Guest Commentary: Support in time of helplessness

Bill Brennan, first selectman of Wilton, and Michael Tetreau, first selectman of Fairfield, will declare Sept. 10 as Childhood Cancer Awareness Day in support of Circle of Care and all children with cancer in our communities.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and as the founders of Circle of Care for families of children with cancer we strive to bring more attention, awareness and support to children suffering with cancer. With this proclamation we hope to rally support from local businesses and residents in supporting the numerous local organizations supporting children with cancer including Circle of Care.

Dawn Ladenheim and I, Liz Salguero, both Wilton residents, founded Circle of Care nine years ago after our children finished their treatment for cancer. We learned first-hand of the many psychosocial needs of families of children with cancer and have sought to make it easier both emotionally and financially for Connecticut families to weather this storm. Raising awareness in our community is another step towards helping these families achieve more positive outcomes.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer the news is devastating — everything changes in an instant. The entire family is affected as immediate hospitalization is often required, far from home, family and friends with no time to pack or plan. In all of Connecticut there are only two hospitals that treat childhood cancer: Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Most initial stays are weeks long. It seems there are more questions than available answers. Faced with the unimaginable, families commonly feel afraid, guilty, angry, powerless yet still hopeful. Sudden immersion into hospital life and learning a whole new vocabulary while keeping up with blood counts, protocols, the merits of clinical trials, necessary scans, impending surgeries and side effects of radiation and chemotherapy drugs is overwhelming.

The statistics are overwhelming. Nationwide, 13,000 new cases of pediatric cancer are diagnosed each year, approximately 150 of them in the State of Connecticut alone. Each year more than 500 Connecticut children are receiving treatment. Cancer is the number one disease killer of all children under the age of 15. One in every four elementary schools has at least one child undergoing treatment for cancer. And although over 80% of children diagnosed this year with cancer will survive due to huge improvements in therapies, it will be at a great cost both financially and emotionally.

The mission of Circle of Care is to provide immediate and ongoing peer support, guided access to local services and resources, and financial assistance for families of children with cancer. Our goal is to bring a sense of community and support to ease the isolation and helplessness parents and caregivers experience at this time.

During National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we honor those who were taken too soon, those who are still in treatment and those who face chronic health issues as a result of their life-saving treatment. We celebrate the tremendous progress made in treatment and recovery, and we rededicate ourselves to supporting those children and families fighting this disease. By declaring one day in September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Day we can show these families they are not alone in their fight and their community is behind them all the way!

The proclamation signing at Wilton Town Hall is set for 11 a.m. on Sept. 10. For more information on Circle of Care, go to or follow the group at!/pages/Circle-of-Care-for-families-with-cancer/55353456000.