Tag Archives: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

“Through the Fire”: Melinda Marchiano’s Childhood Cancer Dance

In addition to sharing her story through the book Grace, Melinda Marchiano gave voice to her experiences through a language of her own: dance. Through the Fire embodies her illness experience with childhood cancer.

A beautiful, moving performance.

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Block Out Cancer: Helping Children Tell Their Stories

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has a campaign for childhood cancer awareness month: Block Out Cancer. Block Out Cancer is “a rallying cry for people from all walks of life to come together to support the fight against children’s cancers.”

I’m honored that Mott has featured this blog post I wrote about my project:

My name is Trisha, and I help children tell their stories to Block Out Cancer.

mott-blog-BOC-thumb

 

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Grace: Tracing Childhood Cancer Through Treatment and Beyond

Melinda Marchiano and I share a number of similarities. We are writers who come to understand the world and our own experiences through language. We are dancers who have unearthed a passion that we will pursue for the rest of our lives. We are aspiring pediatric oncologists, eager and excited to pursue medical careers. But unlike Melinda, I’ve only encountered cancer from “the outside of the needles and sickness” (Greer 52).

graceI met Marchiano by reading her memoir, Grace: A  Child’s Intimate Journey through Cancer and Recovery. Marchiano writes her story in journal entries of sorts with interspersed snapshots of milestone memories and powerful quotes. She reflects deeply on her cancer experiences, sharing her thoughts on the diagnostic label of cancer, the paradoxical effects of chemotherapy, and the tensions of mind and body through illness. Her conversational and confessional writing reveals her sense of humor and personality.

Marchiano’s comprehensive memoir seems to capture the essence and nuances of her experience with childhood cancer. Rather than attempt to summarize these, here are just some of many excerpts that were particularly compelling to me:

“[Chemotherapy’s] a sort of ‘chemical feeling,’ like battery acid that races through your veins. I felt terrible, and as I write this now, recalling how sick I was, nausea and dizziness have returned to me. I only now noticed that, feeling so passionate about my writing, I am virtually reexperiencing it. Chemo may eventually leave your body, but it always stays with you” (50).

“I longed for the feeling of dancing, the feeling of freedom, the feeling of the studio air filling my lungs, and the feeling of my heart beating as one with the music. I decided I would work hard. I would do it…I would dance again. The fear of hard work did not exist within me. Becoming accustomed to pain, I now didn’t care one bit how badly anything hurt” (119).

“I noticed that, hey, maybe I did have a story. But if, indeed, I did, I didn’t really think that anyone would want to hear it” (140).

“When I wrote my speech, I questioned how much I should share. Pondering it for quite some time, I decided to lay it all on the line, to give it to them straight. Cancer does exist. My suffering was real, and I needed to acknowledge that” (224).

“Cancer kids need just as much help after treatment as during. We’re like giant walking wounds, with each touch stinging and painful. Only time can make the wound scab over and begin to heal. But during that vulnerable time, we need a Band-aid” (272).

Marchiano now advocates strongly for childhood cancer research. In sharing her story, she has found that “my cancer had a meaning– a purpose. It was doing what I thought it was not capable of doing — giving” (196).

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Notes Left Behind: Journaling about a daughter’s cancer

“She is simple. She is our Elena” (x). A grown-up, 5-year-old girl who loved hearts, dresses, and the color pink. Her life was colored by her experiences with DIPG, a rare form of brain cancer.

notesNotes Left Behind is a collection of journal entries written by Elena’s parents, Brooke and Keith Desserich. What began as a preservation of memories to share with Elena’s sister Gracie quickly became more meaningful to both the Desseriches and  all those who cared about Elena. 

The Desseriches chronicle their letters by the date and the number of days since diagnosis, the day Elena was given an estimate of 135 days to live. Brooke and Keith take turns writing entries that coalesce to provide a more holistic, parental view of caring for a child with cancer and her sibling.

While Elena wrote many notes to her loved ones, “this book too is a note from Elena, messages from a little girl who taught our family so much about life” (xiv). Elena’s sweet, sincere personality shines through the eyes of her parents, who share with us her experiences in losing her voice,  gaining weight from steroids, and wanting nothing more than to be normal once more.

In the face of cancer, questions emerge about the daunting uncertainties and the forgotten nuances. Keith grapples with these question marks and calls out our band-aids, noting that “cures don’t come on toy shelves and they don’t have tags” (64). He reminds us that these material objects are powerful yet insufficient when lives are still at stake. It’s refreshing to remember that at the root of each childhood cancer is a need for a cure.

Inspired by their personal experiences with the incurable, the Desseriches started the organization The Cure Starts Now. With an emphasis on finding a cure for brain cancer, this organization believes that a cure for all cancers can be found in this elusive disease. Elena has touched the lives of those around her and more.

She has left behind more than notes.

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September: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Niki K; BY-SA.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in America. Last year, President Obama declared this month to honor the cause of childhood cancer. Represented by an elegant gold ribbon, this is the 2nd September to share the stories of children with cancer, to recognize the research we do for these children, and look ahead to what more we must do.

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I dedicate my  posts to this cause. I will reflect on memoirs and other narratives about childhood cancer that I have stumbled upon.

“This month, we pay tribute to the families, friends, professionals, and communities who lend their strength to children fighting pediatric cancer.  May their courage and commitment continue to move us toward new cures, healthier outcomes, and a brighter future for America’s youth” (Barack Obama, 2012).

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Filed under Chronicling Childhood Cancer: Illuminating the Illness Experience through Narrative, Miscellaneous Musings