Sunday Extra: Childhood cancer ... we must do more

Sunday Extra: Childhood cancer ... we must do more

By MATTHEW and JENNIFER WEIDNER

Today of all the days, the best gift that could be given to our oldest son on his birthday would be the words "your sister has been healed!"

He's lost a grandfather on his birthday, he nearly had a brother born on his birthday. But the thing that sticks out most would be to hear these words. Words he will not hear today, tomorrow or even the next day. Words we don't know when or if we will ever hear, but we keep battling on.

Our son is a runner — he runs hour after hour, day after day not only for himself but for his sister. In fact, he dedicated his running "career" to her, often sporting pink running socks, a yellow Team Elizabeth bracelet on his shoes or a pink embroidered "E" on his uniform.

Twenty months ago during the height of his junior high basketball season, his world and that of his little brothers came crashing down. I will never forget the look on his face that morning telling him what we had found out the night before. It wasn't that our family had never been touched by cancer, as we had like many of yours.

This time it was different, it hit closer to home than before. It was his sibling, his best friend, his little sister. The one he was to love and protect from all the evils of the world being the older, brawny athletic brother. Like us, we were not able to protect her from this evil. It crept into our lives, seemingly overnight, changing the world around us. We were and still are an athletic family, but this stopped us cold in our tracks. This is the race thus far; we've been unable to win. I won't say finish because that could have a different connotation, one that we refuse to accept.

As a family, we've been told how strong we are; the inspiration we've become, the hope that we share ... someone once posted "STRENGTH IS ... a child or teen fighting cancer with a smile on their face and HOPE in their heart." I have seen that up close and very personal.

Currently, there are zero screening methods available for children who might get cancer. Eighty percent of pediatric cancers are metastasized/spread by the time of diagnosis. In 2012 alone, 23 new drugs were released by the FDA for adults with cancer. Although numbers vary, most posts show three new drugs in the last 20 years for kids.

Although research is being done, generally it's private and very costly. One of our doctors told us a study just now concluding for neuroblastoma had been ongoing for 10 years — and not including the FDA approval. Amazing the time lines, even though kids make up 20 percent of the total cancer population, they aren't a priority due to the lack of profit they produce. Sad. People are aware childhood cancer exists — what they aren't aware of is how it is treated in this country. Please consider taking action. What can you do?

Matthew and Jennifer Weidner live in rural Dieterich. Their daughter, Elizabeth, has neuroblastoma, a cancer that usually strikes infants and small children.