Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 29

the cancer I had when I was a baby. This
was not out of the norm for me, because I
was constantly searching for answers about
what happened to me as a baby. I have no
memories of being sick, no memories of
having a healthy, "normal" body, and I was
kinda obsessed with googling it. That night
was different, though. That's when I found
a blog by a mother of a child with cancer,
the same cancer I had. And I read that whole
blog back to the day she started it that night.
I learned the truth. Whenever I asked my
parents about childhood cancer growing
up, they would look at me and shake their
heads, and repeat what they had been told
back in 1983: that childhood cancer was rare
and it was just a f luke that I got it. I drew
the short straw, so to speak.
But that cold, sleepless October night, I
learned that approximately 47 children are
diagnosed with cancer every single day, and
that 7 children succumb to their cancers every single day. I learned that September was
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and
the color of the childhood cancer awareness
ribbon was gold. And what's more is that the
National Institute of Cancer only gives less
than 4% of the research money they get to
childhood cancer, despite it not being just
one disease but rather 12 plus types of cancer
with 100 subtypes.
I got so mad. I was shaking I was so overcome with emotion. I turned to Facebook,
because the mother of the sick little boy
had one, and I sent her a friend request. I'd
send her a message months later, after her
son died, and told her how sorry I was and
how much Ronan had touched my heart. I
also told her (I really hesitated to tell her
this) that I was a neuroblastoma survivor.
She wrote back almost immediately and
told me how happy she was to hear that I
was a survivor, and that she was certain
that Ronan and I shared a secret between
our souls.
It made me cry, that message, as I am
sure mine made her cry. After Ronan died,
or maybe it was before, I started looking
for more kids, and I found them. The sheer
number of them I found on Facebook and
elsewhere on the internet shook me to my
very soul. I could not believe this. I started
posting about childhood cancer on my pro-

"If I go, if I lose my
battle, then I want
other people to
carry on with the
war. They're going
to win this war."
file, and it eventually grew into me starting
a page just for awareness purposes. This
turned out to be a good thing, by the way.
Instead if it just being me looking for them,
now parents of children with cancer were
seeking me out, asking me to share their
children's stories and pictures. And I did.
Most of the children I found back in 2010,
early 2011, are gone now. If there's one thing
I learned the past nine years, it's that childhood cancer is NOT rare at all, despite what
the doctors would tell you. Now, in 2019, this
will be my fourth year going to CureFest in
Washington D.C.
I have listened to grieving mothers as their
voices shook with emotion recounting their
children's fight. I have hugged bereaved
parents and met other survivors, one of
whom will be missing this year because she
died back in April. Loretta survived Wilms'
Tumor as a child only to battle a secondary
cancer decades later. This second cancer, a
sarcoma, popped up because of the radiation
treatments she had to treat her first cancer.
I remember the first thing she said to me
when she saw me in person for the first time:
"Danielle? I thought that was you." She had
a big smile that I'm going to miss seeing so
much this year.
Because of my speech impairment due to
the brain stem damage, I really don't like to
talk much in public, but I remember looking
over during one of the Marches to the Capitol in Washington D.C., I think it was two
years ago, and suddenly seeing Abri beside
me, in a wheelchair, with her leg "Stumpy"

propped up on pillows. She had limb salvage
surgery because she was diagnosed with
Ewing's Sarcoma, and was fighting still to
regain some since of normalcy. She was nine
years old at the time and was this tiny blonde
girl. I would have recognized her anywhere.
I just reached out and took her hand. We
shared an intense moment, just looking at
each other, though not a word was spoken.
There are other children, the ones that I
did not get a chance to meet, like Gabriella
Miller, who I feel and hear every single day
regardless of not having known her when she
was here. Diagnosed with DIPG at nine years
old in November 2012 and passing away 11
months later, she was a such a fierce voice
for cancer kids, despite her being so young.
In one video she says rather passionately, "If
I go, if I lose my battle, then I want other
people to carry on with the war. They're
going to win this war." I heard that not only
with my ears, but with every single cell in
my body. Sadly, Gabriella passed away two
weeks after saying that. Yes, sweet girl, we
are carrying on with the war, and we're
going to win, no matter how long it takes.
I think Ronan's mom was right. I think
my soul is connected to all of these precious children. That's why I can feel them
inside, and that's how I know that my life
isn't wholly my own.
➥ BY DANIELLE A. CLOAKEY,
CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVOR

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
SEPTEMBER 2019

29


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Elephants And Tea - September 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - September 2019

Contents
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 1
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Contents
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 3
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 4
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 5
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Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Cover3
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