Teen Cancer Awareness Week

N.J. leads the Way to Help Teens Battling Cancer

Side effects of chemotherapy can include vomiting, nausea, mouth sores, loss of hair, fatigue, loss of appetite and depression, among many others. Managing the stress and trauma of a catastrophic illness can seem daunting to kids and families.

For the second year, Dr. Michael Harris, director of Tomorrows Children's Institute (TCI) at Hackensack University Medical Center, and Gisele DiNatale, a very brave mother who pushed for recognition of Teen Cancer Awareness Week, drew attention to these issues teens face.

The State of New Jersey has identified the specific needs of teens with cancer by designating the 3rd week in January as Teen Cancer Awareness Week. In the coming years, this brief period of 7 days will be a time for all of us to raise awareness of hte pscho-social needs of teens facing cancer and other life-treatening illnesses.

* In the U.S., more than 12,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year; approximately 3,000 of them will not survive.
* Cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease in teens between the age of 15 and 19.
* Between 197-2006, more than 18,000 adolescents adn young adults (age 15-29) in N.J. were diagnosed with cancer.

"The more we become aware," says the ARVF literature, "the better able we will be to meet hte needs of teens that are battling and surviving cancers. This is an opportunity to reach out to our communities with the facts about teens and cancer."

Mrs. DiNatale spearheaded this effort after her daughter, Alicia, was told by 4 different teachers at her school to remove her bandana. This would have "explosed by naked head," wrote Alicia, who was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. "Having to confront people who you don't even know and defend yourself by telling them you have cancer and I'm bald is very hard to deal with."

As a mother of a teen cancer survivor (Eleanor was 25 when diagnosed with osteosarcoma, bone cancer), I applaud Mrs. DiNatale's efforts in securing this week, and applaud New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez for his efforts to introduce this bill, to make Teen Cancer Awareness Week a nationally recognized event.

I will remember Alicia, a young woman I never met, but whose courage lives on in the establishment of Teen Cancer Awareness Week, and as I hug my daughter and remember the courageous fight teens everywhere have endured.

Please call your local Senator and inform them of this important week. Ask them to support a bill to make Teen Cancer Awareness Week a national event.

For more information on the wonderful work of the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, visit www.arvf.org. The Foundation has touched the lives of more than 55,000 critically-ill teens in 85 hospitals in 31 states, wtih 56 Teen Lounges and the distribution of 8,000 Teen Kits.

How You Can Help
Here's what ARVF suggests people do to help a friend with cancer:
Talk about it and listen.
Let them take things at their own pace.
Review schoolwork together.
Be there and visit. Look past the physical changes and fight the urge to stay away. Continue your friendship.
Be the point person to help keep our friend updates on people and relay messages on a regular basis.

Thanks to the expert care given to my daughter by the professional team at Tomorrows Children's Institute and by Dr. James Wittig, her orthopaedic oncology surgeon, Eleanor is enjoying her sophomore year at St. Michael's College in Vermont. Her family, friends, teachers, countless Girl Scouts, church friends, and our local community helped make Eleanor's journey as comfortable as possible.

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