Childhood cancer is a killer I hope never to meet. According to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes – for many, sadly, a death sentence.
Childhood cancer isn’t like adult cancer. The cells are attacked differently, respond differently, and are therefore unable to be treated as effectively as the many forms cancer takes in adults. Cancer research for adults is a multibillion dollar industry, with ribbons every color of the rainbow to represent every way that our bodies can turn against us. In fact, this month we’re surrounded by the annual pinkwashing of breast cancer awareness. But childhood cancers aren’t nearly as well funded or researched. Until they are, so many children will continue to suffer and lose their lives far too soon.
I first learned about St. Baldrick’s two years ago, when shortly after we moved into our house our next door neighbor and her daughter each became Shavees to raise money for childhood cancer research. Since then, a friend from college and a friend from church have both participated and kept St. Baldrick’s at the front of my mind.
I talked about shaving my head the first time…and the second time…and each time I clung to the vanity of my hair. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:15, “And isn’t long hair a woman’s pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering.” (NLT) I’ve cut my hair before, color it regularly, but I just couldn’t shave all of it off…even to benefit childhood cancer research.
But last week, I preached about compassion – love in action. And as I gave my sermon and reflected on it afterward, I realized that my attachment to my hair was the opposite of compassion. After all, I can do all of these things to my head to look good or just different, but I couldn’t sacrifice my crown even temporarily to help children? My hair will grow back. So many of these sweet angels will never have the chance to see their hair grow back.
And then I look at my own two babies. I hope and pray like every parent that cancer and other disease will stay far away from my children and that they will grow up to be strong and healthy. And maybe God will answer that prayer with a yes, and maybe we will never need to benefit personally from the money I’m raising this month. Even if we don’t, though, we are all part of the same family of God’s children, and somewhere God is answering another parent’s prayers with a no.
Hair is such a small thing for me to give up, especially if it can make such a big difference to children fighting cancer.
I’m shaving my head November 21! Learn more about St. Baldrick’s and donate today.