Michelle Negri is one of thousands of Australians who rally every September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Michelle’s journey with childhood cancer began when her son, Dylan, was diagnosed and underwent treatment.
“When we are battling cancer, it’s relentless and there’s really limited time to do anything else but care for your child who’s been diagnosed, your other children, your family and yourself.”
“Childhood cancer is not an individual, isolated issue. It is a community issue that needs community support. Every area of life is impacted when a child gets cancer – their education, their friendships, their families, the siblings,” Negri tells upstart.
This is why Negri decided to start an online campaign, The Other C Word – Childhood Cancer Awareness, to generate more understanding of cancer’s impact on children and how much it affects those around them.
“I couldn’t unsee what I have seen. I couldn’t continue to read about all these children’s suffering and watch from the sidelines.
“I felt compelled to contribute in a positive way somehow. I felt there was a need to share the truth about childhood cancer, without sensationalising it,” she says.
Globally, over 175,000 children are diagnosed every year; three children are diagnosed with cancer in Australia every day. And in September, all around the world, people like Michelle Negri are using media, personal blogs, stories and networks to raise awareness about the disease, its effect on individuals and communities, and the need for funding.
The Kid’s Cancer Project is a strong supporter of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Founder, Col Reynolds, released a statement encouraging Australians to show their support for kids with cancer during the month.
“We’re recognising the community working behind the scenes to help kids with cancer in September. Almost all of us know someone diagnosed with cancer and sadly many have also lost a loved one to this horrible disease.
“We’re encouraging Australians to be a hero for these kids by helping to fund ground-breaking research” says Reynolds.
The Kid’s Cancer Project suggests several ways Australians can get involved in raising awareness on their website.
Sharny Ipsa has taught children battling cancer at Warringa Park, a school for children with disabilities in Melbourne. In Ipsa’s Grade 3 classroom, children with cancer are not the only ones affected.
“Kids may have trouble understanding what and why this is happening to the student [with cancer]. They may not have the coping strategies yet to deal with this emotionally,” Ipsa tells upstart.
The school engages in activities and campaigns that focus on awareness such as R U OK Day and National Bandanna Day. They aim to involve all students, so that classmates of children with cancer can better understand what their friends are going through.
“We want to show the students how to cope and to teach their classmate undergoing the illness to cope and be strong.
“I believe a lot of today’s population think cancer only strikes once you’re older and due to bad eating habits, lifestyle or pollution. This is not true. In fact, more kids are suffering than adults.
“I believe it’s important each child has staff members with empathy and enough understanding to help them get through the toughest time of their lives,” Ipsa tells upstart.
Personal stories have an enormous impact, as Negri has also found. Her online campaign has created multimedia stories of children battling cancer. The campaign’s Facebook page encourages people to do what they can, including making donations to charities supporting childhood cancer such as The Kids Cancer Project and giving blood through the Australian Red Cross and donating bone marrow through the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.
Video created by Michelle Negri as part of the Childhood Cancer Awareness campaign
“As heartbreaking as it is to share [these stories], to see that one more person has acknowledged this, one more person has become a blood donor, one more person has registered to be a bone marrow donor, one more person has offered support, shared awareness, contributed to a fundraiser, this is how we change the world … everyone has the ability to change a life,” Negri tells upstart.
Fact sheet created by Negri to raise awareness on the campaign’s Facebook page.
Negri has called upon the government to step up and increase funding for childhood cancer research.
“In my opinion, it is a government problem, not a charitable one. And honestly it’s charities that are offering the services, the support, the research money. It’s not good enough,” she says.
The Government has promised $4.4 million over three years from 2017-18 to Cancer Australia to increase Australia’s capacity to diagnose, treat, manage and conduct research into childhood cancer, less than 1 percent of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s budget of $819.4 million.
Negri believes that if more people raise awareness, this will push the government to prioritise cancer research.
“If more people understand the impact this has on our society, perhaps they would be advocating for their tax money to be spent on research for childhood cancers,” she says.
For Negri, and others like her, raising awareness for childhood cancer will continue well beyond September. Despite Dylan’s good health, Negri feels it is her responsibility and the responsibility of every Australian to advocate for the cause and fight for these children.
“We need people to advocate for this cause. We need strong voices for these children,” she says.
Aseel is a fifth year Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts major in Journalism student. You can follow her on twitter @AseelSammak or subscribe to her magazine, Podium.