HALEYVILLE - It’s a diagnosis that strikes fear in the heart of anyone who gets it, and that fear is magnified multiple times when the diagnosis is given to a child.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and South Haleyville Church of Christ is spearheading an effort to deck out Haleyville and the surrounding area in gold ribbons for the month as part of a national effort to Go Gold® for kids with cancer. Local businesses, churches and residents are encouraged to get yellow or gold ribbons for bows and place them on their doors or someone on their property as a sign of support for children who are battling cancer.
The church has been inspired by the hard, brave battle being fought currently by Maddie Bishop, 11, of Haleyville, who attends church at South Haleyville COC. Maddie was diagnosed with stage 4 Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in April of this year. In July, Maddie underwent an approximate 10-hour surgery to remove a part of the femur bone in her leg that had cancer. It was replaced with donor bone, held in place with plates and screws. Her mother, Helena Bishop, said that the surgery went well.
“Everything has gone as planned. She had all 17 centimeters of her femur removed and she has a donor bone and plates and screws where her cancer was,” Helena said.
Maddie is undergoing grueling chemotherapy treatments at Children’s of Alabama currently.
“She is on what is considered consolidation chemo. There’s 22 weeks of that, and we are on week 5,” Helena said.
Helena and Maddie are very pleased by the support they are getting from everyone in the community and are thrilled that the community is taking an interest in bringing awareness to childhood cancer.
“We are honored by this. We are very overwhelmed by the support our church, the local churches and our community have shown us. I never knew before Maddie got cancer that September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I never knew that the gold ribbon represented it. This is something we are wanting to make people aware of because things are not going to change until people become aware,” Helena said.
The statistics when it comes to childhood cancer in America are sobering. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children in the United States. Approximately 1 in every 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday, an estimated 15,780 children each year. Of these children, 20 percent will not survive and for the ones who do survive, two-thirds experience at least one serious side effect, including heart damage, lung damage, infertility, chronic hepatitis, alterations in growth and development or impaired cognitive abilities.
“A lot of these things carry on to adulthood, and they have lots of health problems on account of the treatment they received as children,” Helena said. I just always assumed that childhood cancer was rare. In fact, it honestly isn’t."
According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only four percent of the billions of dollars the government spends annually on cancer research is directed toward treating childhood cancer, which was shocking to Helena.
“Most treatments for children were not necessarily developed for children. They were developed for adults, and a lot of these treatments have not changed since the 1980s. I thought, this is the 21st century, this is cutting edge research, but a lot of things have not changed,” Helena said.
The congregation at South Haleyville COC plans to reach out residents who have an immediate member of their family who is a child and is battling cancer. Persons who have immediate members of their family who are children, live locally and are battling cancer can call (205) 269-0784 for more information. The above number can also be called by those in need of yellow or gold ribbon to help show support for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
For more information on childhood cancer and how to donate toward research to end this disease, visit www.acco.org or nationalpcf.org.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.