to be strong enough to say “We can. I can.” But the truth is, these words mean different things to different people. And I’ll tell you what I think we can do. And what I know I can do.

Though we haven’t found a way to keep cancer from occurring, we can decide how we cope with a diagnosis and with treatment.

When a child receives a cancer diagnosis, they need support to navigate his or her feelings—and Case for Smiles has worked with incredible volunteers for years to brighten the hospital rooms of children in treatment. We can continue to help these children feel better to heal better.

But what about their parents and siblings? As caregivers, it goes against our instinct to nurture ourselves. And it may not always be an obvious priority to remove our focus from an ill or injured child, to focus on a healthy one.

And how will the rest of the child’s community react to the diagnosis? When a student has a severe injury or a hospital stay, schools, educators, and the child’s peers have a key role in helping him or her cope. And so, we can prepare them to best help students and families when a student (or his/her sibling) has been seriously ill or in the hospital.

My son Ryan went through more than any child should ever face. It was not clear to me at the time there would be a long-lasting impact caused by the fear, stress, confusion, and guilt that Gavin, my girls, and I felt. That is why I am pleased we can provide resources that families need to care for themselves and help shield them from the inevitable traumatic stress that comes with pediatric illness.

Many of you know that World Cancer Day takes on a different meaning for me in 2018. This year, I will be honoring the day not only as a mother who has lost her son to cancer but as a fighter myself. Though I have every reason to be hopeful for my future, there is still a fear that finds its way into my soul on occasion.

But here’s what I can do when that fear strikes: I can choose to support other families who are facing a battle like the one my family went through. I can take care of myself and my family so that we come out on the other end of this with minimal scars. And I can live my life with hope, wherever the future takes me.

It just so happens that this World Cancer Day I will be at Super Bowl 2018—an incredibly kind and generous gift from the Philadelphia Eagles, who Case for Smiles is fortunate to work with as one of this season’s Eagles Care Partners.

Even though I am grateful to attend the Super Bowl, every fiber of my body tells me this gift and honor was meant for someone more deserving. Still, I accept on behalf of all the families who are fighting and the volunteers who make Case for Smiles what it is.

Beyond being another fan in the stands, I will remember the true meaning of the day and carry each of you in my heart all the way to Minneapolis to celebrate our collective triumphs, our ever-present heartbreak, and our ability to overcome.

We Can. I Can. And as an Eagles fan, two more words come to mind as we head into Sunday’s game: They Can! Here’s to our NFC Champs, and to a huge Philadelphia victory in Super Bowl LII. #FlyEaglesFly

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