September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it is being commemorated all month long at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, starting with a gold ribbon ceremony to honor patients that was held Sept. 3.
Patients and their families along with Texas Children’s Cancer Center faculty and staff attended the inaugural event on the playground at Texas Children’s Hospital, adorning the fence around the playground with gold ribbons to symbolize patients’ strength and courage.
“Each of these 600 ribbons that we will tie along the fence today represents one patient who was diagnosed with pediatric cancer in the past year at Texas Children’s Cancer Center,” said Dr. David Poplack, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the center.
Nationally, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of non-accidental death in children. That’s the bad news, Poplack noted. But the good news is that, today, more than 80 percent of pediatric cancer patients survive and go on to lead long and productive lives.
One such long-term survivor, Christian Spear, performed an original song, “No One Fights Alone,” about her battle with cancer. She is now a staff songwriter for the Purple Songs Can Fly program, which offers cancer patients an artistic outlet to help them cope with their disease.
The sky turned gray and rain started to fall as she was performing but Dr. ZoAnne Dreyer, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the center’s long-term survivor program, noted that “a little rainstorm is nothing compared to what these kids go through.”
While patient care will remain the top priority, the center also has strong research and education programs, Poplack said. There are more than 200 cutting-edge clinical trials focusing on advancing therapies. Physicians and scientists at the center’s 36 research labs are making significant advances in the understanding of the causes of cancer and in finding novel treatments, impacting patients here in Houston and elsewhere. In addition, medical students and residents receive excellent training, so that they will be leaders in the field going forward.
“Our aim is to one day put ourselves out of business through cure and prevention,” he said.
Texas Children’s Cancer Center is a joint program of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital and is the pediatric program of Baylor’s NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center.
Learn more on the Texas Children’s Cancer Center website.