Dear Mr. President

I made the mistake of opening this email while I was sitting in a restaurant with my two boys. On vacation. For the last weekend of the summer before they both go to school. I should have waited. I should not have opened this email. Because, Mr. President, the anger, disgust, and disappointment that I feel at this moment are beyond words.

I guess on some level I should be thrilled that you took the time to direct someone in your office to draft a standard kiss off email to all us childhood cancer parents. The grammar is correct and the language is very…political. And, hey, I got a message from the White House! But, unfortunately for me and my son and the THOUSANDS of children like him, the message that we got LOUD and CLEAR from you and your administration is that YOU. DON’T. CARE.

To add insult to injury, your message uses the very statistics that we are railing against. Mr. President, the NCI is no friend to childhood cancer. And, if “progress” means that one in five kids won’t live five years past diagnosis and 85% of those who do will have at least one chronic health condition as a result of their treatment, well then, I think we need to redefine “progress.” And had YOU, not your staff, taken some TIME to read our petition and really listen to the parents who are pleading with you, you would have known better.

And the icing on the cake… you throw in your Affordable Care Act agenda. I fully support that initiative because it helps people with pre-existing conditions, like my son. And, I am paying quite heavily for the health insurance and medical care that saved his life. However, that is not the point. This was NOT the time nor the place to advance your politics. This was your chance to listen. To be a true supporter of children with cancer, rather than a football signing figurehead who smiles for photos.

What is also disheartening to me is that I am sure you already have the pink light bulbs that you need to illuminate your tax payer supported home in October. Because, you know, boobs matter more than kids. I have boobs. Nice ones. I will most likely get breast cancer. There is a link between my son’s diagnosis and my chances of getting diagnosed. And guess what. I would gladly go under the knife and lose them both if it meant that more money would go to the kids.

I think what upsets me most is that you are a parent. Your girls are smart, funny, beautiful, and well cared for. You would do anything for them. So, why not stand up and speak out for them and their friends? That is what we are asking. That you make a statement, that you take a stand.

Mr. President, I am disappointed to the point of tears. Good thing your time in office is almost over. Not only did you lose my respect, but you lost my vote as well.

And, no, I won’t be “staying connected” with you.

The White House

Fighting Pediatric Cancer

By Paulette Aniskoff, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement

Thank you for your petition and for your ongoing effort to raise awareness about the important issue of pediatric cancer.

President Obama shares your commitment and, although we cannot light the building gold for the month of September, we’re issuing a Presidential Proclamation to help amplify your important cause, as we have in past years to commemorate National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. And the President has continued to meet with cancer fighters — including 7 year old Jack Hoffman, a brain cancer patient and cancer research advocate.

President Obama with Jack Hoffman

President Barack Obama greets Jack Hoffman, 7, of Atkinson, Neb., in the Oval Office, April 29, 2013. Hoffman, who is battling pediatric brain cancer, gained national attention after he ran for a 69-yard touchdown during a Nebraska Cornhuskers spring football game. Hoffman holds a football that the President signed for him. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But we think it’s not good enough to simply make more people aware of the issue: The Obama Administration is committed to continued support for outstanding pediatric cancer research. Because this issue is incredibly important — too many children and their families face the devastating effects of cancer. And as you point out, it remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children under the age of 15.

That’s why the National Cancer Institute continues to support long-term research efforts to help us better understand and treat pediatric cancer. You can learn more about our scientific efforts here.

We are making progress: Success in treating pediatric cancers has led to large numbers of long-term pediatric cancer survivors with long life expectancies.

In addition, the Affordable Care Act offers a number of important benefits for children fighting cancer. For example, eliminating lifetime caps on care means insurance companies can’t set a dollar limit on what they spend on a child’s care. And insurance companies can no longer deny families coverage because their child has a pre-existing condition like cancer. And the law will help millions of Americans, including children, get health insurance so if an accident or illness like cancer happens, they can get the care they need and deserve and are protected from high, unexpected costs. You can learn more about these benefits and more at HealthCare.gov.

So along with the proclamation, we’re also committed to supporting families battling cancer through the Affordable Care Act, and funding pediatric cancer research to find more effective, safer treatments.

Tell us what you think about this response and We the People.

Presidential Proclamation: National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, 2013

Every September, America renews our commitment to curing childhood cancer and offers our support to the brave young people who are fighting this disease. Thousands are diagnosed with pediatric cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease for American children under 15. For those children and their families, and in memory of every young person lost to cancer, we unite behind improved treatment, advanced research, and brighter futures for young people everywhere.

Over the past few decades, we have made great strides in the fight against pediatric cancer. Thanks to significant advances in treatment over the last 30 years, the combined 5-year survival rate for children with cancer increased by more than 20 percentage points. Today, a substantial proportion of children diagnosed with cancer can anticipate a time when their illness will be in long-term remission or cured altogether.

