The first day of school brings about an array of emotions from children and parents alike. Excitement, worry, and dread all run the gamut. But for Julie Apicella of the UK, the start of school was nothing short of pure sadness.
Last week on Facebook, Julie posted a side-by-side “back-to-school” photo from 2015 and 2016. Except sadly, her daughter Emily was missing in the second photo. Pediatric cancer stole the sweet young life of Julie’s daughter far too soon.
Julie writes, “School photo time — obviously someone very special missing — my daughter Emily. Imagine if your school photo this year is the LAST you will ever be able to take and will just be a memory to remember.” She then asks her friends and family to “go gold” to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. She states that, “1 in 285 children will get a cancer diagnoses,” which is a terrifying statistic.
Emily had a rare form of kidney cancer called Wilms tumor, which took her life on December 15, 2015. She began feeling sick in January of 2013 with stomach pains, which doctors attributed to constipation. Her parents pushed the issue, and the tumor was discovered during an ultrasound.
Julie is not the only mother suffering this school year. Lindsay Rhoades, mother of Kate, also posted an empty back-to-school photo. Kate died earlier this year of lymphoblastic leukemia.
When asked about her photo, Lindsay told ABC News, “I want people to see my reality. Kate was robbed of those milestones because of cancer.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and moms like Julie Apicella and Lindsay Rhoades are making big waves to help raise money for cancer funding and for other children and their families who struggle with cancer diagnoses. The numbers are staggering — 175,000 new cases of childhood cancers get diagnosed every year and it’s the number one disease killer of children.
So in honor of Emily, Kate, and the thousands of other children who are diagnosed every single year — go gold. Raise awareness. Donate money or time if you are able. Think of those empty back-to-school photos and put yourselves in the shoes of the mothers behind the cameras. Above all, hug your little ones tighter before they get on the bus in the morning.More On