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Childhood Cancer: What Would You Do?

nnccflogoThink about all those times when your child is sick. Heading into cold and flu season it’s probably not hard. Runny noses, unconcealed sneezes, non-stop coughing…and then the whole family has it. While it’s miserable for you too and you’re probably annoyed about taking more time off work for a reason that doesn’t even closely resemble fun, it breaks your heart to see such a little person feel so bad. He can’t get out of bed; he won’t eat. You wonder at what point you should call the doctor. You head to the store for more Children’s Tylenol.

Now imagine that feeling never going away. That weight; the anxiety that comes when you can’t break a fever or get him to stop throwing up.

It doesn’t go away because your child isn’t just sick; your baby has cancer. And the more medicine he takes, the worse he feels, because that’s what cancer treatment does. It makes you feel worse long before you ever feel better. It’s poison and it ravages the body like nothing you could ever imagine. Having gone through more than a year of cancer treatment myself, it breaks my heart to think of the effects of chemotherapy or radiation on those tiny little bodies. I was in my prime when I had cancer; healthier than I’ve ever been; just 27 years old. And chemo just about did me in. If I wasn’t at work I was asleep. I constantly felt like I was going to throw up. I had headaches so bad they required hospitalization. I could barely remember my own name. And I wasn’t a child with the rapidly reproducing cells that cancer loves so much.

Now imagine your three year old being pumped full of poison – all in an effort to save his life. Watching him lose what little hair he did have; seeing those long, beautiful eyelashes fall out. Feeling his weight fall to what it was when he was only 18 months old. Trying to make the scars heal. Trying to find a cure. All while trying not to go bankrupt because you haven’t been to work in a month and you’ve been staying in a hotel near the hospital every night. Paying co-pays every single day. Discovering the hidden costs buried in the fine print of your insurance plan. Watching the medical bills pile up. And everyone just keeps telling you not to worry; just focus on getting better. But you wonder what happens when you leave the hospital and you don’t have a home to go to anymore because you couldn’t pay the mortgage. You just wish there was help.

Fortunately, there is help. There’s the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation (NNCCF). And September is childhood cancer awareness month.

The NNCCF’s vision is to reach every family affected by childhood cancer in the northern Nevada region. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life for children with cancer and their families by providing financial assistance and compassionate support programs while advocating for increased research funds and raising public awareness.

Its goals are:

  1. To alleviate the financial burden and emotional strain that comes with the battle against childhood cancer.
  2. To enhance and expand public awareness of childhood cancer.
  3. To promote research to find a cure.
  4. To be proactive in assisting families throughout the treatment journey by connecting them with other national, regional and local resources.

Since its inception, the NNCCF has provided nearly $2 million in financial assistance to more than 300 families. This sounds like a lot of money – and in theory it is. But when you break it down, it’s only about $6,000 per family. That’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to cancer treatment, especially when you consider that the average child undergoes anywhere from two to five years of treatment. Add to that the fact that 50 children per year in our community are diagnosed with cancer and you’ve got a daunting problem. That’s almost one child every single week of the year. Do you know 50 children? What would you do if one of them was diagnosed with cancer tomorrow? Would you help?

If you’re among those who would help, I strongly encourage you to support the NNCCF. There are a variety of ways you can get involved, ranging from volunteering time to donating money, office supplies and professional services.

This month, the NNCCF is asking the community to Know the Gold (the color that represents childhood cancer) by providing financial assistance via commitment to a $10 monthly pledge. With a goal of 42 new pledges representing the 42 children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with cancer EVERY DAY, the NNCCF hopes to raise $5,040. The resulting $5,000 can be used to pay rent or utilities for five families, fund 21 round trips to life-saving treatment, or afford 42 hotel stays. That’s skipping out on two trips to Starbucks a month. Save the money – and the calories – Know the Gold instead.

Corporate sponsorships are also available while membership in the Hope Society is open to both companies and individuals who contribute $1,000 per year (over time or in a lump sum). In kind donations are accepted and encouraged year round as the lower overhead costs are for the NNCCF, the more funds can be directly funneled to northern Nevada families. Check out the Wish List of items and services the NNCCF can use.

And last, but certainly not least, the holidays will soon be upon us. Each year, the NNCCF hosts an adopt-a-family program for Christmas, allowing members of the community a more personal way to help those dealing with childhood cancer. Parents provide a wish list for every member of the patient’s immediate family and sponsors can “adopt” the list, helping bring joy to the lives of those who are affected by such tragedy. Contact Director of Programs and Services, Leslie Katich atLeslie@nvchildrenscancer.org or 775-825-0888 if you’d like to adopt a NNCCF family.

In addition to these opportunities, the NNCCF hosts a variety of events each year that you can get involved in. From its annual Poker and Golf Tournaments to St. Baldrick’s Brave the Shave, there are dozens of ways to help those affected by childhood cancer. You can even host your very own event.

No matter what you are able to do, I encourage you all to support childhood cancer research and the NNCCF. Because cancer’s a bitch to begin with, but when it goes after our children the gloves come off. Please help the children who are too small, too innocent to help themselves. They deserve a chance at life. So give up your morning coffee, skip a pedicure or make your lunch a few more days each month and help make the fight just a little bit easier.


**This blog is written in memory of Dani Betts.



About Betsy McDonald

Betsy McDonald
Betsy McDonald is a soon-to-be wife and stepmother to two teenagers, ages 16 and 14, both of whom are taller than she. She spends her days doing PR, marketing and event planning, and her nights boxing, dancing and attempting a variety of unorthodox work outs that require a little more balance than she actually possesses. In the meantime, she spends plenty of time at Lake Tahoe and is working on perfecting the lacrosse mom persona, golfing, attempting SUP yoga, remodeling a home with her fiancé, planning her wedding, and maintaining the overall health, wealth and happiness of her newly found family. As a child growing up in Nebraska, Betsy’s dad would travel to Lake Tahoe to ski, bringing home pennant flags, T-shirts and a variety of other Reno-Tahoe-related paraphernalia. This prompted her to desire to find out just what “the Biggest Little City in the World” actually meant. By chance, she would end up here thanks to a job transfer to Gardnerville for her mom and the Millennium Scholarship. As a 14-year resident of the Biggest Little City, she’s proud to live and love in Reno. Betsy is an athlete, a writer and a cancer survivor – and hopefully an amazing stepmom. Stay tuned….

One comment

  1. Incredible post, Betsy. Truly heart-wrenching and I love how you showed the many, many ways we can help. Thank you!

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