In the fourth grade, I met my best friend Daniela Joel. Back then we would talk about the future and what it might hold, like going to high school or getting our license but what neither of us saw coming was cancer.
Daniela was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable brain tumor, when she was 12 years old. This cancer took away her ability to walk, talk, or eat, but not her ability to think. She still managed to get straight As in school while undergoing heavy chemo and radiation treatments.
But DIPG has a less than 10% survival rate, and although Daniela was already a living miracle and defying all odds of what the doctors had said after a two year battle with cancer, she passed away on September 21, 2010, at only 14 years of age.
I then met Taylor (Tay) Filorimo through Twitter. She lived in Tennessee while I was in Georgia. We started out tweeting each other all the time and that turned into many hours of video chatting which eventually led to us finally meeting in person! When Tay and I first began out friendship, Tay had just been diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer called Renal Cell Carcinoma (at age 13) but had gone through a surgery to remove the tumors from her kidney and was now in remission.
After only a few months she relapsed. Her cancer was now back and in her lungs she would now begin the hardest fight of her life. Her cancer is resistant to the "typical" chemo treatments so they tried different experimental treatments, but eventually Tay's cancer spread.
She had 26 tumors in her lungs, one on her spine, and one on her heart. Her cancer name was now changed to advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma Papilary Type 2. Tay was the youngest person in the world to have this type of cancer! She continued to fight, but on September 5, 2012, Tay passed away at the age of 16.
Both these childhood cancer fighters passed away in September; this is so significant because September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! Both Tay and Daniela were advocates for "Going Gold" and raising awareness about childhood cancer because childhood cancer is not only the number one disease killer of children but is also majorly underfunded. Childhood cancer receives less than 3% on the NCI's federal budget even though 2,500 children die of cancer each year! And as Tay used to always say, "You have to be Aware to Care."
Once you are "aware to care" there are many different things you can do to help. During the month of September, sport the color gold: gold ribbons, shirts, etc... Gold is the color of the childhood cancer awareness ribbon.
Get involved! Participate in local events that support childhood cancer research like The Tumor Trooper walk/run on September 8th or any other local events put on by foundations. Some great local foundations to check out are CURE childhood cancer foundation and the Amanda Riley foundation.
You can also help by signing the petition to increase funding for childhood cancer research at thetruth365.org/petition. Most importantly you can share the stories that you hear about cancer kids because the more people that they affect the more people we have helping find a cure!
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