What truly matters in life
January 1, 2020
2019 was a year our family will never forget. It was the year we received one of the most devastating, life-altering news a parent can receive: what we thought was the symptom of a simple flu (mild chest pain), was the first manifestation of something I never thought would happen to us. Cancer. My always so healthy child had cancer.
First, there was shock, utter disbelief. I felt numb, paralyzed. As if time had stopped. Then there was fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the impact of treatments, fear of the future that was uncertain. But then, somehow, we all entered survival mode...
This process has showed us that we’ve raised the strongest, bravest girl I’ve ever met. In the face of such adversity, she quickly stood up and straightened her crown. Facing every step of the process with incredible resilience, she never lost her ability to smile. Filled with positive energy, she embraced her new image and decided this episode was not going to define who she is, rather, it was only going to be a sad, but short chapter in the story of her life. She has been an inspiration to us all and we’re so proud of her.
Childhood cancer affects the entire family. If the ill child has a sibling, their world too is turned upside down and like us parents, they suffer and would do anything to make the pain go away.
Through it all, our family has been reminded that what truly matters in life are indeed the simplest things: it's love, it's health and gratitude. And we are incredibly grateful to everyone who stood by us through the diagnosis stage and every chemo round, from the wonderful medical teams, to friends and family and children’s charities that visited us either at the hospital or at our home.
We’re particularly grateful to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and to Rays of Sunshine Children's Charity for brightening my girl’s life, for making it possible for her to experience something she could only dream of: meeting Little Mix in person, her favourite band. More than granting wishes, these charities help children shift the focus from the disease to something positive, bringing them joy, a sense of hope, and the strength and motivation to keep fighting and look at the future with excitement.
Now that the worst seems to be behind us, I feel I need to give back and try to make a difference in the lives of other children and families fighting this battle. Maybe it's a coping mechanism. Maybe it's me looking for a purpose. But because every little bit helps and I am a firm believer that happiness comes from giving generously, I'm deeply invested in two initiatives I hope can help these charities carry on with their valuable mission:
With the support of our Town Hall and the University where I teach, I'm organising a solidarity concert that will take place on May 28th, right before Children's Day. The aim is to raise childhood cancer awareness and pay tribute to oncology nurses. All proceeds of this event will be donated to Make-a-Wish Portugal.
In March I'm releasing my second novel. This year's proceeds of Where the Stars Fall, which was ultimately completed because of this cause – after a long hiatus from writing –, will be donated to Rays of Sunshine.
Stay tuned. I shall be posting pictures and updates of both initiatives here.
Did you know the internationally recognised symbol for childhood cancer is the gold ribbon?
Gold is a precious metal. Children are our most precious treasure.
It is also a perfect symbol for the childhood cancer journey:
Gold goes through a process by fire, to become stronger and tougher. Kids with childhood cancer similarly undergo such an experience. They often develop resiliency by facing all the difficult and painful challenges of childhood cancer.
Source: International Childhood Cancer Day
Childhood cancer: some facts & figures
Worldwide, 300,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed in children and teens under the age of 19 every year;
In the US, each year, the parents of approximately 15,300 children will hear the words “your child has cancer”;
4,500 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK. That’s ten every day;
The most common cancers in children are leukemia and lymphoma;
12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive and 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects;
In the UK, the average five-year survival rate, across all childhood cancer types, is 82%;
Latest data show a global increase of 13% in childhood cancer incidence over two decades.
International Agency for Research on Cancer
Children with Cancer UK