It was January 2009 when Janet Pollok rushed her 10-year-old son, Luke, to the hospital emergency room in San Antonio. He had been having headaches and dizzy spells since December and they had only gotten worse. On that day, Janet received the type of news that no parent ever wants to hear: Luke was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable brain tumor. Even more devastating, the doctors told Janet and Luke's father that there was no cure. They gave Luke six to nine months to live.
Luke's form of cancer is called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a cancer that only strikes children and in which little is known. Luke made it almost exactly nine months, and died on September 30, 2009.
Luke's tragic story hits home due to the fact that childhood cancers are vastly different from adult cancers, and they require different research and different treatment. However, only 4 percent of U.S. federal funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.
Every single day in the U.S., 46 children are diagnosed with cancer and seven lose their lives to the disease. Cancer kills more children than all other diseases combined. One in five kids diagnosed with cancer will not live past the five-year mark, and many childhood cancers, like Luke's, are 100 percent fatal upon diagnosis.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, where the focus is on raising awareness and funding research to combat the cancers that strike children — with a goal that hopefully, one day, no families will have to go through the pain that the Pollok family and thousands of others like them live every day.
Since Luke's death, Janet has become a strong childhood cancer advocate, starting Luke's Wish Toy Drive and putting together teams to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds research grants strictly for childhood cancers. Janet even shaved her head for the cause in March 2015, raising over $34,000 with her team and several others who participated in the St. Baldrick's Shave-A-Thon in honor of Luke.
"We are spreading awareness all while helping be a part of the solution," Janet says. "We are helping to fill in the gaps where the federal government severely lacks. But it is still not enough."
Janet has now teamed with Go Gold Global to turn Texas gold. Janet and Go Gold are on a mission to light up skyscrapers, prominent landmarks, buildings, and local businesses with the color gold during the month of September. Many cities have signed a proclamation to recognize September as Childhood Cancer Awareness month locally including Poth, Nixon, Kyle, and Floresville, and on July 7, 2015, Governor Greg Abbot declared Childhood Cancer Awareness month for the state of Texas.
Cities that participate in Go Gold will be recognized on a map.
"We appreciate any support to bring 'light' to the fact that childhood cancer is the No. 1 killer among children by disease," Janet says. "When large cities like Austin light up gold just for one day, then we have accomplished a lot to give children a voice, those who are fighting for their lives now, or are survivors, and for those that have already passed away."
Central Texas locations that have already committed to Go Gold include:
- Hays Surgery Center, Kyle
- Arise Austin Medical Center, Austin
- Stonegate Surgery Center, Austin
- Cedar Park Surgery Center, Cedar Park
Go Gold Global is also helping to organize a Kids Ride Nationwide event at the Texas State Capitol on September 12 from 10 am to 1 pm, with a goal of peacefully requesting more funding for this important cause. Parents and children fighting cancer, as well as cancer survivors, advocates, and family and friends will carry signs saying #morethan4. The ride event is free and everyone is welcome.
"Kids deserve a chance to survive cancer, and to live," says Janet.