Even though we tend to teach kids, sometimes they are the ones who can teach us the most.
Kids are resilient. It is something that is often said about them, but I think it takes on a whole other meaning when speaking about cancer. I have watched kids pass away from the horrible disease. I have witnessed them sit silently at funerals for parents. I have had a little girl asleep on my lap as her brother took his last breath.
I recently volunteered with kids at Denver Children's Hospital and I was reminded again of that resilience. These kids often spend so much time in the hospital as they battle cancer that it really is like a second home. Their siblings do the same. Instead of going to the local park after school, they often go to visit the sibling that is unable to have the normal childhood that all kids should be able to have. And yet, unlike the adult populous that I often volunteer with, they rarely have anything but a smile on their face.
The unique thing about working with kids exposed to cancer is like everything else in life, we get to teach them. They usually do not know anything about cancer, so it is up to us to present cancer in a good light. That can seem like doing the impossible, but I do truly believe that it can be done.
Kids aren't sheltered from cancer. Whether we talk to them about it or not, they see what happens when it enters their little worlds. Sometimes we try to shield the hardships, but cancer is something that seeps into every aspect of life. Kids see that person that they love in pain, crying and sick in a way that they have likely never seen somebody before.
Through cancer, they also get to bear witness to the deepest kindness of the human soul. Kids get to see adults support the ones that they love, and friends step in to help a friend in need. So even while they witness some of the destruction, they also get to learn how to care for another in need and show compassion in the face of adversity and all the hope that humanity has to offer.
While cancer is not a choice that any person would chose to make, it does happen. Just like anything in life, a lesson can be learned. I believe that just like adults who are exposed to cancer, kids are changed by the experience. Inherently, kids are loving and happy little beings. While cancer can change that, I also think it can provide a level of empathy, understanding and endurance to the children affected by cancer.
We all fight for the cure so that someday nobody has to endure cancer. Until then, we have a chance to help mold the next generation's understanding of this disease. And our actions will always speak more loudly than our words.
We can engage them by having fundraisers and helping them understand the medicine behind the treatments that can seem so scary, potentially turning some of them into the doctors and nurses that will one day treat patients. Or maybe they will be the researchers who find the cure to cancer.
As much as we can teach kids about cancer, I also feel like we have so much that we can learn from them, too. Kids are optimistic and hopeful - two traits that are required when coping with cancer. And as I said above, they are resilient, one of, if not the, most important thing that a person can be through cancer.