My Administration is dedicated to carrying this progress forward. We are funding extensive research into the causes of childhood cancer and its safest and most effective treatments. We also remain committed to easing financial burdens on families supporting a loved one with cancer. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or set lifetime caps on essential health benefits. As of January 2014, insurers will be prohibited from dropping coverage for patients who choose to participate in a clinical trial, including clinical trials that treat childhood cancer.

All children deserve the chance to dream, discover, and realize their full potential. This month, we extend our support to young people fighting for that opportunity, and we recognize all who commit themselves to advancing the journey toward a cancer-free world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2013 as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all Americans to join me in reaffirming our commitment to fighting childhood cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

Stay Connected

Stay connected to the White House by signing up for periodic email updates from President Obama and other senior administration officials.

Seeing gold

I follow Glennon Melton on Twitter. A dear friend of mine introduced me to her blog, Momastery. For the most part, I like her stuff. She is funny, honest, and like the rest of us working to be the best mom she can and doing it in a positive way. I like that. I am also trying to do those things and spend less time in the negative judgey place that leads nowhere good. Today is not one of those days.

A guest blogger on the Momastery site wrote about her son’s autism diagnosis and how it has impacted their family. http://momastery.com/blog/2013/06/20/not-your-typical-mom/

There are many parts of this post that resonate with me. The devastation of a diagnosis that seemed to come from nowhere; the challenge of learning a new language of medical terms and treatments; long-term prognosis; impact on her marriage; caring for a younger sibling. The list goes on and on. I get it. I have been there.

And then, I read this: “I had irrational thoughts. I remember thinking-¬†I wish Greyson had cancer, then there would at least be the possibility that it could go away.” Emphasis hers. And now I am seeing red. I am absolutely seething right now. The Momma bear is out in full force.

My post is not about this woman in particular. I don’t know her or her family. And this post is not about Momastery. I admire Glennon and her work.

My anger stems from the complete lack of awareness and understanding about cancer in children and how far we still have to go. Clearly this blogger knows nothing about childhood cancer. How prevalent it is- It could have been either of her sons or one of their buddies. How dangerous it is- 80% of our kids are STAGE 3 or 4 at diagnosis, thus greatly reducing their long-term chances of survival. How long and draining treatments are- YEARS. How OLD the medicine is and how lacking the technology really is for kids- developed over 30 years ago, for use in adult patients. How much money really goes to the kids- 4% of the NCI’s total budget. Mere pennies when compared to adult cancers. RAWR.

And, that’s the rub. This woman is doing all that she can to get her son all that he needs. She is coping. She has irrational thoughts. I get it. Been there. I remember at the very beginning wishing that our son had been diagnosed with leukemia because I thought (at the time), that that was the “good cancer” to get. Talk about irrational thoughts.

What is dangerous about this woman’s post is the complete ignorance it displays and the number of people it will reach who will blindly gloss over her words about childhood cancer and focus on the part about “the possibility that it could go away.” Some people will read her words and not even see that part. For most people, cancer is treatable. It is something that adults get as a result of their unhealthy lifestyle choices, smoking, or genetic risks. And as a result of the pervasive pink-washing (and soon to be public service announcements about men & their prostates) most people also believe that we are making progress against cancer.

Unfortunately families who have been devastated by a childhood cancer diagnosis know different. We rarely have “the possibility that it could go away.” Instead, we live with the reality that it could come back. It could come back worse than before. If it does, the chances of survival are even less than they were the first time. Instead, we live with the possibility of a secondary, new cancer which could have been caused by the very treatments that were used to save our babies the first time. And for some families, their child’s cancer never went away. It stole their children and they died.

I am frustrated because there are people out there, there are mothers out there, who still believe that their children are untouchable. And even worse, there are still mothers out there who believe that even if it did happen to their child, that it could just go away. Like they can take a pill, or cut off boobs (kids don’t even have boobs), or remove moles that look suspicious and then your kid will be cancer-free.

Mostly, I am frustrated with the childhood cancer community. Yes, good things are happening and there is awareness out there that didn’t exist before. I am thrilled for that. I was part of making it happen. But, I am realizing just how far we really have to go. And, that within the childhood cancer community, we need a stronger, more pervasive message that isn’t about anger or fear (ironic given the anger of this post!). We need to find a way to speak with words that will be heard. I am still searching for them. I won’t stop. I hope, I pray, I wish, I dream that others will be touched by our experiences and join us.

Going to re-focus the rest of today and see GOLD (not red ;))

Gold Ribbon

Kids get cancer, too!

Sick of all this cancer?

Sick of all this cancer?

Nicole Scobie blogs about her adventures in “Cancerland and Switzerland.” This most recent post is spot on. Please take a few moments to watch Erin (who is battling DIPG) and then read Nicole’s post about Erin’s mom Amanda and the reaction of her “friends.”

Kids with cancer need your financial support. They need research for them. They need all of us to teach our children about friendship, love, caring for those who are injured or sick, and loyalty.

Parents of children with cancer need your compassion, empathy, and listening ear, not your pity.