Bringing Children Into Focus
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By Gwen Darien and Catherine Gabel

Bringing Children Into Focus

By Gwen Darien and Catherine Gabel


In this issue, we inaugurate CR’s coverage of children and cancer with the photographic essay “Young Promise.” My 13-year-old niece, Catherine, proposed this series. She suggested that we represent kids’ creative expressions in the pages of CR—kids who have cancer, kids who have a family member with cancer. So, in addition to the essay is this editor’s letter—a discussion between Catherine and me.

Gwen: When I think about my niece and my diagnosis of cancer, there are so many complex—and sometimes contradictory—emotions, experiences and fears that run through me. Catherine was less than 1 year old when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. About five weeks into my chemotherapy treatment, which began right before Thanksgiving, my whole family was in our hometown of Milwaukee for Christmas. I remember helping Catherine walk on Christmas Eve. I was bent over her, with my black suede hat falling off my bald head while she held my fingers. She was about 10 months old. She was so beautiful, so excited by her first Christmas, the love and attention of our family, and learning to walk.

I was so afraid that Christmas—afraid I would die of cancer, afraid I would pass on my defective cancer genes to my beloved Catherine. But I was also holding my breath with hope: The chemo appeared to be working. I didn’t know anything about cancer then, just illness, fear and hope. During the day, I was certain that I would survive; at night I was terrified I would die. What did Catherine absorb of that difficult year? I’m sure my anxiety was very obvious. But, I also was so happy to be with my new niece and the rest of my family.

Catherine: I remember finding out when I was 5 that Aunt Gwen had had cancer. I didn’t think it was possible, because I didn’t know of anyone who had been that sick—besides my dad’s mom, whom I didn’t get to meet.

I’ve seen so many videos from my first Christmas, filmed in the tiny living room in the house in Milwaukee where we lived. It almost feels like it was the first memory that I can fully register in my head. In the video, Aunt Gwen is holding me, opening presents and smiling. She looks so happy; I guess I don’t really understand all that happened behind the videos. After reading her paragraph here, I’m starting to realize how hard it must have been, with all the stress, and the fear.

Gwen: Not long after I completed treatment, I changed careers and began to work in cancer advocacy. Catherine wasn’t quite 5 years old. This work is the only thing that she knows I have done.

Catherine: I imagine that the reality of having cancer is so scary. You have to have so much strength. I just imagine what a kid, or a young adult, who has cancer would be thinking. What would your emotions be? With today’s technology, scientists should be able to help prevent and treat cancer, and they do this a lot. But sometimes people forget about the importance of words. Aunt Gwen has told me that CR provides its readers with information and a way to share experiences and opinions. Magazines, like this one, have columns to give you faith and hope. This magazine is so important because it helps women and men get through their difficulties. That is why I wanted the magazine to represent kids, too. CR endbox

Darien@CRmagazine.org