Angels and Monsters

A Child's Eye View of Cancer

by Lisa Murray and Billy Howard

(American Cancer Society, Atlanta, 2002)

As a volunteer who works with child cancer victims, I’ve known children who were diagnosed, suffered, and then passed away. It’s an experience of helplessness unlike any other imaginable. Most people express intense interest in the problem of child sexual abuse. Popular books on the subject sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Isn’t it a bit bizarre that most people show little or no interest in childhood cancer – the second leading cause of death after so-called “accidents?”

Concerned citizens and heroic defenders of children’s purity should read “Angles and Monsters: A Child’s Eye View of Cancer,” which portrays some of the 3,000 children who die slowly every year. I don’t mean to belittle the suffering of children who are sexually abused, but it is certainly hysteria to dare compare the experience of indecent exposure or inappropriate touch to the terror of a child being at death’s door with the whole family looking on helplessly.

Cancer can strike at any age and without warning, and depending on the type of tumor and speed of diagnosis, the average survival rate is only about 67%. Regular massage of young children is useful for early diagnosis of solid tumors like neuroblastoma, which has a dismally low survival rate if diagnosed late – as it usually is. This isn't a how-to-prevent-disease book, but it's valuable to let parents know how important it is to live life to the fullest while you can.