September 30, 2013

Childhood Cancer Awareness (and a Pro-Vaccine Plug)

One of, if not the, longest friendships I have is with my friend Bridget:

This was taken last month when I got to visit her in New Hampshire before attending a wedding in Rhode Island (accomplishing #1 on my 30 Before 30 List) . If I was less lazy, I would dig through some old photo albums and share some funny pictures of Bridget and I as kids and awkward teenagers. I'd share pictures from summer swim team and Jr. High prom. I'd share pictures of us playing with Play Mobile, and pictures from Halloween Parties. I could also share pictures of us while Bridget was undergoing chemotherapy for Leukemia at the age of eleven. I have a clear memory (and picture) of Bridget when she was over at my house holding a kitten and she is puffy and swollen from all the steroids and drugs that saved her life.

I remember when my mom told me Bridget was sick. It was my first experience with cancer. I remember crying when she said Bridget got a haircut so that she hopefully wouldn't lose all of her hair. You may think that seems really vain of an eleven year old, but I just remember thinking that you had to be really sick for your hair to fall out. I remember sleeping over at her house and watching her older sister inject medicine into the picc line that was inserted in her chest. I can still picture how her hospital room was set up and driving to visit her often during the summer between 4th and 5th grade. My favorite memory, that makes me tear up thinking about, was calling her hospital room one night and she said "can I talk to you tomorrow? My dad is reading to me."

Picturing that Bridget is almost hard to do when I then picture the Bridget I know today. The Bridget who has been cancer free for almost 17 years. Who ran competitive cross country in college and runs marathons with times that most men cannot accomplish. The Bridget who is an engineer, and brilliant, and active, and healthy, and still, after all these years a really good friend.

The reason I share all this is because of this blog I read today. Fellow Monkees may have already seen it. But I wanted to share because it's the last day of September and until I read that post, I didn't know that this month was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Like the woman who posted her son's story, it just doesn't get enough attention. Just as I feel every October when Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month is hardly spoken about outside the baby loss circles. I get it - there are a million worthy and important causes. And let's keep talking about those and advocating for them. But today is the last day of the month that is specifically for Childhood Cancer. So I just wanted to share. And maybe raise a smidgen more of awareness in the process. (And also because it's a good segue to sharing this article on being pro-vaccine. If you haven't read it yet and joined the herd, I think you should. I think you should for your own children, but also for all the others out there - like my friend Bridget who fought hard enough to reclaim her childhood and her life and I'm so thankful that wasn't further complicated, as it unfortunately is for other kids battling childhood cancer.)

The end. Stepping off soapbox. Momentarily, anyway.


  1. Well I think you're an incredible friend and I'm so thankful you shared about Bridget.

    I, too, agree that we should keep advocating and talking. Because even if we don't find a cure for cancer... we should keep trying! These are people we love, after all. And even if we don't prevent future children from stillbirth or (insert horrible things), if we keep talking, more people will be made aware, become proactive, and most importantly in my mind... show compassion.

    There's no reason not to be human about human ailments and struggles. Glad you have such a fab friend and memories that make you more empathetic and the person you are today. :)

  2. I agree with Brandy, you are an incredible friend!

    I've done the research on vaccines too. Even as a NICU nurse, I thought a lot about delaying some vaccines, not because I think they cause autism, but because I don't like the idea of Bode getting so many vaccines into his little body all at once. After I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people about it, I stuck with the recommendations (except hep B--we waited until regular vaccine schedule to add that one in and did not do it on day of life 2)

    1. Yeah, I don't mind delaying vaccines - in fact Finn had one delayed (either MMR or chicken pox - can't remember off the top of my head) that normally is given at 12 months, but because of the others he was getting at the time as well, our pediatrician (who is very pro vaccine and will only take you as a patient if you plan to vaccinate) recommended doing it later, which was fine with me. It's the complete anti-vaccine stance that kills me. We are so fortunate to be in control of when our kids get these LIFE SAVING vaccines - measures that other countries would dream of being able to provide their children with.

  3. This is such a beautiful post. I read it twice. I can only imagine how formative it must have been for you to have a friend like Bridget. How lucky both of you were to have each other. Sometimes I cannot help but wonder who I would be or what I would be doing if it weren't for certain people in my life. It sounds like Bridget is one of those people for you...and that is a sacred thing.

    And for the record, you have the cutest baby belly ever. Please give Baby Hidalgo a nuggle for me.

    I appreciate you stepping onto the soap box. I vaccinate. I think that the fertilizer we put on our lawns and pesticides we spray on our foods cause more harm. I believe that these cures are there and a disease with no cure killed my first I will take the cure and pray I made the right decision.

  4. Thanks for sharing. About Bridget and awareness month (I had no clue till I saw your post/the one at Momastery). What an amazing friend you have, I am so glad she's doing so well!

    A friend who chose to avoid Hep A vaccines for her kids had a daughter contract it during the recent Costco berry contamination. She was hospitalized and everything--it was pretty scary.

    I love our family practice; until we started going there I had no idea that some vaccines are morally questionable because they're developed with fetal cell lines. They still provide all vaccines, but if there's a choice they buy the ones that are developed the most ethically. The list is constantly changing; when we were in it was Hep A and Chicken Pox, so they gave us all of the information, but made sure to tell us in no uncertain terms that it was vital to still develop immunities to the diseases prior to adulthood. They gave us all sorts of information on exposure communities if we elected not to get the Chicken Pox vaccine to ensure the kids had an immunity early on. Our PA was actually going through it with his own kids. They left the decision to us with no pressure either way, and we chose to go ahead with the actual vaccines instead of exposure...but I really appreciated everything they taught us about vaccine development and the real importance of medically or naturally immunizing children's bodies when many people are convinced they'll be better off without it.

  5. Thanks for raising more awareness on two issues I hold close to my heart. My baby cousin died of cancer at age two and my other cousin survived cancer at age 3. I also appreciate the timeliness of your vaccination stance as there seems to be a growing trend not to vaccinate.