Paper Hearts & Concrete Angels

I want to take the opportunity to dedicate this blog post to the important objective of raising awareness about pediatric cancer – two words that by all means, should never have to be strung together, two words that all too often are.

This heartbreaking disease that causes so much devastation for so many families recently garnered a new face for me. One of a little girl, unimaginably brave, unwaveringly strong and eternally beautiful. Her name was Donna, and she was diagnosed with papillary meningioma – an aggressive brain tumor – at only 20 months old.

Wonder

More on her story a few paragraphs down, I’ll first write a bit about pediatric cancer and some of it’s endless impact.

According to cancer.gov’s fact-sheet in the United States alone approximately 10,400 children under age 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Of those about 1,545 children will die from the disease. That’s 1,545 too many. This makes cancer the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children 1 to 14 years of age, though, cancer is still a relatively rare diagnosis among those in this age group. On average, 1 to 2 children develop the disease each year for every 10,000 children in the United States.

Let’s step out of the statistics and think about what those numbers actually mean. They mean that that many children, that many families and that many lives are being forever changed by this disease. They mean huge financial burdens to people already going through something no parent should ever have to face in regards to their child. They mean pain, struggle, hours spent in treatments, travel. For many that beat the disease the fight is never truly over. They face the dim reality of possible relapse, debt, the medical consequences of heavy toxic treatments.

Research on pediatric cancer is heavily underfunded. The funding for pediatric cancer clinical trials is currently $26.4 million. To compare the National Cancer Institute funding for AIDS research was $254 million in 2006 and for breast cancer it topped $584 million. Visit this link to view the ways that you can contribute to a cure be it fundraising, donations or volunteering.

I was introduced to Donna’s story by Donna’s Cancer Story, a blog created by her mom detailing Donna’s 31 months of treatment. I started reading and became instantly glued to the screen. I sat, stood, adjusted and readjusted my uncomfortable position for 2 and a half hours, start to finish, smiling at the light and beauty of an incredible little girl, crying, and asking the air why someone so young and innocent should have to fight so hard for her life. I printed off her story to share with everyone I knew because I couldn’t imagine not passing on the legacy of this little girl, her amazing grit, and her loving family, it’s a story everyone should read. It has inspired me endlessly and touched me deeply.

Through Donna came an amazing contribution to the world by those who loved her and those who were touched by her life and story. Donna’s Good Things is a mission started by her parents aiming to “Provide joyful opportunities for children facing adversity, be it economic, familial, social, or health related; and encourage Your Good Things by providing an online community where folks can share in words and photos something they’ve done influenced by Donna’s inspiration.” Donna’s Good Things has undoubtedly provided priceless smiles and warm hearts to those who need them the most and through her moved others from all over to take action and make change. Click here to see how you can help.

From the bottom of my heart I want to personally thank Donna, for reminding me to stop and see the beauty that life holds, even when it seems hidden. And I want to thank Mary Tyler Mom for sharing her amazing words with the world and helping me ‘choose hope’. Another quick thanks to From the Bungalow’s freshly pressed “Blissfully Bald” post for directing me to Donna’s story!

I’ve included this quote already before – a personal favorite of mine – but it seems very fitting for this post.

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” -Ben Okri

Melatonin and It’s Many Health Benefits

Melatonin is a hormone produced by a gland in the brain known as the pineal gland. Darkness triggers the production of the hormone where as light inhibits it. For those who aren’t producing enough naturally then melatonin is available as a pill similar to your average vitamin.

 For years I’ve been aware of the beneficial effects that taking melatonin to help you sleep can have. Though, it never worked on me years ago I just recently found out that you could up the dose much higher than the one I had originally received, and to my surprise I’ve found that sometimes it really does help me fall -and stay- asleep. I’ve found that when taking melatonin as a sleep aid it’s important to remember to stick to routine. I take the needed amount and then brush my teeth and go straight to bed. This seems to help initiate the effects so that they work properly.

What I didn’t know about melatonin was that it has many other surprising health benefits. For instance some studies have shown that melatonin is an effective preventative treatment for both migraine and cluster headaches. For those in this particular study 3 mg of melatonin was given each night before bed for a period of three months. At least two-thirds of the patients in this study saw a reduction in the severity and frequency of their headaches by at least 50%. If you suffer from migraines then you know that this change is a significant amount.

This hormone has also been found to help fight multiple cancers including breast and liver cancers as well as small-cell lung cancer. Melatonin has also been used in treating mood disorders (with positive results) as well as gallbladder stones (it helps reduce the amount of cholesterol within the gall bladder), Alzheimer’s, delirium (in elderly patients) and protection against radiation among other things.

So, it would seem that melatonin could make a huge difference in many lives and the fact that it’s a natural substance makes it all the better.

{I am not a doctor and the medical definitions and descriptions featured in this blog post do not and should not replace those of a medical professional. They are merely there to help give an idea of my situation and experiences. If you are in need of medical advice see your doctor.}

“Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson