By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead presented a proclamation this past week to Mike and Gwen Smith, grandparents of Hawk Smith who died at age 5 of an inoperable brain tumor.
The presentation was the first event in observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Wilson County.
Hawk was 4 years old when he was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), which is a tumor on the pons area of the brain stem. He lived 13 months after his initial diagnosis.
The median overall survival rate of children diagnosed with DIPG is approximately 9 months. The one- and two-year survival rates are approximately 30 percent and less than 10 percent, respectively. These statistics make it one of the most devastating childhood cancers.
Mrs. Smith said she was very depressed for a year after her grandson died until a friend suggested she join the social networking site Facebook. There she met several families that had been and were going through the same pain that she was experiencing.
“I found a group on Facebook, and the people I got in touch with knew how I felt,” Smith said. “It really helps to know people are there for you. They helped me have a purpose to my life and that purpose is to spread awareness for childhood cancer.”
“Everyone knows about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that pink represents breast cancer,” she said. “Not a lot of people know that gold is for childhood cancer and that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. September 12 is the actual Childhood Cancer Awareness Day.”
Smith said she is working on starting a memorial walk for Hawk and to raise awareness for childhood cancer in the spring. Craighead told her he would gladly support her efforts.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam will present a similar proclamation regarding Childhood Cancer Awareness month to five families with children suffering from cancer on Monday, Sept. 14 at the City Commission meeting. Elam was notified about this by Allison Mikaelian, whose 9-year-old daughter Bishop was diagnosed this past March with an inoperable tumor on her Medulla, which controls breathing, swallowing, heart rate and blood pressure.
Bishop just recently finished six weeks of daily radiation treatments. Her MRI last month showed that the tumor had increased in size, but they did not know if it had grown or if it was merely scar tissue from the radiation.
Bishop will go for another MRI today and meet with the oncologist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital next Monday. Her cancer is very rare, and the oncologist said he wants to ask other colleagues for a second opinion.
“I’m a part of a cancer club now,” Allison said. “It’s sad, but we help each other out. I never would have thought this would happen to us a year ago.”
She said that a friend of hers, Kerry Pettross, was planning a benefit concert this fall for the five children in the Mt. Juliet/Old Hickory area who have been diagnosed with cancer. Petross said it is still in the planning stages but if anyone has any interest in performing, to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at email@example.com.