September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Being told you have cancer is one of the most traumatic and stressful experiences a person can go through. It brings up a range of emotions that are difficult to cope with. Imagine how much more devastating it is to be told your child has cancer. The entire family is propelled into crisis. Kymmer Crookston learned this first-hand when her son Nathan was diagnosed at age 11 with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer which manifested in his thigh muscle. Nathan, now twenty-four years old, explained, “at the time, the only people I saw with cancer were in films, and they all died. I was terrified that I would die.”
Nathan underwent cancer treatment which included two surgeries to remove the tumor and half of the muscle from his thigh and twelve months of chemotherapy. He faced infections, fevers, lung treatments, and blood transfusions. Throughout that time, he often felt weak, sick and sometimes depressed. He says that what sustained him was to focus on the positive. His mother Kymmer kept a gratitude journal, writing three things she was grateful for each day. Soon Nathan adopted the practice. He says, “Looking for the good doesn’t change the situation, but it changes the outlook. A positive outlook helps you handle the adversity. You can see a light in the sea of darkness.”
Nathan and Kymmer say they were constantly blessed by good people while Nathan was undergoing treatment. Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, and countless friends and congregation members from their church contributed to Nathan’s recovery. Siblings of cancer patients often feel neglected or resentful of the time devoted to the sick child so they also need love and support from parents and friends. Kymmer would like parents facing this challenging ordeal to know that they don’t have to face it alone. There are community organizations, support groups, and other resources to help families. Nathan adds that life is not meant to be lived alone. We’re here to help and support others.
At only 12 years old, a recent cancer survivor, Nathan presented a speech at the Relay For Life evening Luminary ceremony. He told the crowd, “I got a second chance in life and I know I need to do something with it. I want to make something of my life.” Now a student at College of the Canyons interested in a film-making career, Nathan says that having cancer was an amazing experience that strengthened his faith in God, helped him to have more empathy and become a better person. He says, “Like a butterfly breaking out of a chrysalis we need strength to live life, to fly. Hardships help us to gain strength and discover how capable we are. Having cancer was hard but I wouldn’t trade it. I’m a better person because of it.”
For more information about diagnosis, treatment, and support resources for childhood cancer please visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children.html or contact the SCV ACS office at 661-298-0886 option 3.
Mary Petersen is a retired COC English Instructor, longtime SCV resident, and two-time breast cancer survivor.
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