After my son passed away from leukemia at the age of 12, our family found a way to honor him—and help others.
Every year, 15,780 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Sadly, approximately one quarter of them will not survive the disease.
I am the mom of a little boy who did not survive his battle with leukemia, one of the most common forms of childhood cancer. My son, Ben, began his fight in kindergarten. He was later put in remission, but then relapsed and battled leukemia again. This time he had a bone marrow transplant. He relapsed again and needed a second bone marrow transplant. The second transplant was too much for him, and his complications were horribly debilitating. After a very brave six-year fight, Ben passed away in 2009—just before his 12th birthday.
So where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves my husband, daughter, and me very sad and lonely without Ben. Our family is incomplete. It’s like trying to drive a car with three wheels: it doesn’t feel, look, or work right. It’s not how it’s supposed to be. We were a Party of Four. That’s how we were meant to be.
Thankfully, with the support of our family, friends, and community, we found something to honor Ben and help other children who are facing a similar health crisis. Within the year after we lost our very sweet boy, my husband, daughter, and some very close friends started a run/walk in his memory. Appropriately named Ben’s Run, the event raises funds to support life-saving clinical trial research. After eight years, with a yearly average of 1,000 registered runners and walkers, we have raised more than $630,000.
This money—which we donate to Children’s National in Washington, DC—will fund cutting-edge clinical trial research: investigations into early detection of pediatric cancer after relapse. Early detection makes it easier to determine the appropriate treatment—and gives children a better chance at a healthy life.
Approximately 30 children are participating in these trials, which combine therapies and scans to detect, and effectively treat, cancer relapse at its very earliest stage. Once a child relapses, his or her chances for survival drop dramatically. These trials are the last hope for these children.
Ben passed away in the month of September, which also happens to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time of year for reflection for me, my family, and everyone who has been touched by childhood cancer.
But it is also a time for action.
This is when we start planning for the run, which occurs in April. The run helps my family get through the sadness of our loss and energizes us to help other children, just like Ben. We’re told by people who participate—by running, walking, or volunteering—that the event is a powerful outlet to do something healthy, so others might be healthy.
This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, inspire yourself to help someone else. You can start by marking your calendar for the 9th annual Ben’s Run on April 6, 2019 in Silver Spring, MD. However, if you can’t participate in our event, I encourage you to find some other way to help children and families who are enduring the fight of their lives.
My family and I want to make sure that others can remain a Party of Four.
By Clare Lynam, ICF Senior Manager - Social Marketing