Mayor’s Message: September is for childhood cancer awareness

Harrison Township resident Ellie Matz, 11, shares her thoughts as this week's guest writer

Mayor’s Message guest writer Ellie Matz (left) and Mayor Louis Manzo. (Special to The Sun)

Today we hear from Ellie Matz, an 11-year-old Mullica Hill resident. She’s amazing and inspirational:

You may not know this, but September is childhood cancer awareness month. It might surprise you to learn that there are several childhood cancer survivors in our town. I’m one of them.

My name is Ellie Matz and I’m 11 years old. I was diagnosed with ALL (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in December 2014 when I was 5 years old. I was treated at The Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia (CHOP).

For more than two years, I would periodically go to my clinic to get chemotherapy through my port. A port is a piece of metal that connects to the heart, and is where all my chemo would go in. I underwent many spinal taps (where chemo was injected into my spinal fluid), and missed a fair amount of school. As of March 13, 2020, I am officially three years off treatment! I will start going to a survivorship clinic soon, and in two years I will be considered a long-term survivor!

There are a lot of things that you may not know about childhood cancer. For example, more than 95 percent of childhood cancer survivors will suffer long term side effects by the time they are 45 years old. Also, about 16,850 children are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. A lot of people don’t know just how many different types of childhood cancer there are. There are about 12 main types, and more than 100 subtypes of childhood cancer. One last thing is that only about 3.97 percent of the money dedicated to researching cancer at the National Cancer Institute was used to research childhood cancer.

The hope is that if people learn more about childhood cancer, they will realize just how much good they can do by donating just a little. Who knows? It might take 10, 20, or even 50 years for scientists and doctors to find a cure for cancer, but anything you donate now can speed up that process. Donations can also help researchers find less toxic treatments so that treatment itself isn’t so dangerous and that survivors suffer from fewer health problems.

Even though childhood cancer can be a scary experience, it helps to know that there are a lot of people who care and want to help. When I was in treatment, I missed school and spent a lot of time at CHOP, but my friends and neighbors made sure that I never felt alone.

Every September, Harrison Township recognizes Childhood Cancer Awareness and shows support for children who have had cancer or who will get cancer in the future. You can show your support by donating blood or money to St. Baldrick’s. Their donation link is www.stbaldricks.org/fundraisers/mypage/4131/2020. The Red Cross Blood Drive is Sept. 17 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the American Legion Post 452 in Mullica Hill. You need to register for an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org and type “Harrison Township” in the search bar. You can also join the Bone Marrow Registry through DKMS or Be The Match.