Childhood Cancer Awareness–First Day of School

Today was the first day of school, and I love watching the neighborhood kids take photos and hop on the bus for a new year of excitement and learning. Some may be going to a new building or starting at a different school. Some may connect with old friends or meet new ones. No matter what, it’s a happy day filled with joy and probably some anxiety.

2004 september first day of school
First day of school in our new house when the boys were 8 and 6.

Nick was diagnosed with leukemia in the summer, so many of his school friends never knew he was sick. Social media wasn’t readily available. We updated family and friends through the CaringBridge website, but when school came around, Nick only went on his first day. No one understood how ill he was. He had been accepted for the DDE program, since he wanted to be a technology teacher, but eventually he had to drop it as he couldn’t keep up with the work.

We hired tutors, but he was so fatigued, he struggled with motivation and learning. Shenendehowa School District was wonderful in that they gave him the basic requirements for homework, but the isolation and missing his classmates was very hard.

It was difficult for Stephen as well, since he and his brother would have been in middle school together. Instead Stephen went on the bus alone, and they missed all those possible memories together. When we lost Nick only two months into the school year, it rocked the school community.

Cancer changes the formative years of children. Losing a classmate is traumatic. Losing a sibling is life-changing and devastating. The ramifications don’t often show up until years later.

When a child with cancer attends school, they deal with side effects, possible infections from a compromised immune system, bullying, isolation, and misunderstanding. A child doesn’t have to look sick to have cancer, so it’s important to create empathy and educate students on what a child with cancer or any other chronic or life-threatening illness is going through. What an opportunity to teach compassion and make a difference in someone’s life.

Besides missing out on so many wonderful memories, the world lost the potential of Nick, someone who wanted to use technology to help others, who enjoyed working with younger children and making them smile.

Today I remember all the children who are no longer with us and their parents who struggle with those firsts every single year. And I send support and hugs to our children in treatment who missed their first day. I hope you get back to school soon.

Be aware that someone might be struggling more than you know. Show compassion and you might give them that reason to smile.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness, but every day is the chance to be kind.

Something about Springtime

There’s something about springtime, especially after a long winter. The birds chirp, the flowers sprout and flaunt their colors, and we cherish the warmth of that amazing sun. We look forward to the end of school and in my case Stephen’s high school graduation. We make summer plans and make every excuse to get outside.

There’s something about springtime when it comes to cancer diagnoses, especially for teens. Every year that I can remember there is always an influx of teenagers who are diagnosed between April and May. This year there were quite a few boys and it breaks my heart when we get 8-10 requests for Nick’s Comfort Bags in one month. Yes, it’s wonderful that we have teen volunteers to fill them and that we are able to support so many young adults, but that also means that 10 more kids have been diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.

June ends up being a very busy time for our volunteers. It’s a tough time of year with exams and graduations, but we know that a cancer diagnosis isn’t ever convenient and so we continue to fight.

On June 5, the Romano family once again spearheaded the LukeStrong Olympics at Shenendehowa High School raising over $4,000 and having 20 teams participate. The very next day we had teens and adults volunteer to cook at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany. The families who stay there have children at Albany Med who are battling life-threatening illnesses are have been born prematurely. Getting a good meal, especially having a barbecue, is essential to helping keep the family strong. Last Friday was Relay for Life and even though it was cut short by torrential rain and dangerous lightning, Nick’s Round Table teens and adult volunteers ventured forth to show our support. Sammie Sagnelli was able to walk her survivor’s lap before we rushed into the safety of the high school.

Some of the amazing supporters of Nick’s Fight to be Healed at LukeStrong Olympics!

Volunteers worked hard preparing dinner at the Ronald McDonald House in Albany!

And still we continue our quest to help children with cancer as we hold our spring Blood Drive this Friday, June 19 from 1-6pm at the Shenendehowa United Methodist Church. Children with cancer need lots and lots of blood and platelet transfusions! So we need your help to support this part of our mission. If you can donate blood, please stop by. You can also make an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org. It’s such an important part of what we do.

Always have to get a selfie with Sammie the amazing survivor!

Thank you to everyone for helping at Relay for Life, especially after the storm!

I hope you are enjoying spring, planting flowers and vegetables, exercising outdoors, basking in the sunshine or running in the rain. As you do, please think of the children who are in the hospital wondering how they got there and what this means for their summer.

We appreciate all that you do to help support Nick’s Fight to be Healed and our children!

Go to www.fighttobehealed.org to see how else you can help!