Last Tuesday, I wrote about an article The Miami Herald ran about a boy named Sal Vanni who died from neuroblastoma at age 7. As someone who’s part of the ever-growing army to try and raise money for childhood cancer research, finally seeing a real, without-a-happy-ending story about the worst-possible outcome for many children with cancer made me feel like my efforts to help raise awareness weren’t falling on deaf ears.
Well today, there was yet another mention of neuroblastoma in the paper. In her weekly column bravely documenting her own journey with breast cancer, Miami Herald staff writer Andrea Torres wrote about how much she has been inspired by 13-year-old Talia Joy Castellano, who has been fighting neuroblastoma since the age of 7.
Talia is slowly becoming a widespread sensation. While fighting cancer, she began a YouTube VLog, which now has over 19 million views. In her vlog, she talks openly about her cancer, and provides how-tos on applying make-up. She proudly shows off her beautiful face, and she’s so pretty inside and out that you don’t even notice the fact that she’s bald. Her dream was to meet Ellen DeGeneres and recently, her dream came true. Not only did she get to appear with Ellen on her show, Ellen also managed to snag the girl a deal with Cover Girl, even getting Talia’s face on a mock cover of a Cover Girl magazine.
That Torres chose to highlight Talia’s battle with neuroblastoma is great, particularly for raising awareness of childhood cancer. Regular readers of the Herald will see that word–neuroblastoma–in Torres’ column and maybe a spark of recognition will occur. Hmmm, neuroblastoma…where have I seen that word before? And hopefully, the name Sal Vanni will spring from their memory. And when it does, the connection will be made: Two children with neuroblastoma. One died and the other is still fighting. I wonder how prevalent neuroblastoma really is…
As a professor of advertising, I know two things from a theoretical perspective. One is that it typically takes three or more exposures to a message for it to truly resonate with a person. And two, the more you hear about something, the more common (read: not rare) it seems.
Several weeks ago, Talia spoke to her vlog viewers honestly and from the heart about the fact that her neuroblastoma treatment had given her pre-leukemia. By itself, neuroblastoma is deadly. When you add leukemia on top of it, it’s a death sentence, and Talia was very open about the fact that her outcome wasn’t good. But apparently, there was one more clinical trial she qualified to be part of. And on October 11, she told her viewers that this treatment had shrunk her tumors by 75%, and had cleaned her body of the pre-leukemia and and the neuroblastoma in her bone marrow. Amazing news for an amazing girl.
In telling readers about Talia and Sal, The Miami Herald is really doing a great service for children with pediatric cancers. They’re helping to grow awareness of the awful fact that cancer kills children. I hope the job will continue, because if it takes three or more exposures to really get people to see how important awareness of childhood cancer research is, then The Herald is about 2/3 there. And if other media, locally and nationally, follow suit, then maybe next year, the article will not be about Talia’s fight with cancer, but rather, about Talia’s cure. Those of us who understand relapsed neuroblastoma though, know how tenacious the disease is and how it doesn’t like to stay away for too long. Hopefully, this new trial will lead to a cure, for Talia and for the thousands of other children suffering from relapsed neuroblastoma, which, as of today, has no cure.
So I pray that this current trial puts Talia into remission permanently. But if Talia’s cancer returns, I’m sure she and her parents would sleep a hell of a lot better knowing that there’s another new clinical trial for her to take part in–one that ultimately leads to a cure once and for all. But those clinical trials require funding. And funding comes from awareness.
And awareness is slowly growing. Thanks, in part, to The Miami Herald. If three exposures to the message is what it takes for people to stand up and take notice, then I hope to see another article soon.
Third time’s a charm, right?