September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Heaven Has a New AngelIn the United States (in 2007), about 10,400 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer.  Approximately 1,545 of them will die from the disease.  On average, 1 to 2 children develop cancer each year for every 10,000 children in the United States.  (source: National Cancer Institute)

My heart is heavy because dear friends lost their son to cancer on Sunday.  Elric Ian Childress passed in his sleep on Sunday, September 9, 2012, after battling DIPG for the last three years.

Elric is what I call an “Earth Angel” and I have been extremely blessed to meet two of these Earth Angels in my lifetime. Some people go through life never meeting one or never realizing that they have met one.  Earth Angels are people who have been sent from heaven for a specific purpose – to help others, to help make sense of situations, to comfort, to support, to love.

Elric was a young man who, no matter how much he may have disliked needles, if enduring just one more poke to draw blood would help save another child’s life – he’d do it.  His smile was contagious, his laughter lit up a room, and he was so full of life!  Inquisitive about everything around him, a total innocent, he found joy in everything he did, everything he experienced.  Elric helped you to understand that living in the moment, living each day to find the silver lining and the happy in every experience, is what life was really all about.

I’d like to share Elric with each of my readers.

Childhood Cancer and DIPG

Elric was diagnosed with DIPG on October 9, 2009.  DIPG stands for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.  DIPG is a tumor that is located in the middle of the brain stem, the bottom-most part of the brain, which connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord.  These tumors are infiltrating (meaning that they grow amidst the nerves) and are therefore inoperable.  (Source: The American Brain Tumor Association)

DIPG tumors are treated with radiation therapy (high energy x-rays that destroy tumor cells).  This treatment can reduce symptoms, but there is also the chance of permanent damage caused by the tumor which cannot be avoided.  Steroids are often given to improve some of the symptoms, but chemotherapy effectiveness is still uncertain in such cases. ( Source: About Kids Health. (2005). Treatment of diffuse pontine gliomas)

Helping Mr. Elric and Friends

I have a son that is a year younger than Elric.  I look at him and I try to imagine what life would be like without him.  I can’t.  It is a defense mechanism that I think most parents have built-in.  You cannot even begin to fathom what life would be like without your children because to do so would just be too extremely painful.  Unfortunately, there are thousands of families who do have to deal with this, each year.

Helping Mr. Elric and Friends is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about catastrophic childhood illnesses, educating the public when needed, and providing a supportive community for families facing these illnesses.  Do your part to help raise awareness.  “Like” the organization’s Facebook page.  In the coming weeks, I will be posting a three-part interview with Elric’s parents, Kelly and Eric, and his sister, Kathleen (Kat).  Read the interviews.  Share them.  Do some research yourself.  Blog about it, talk about it with your pediatrician, do whatever it takes to help raise awareness, to help in some small way to bring about a cure for these catastrophic illnesses that take our “Earth Angels” from us.

Funeral services for Elric are private and for the family only.  If you would like to leave a message for the family, you can do so online here

elric childress dipg childhood cancer

We all love you, Elric. Your body may be gone, but your spirit lives on in each of us whose lives you have touched.

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