Childhood cancer

The quiet rumbling that turned into a roar.

Going GOLD for September.

This post is happy and it’s sad. It’s about hope, about taking action, about letting go, about grief. It’s about life, and death, and everything in between.

I dedicate this post to Adam.

 I mentioned in my last post that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Most people in the childhood cancer community are aware of this, but outside of our “world” few people know about the gold ribbon.

It used to be like this for breast cancer, it was talked about very little. Now, the month of October is very well known as Breast Cancer Awareness month, there are pink ribbons everywhere (and I will most definitely be wearing one proudly!).

The White House is illuminated in pink for the month of October to support this cause. Other monuments and landmarks also will turn pink in the U.S., in Canada, in Europe, in Australia, in the world! For a cause that used to be so hush-hush, this is amazing news. Awareness of this cause has increased research, which has turned this type of cancer into something many women now survive.

This year, a group of parents have petitioned the American government to turn the White House gold for September, for kids with cancer. Other groups, like A Day of Yellow and Gold  have been working on turning September gold with great success: Niagara Falls, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Zakim Bridge,the Prudential building, the Atlantic Wharf in Boston, the Battleship New Jersey, the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bridge in South Carolina all will be lit up in gold. Major sports teams are getting on board, the Philadelphia Phillies will have a golden ribbon on their scoreboard. And there have many other plans. In Australia, support for the  GO GOLD AUSTRALIA for September action is growing like a wildfire. Just last month an amazing documentary about childhood cancer won three Emmy awards, watch it here:

 There is a movement afoot… A movement that started as a quiet rumbling, and grew, and grew, and is now a loud roar… We, the people of the childhood cancer community, are calling out to be heard! We want to turn September GOLD, and have childhood cancer moved out of the hush-hush quietness and into the spotlight!

A few days ago, Adam, a boy I’ve mentioned in previous posts, passed away. I have been occasionally in touch with his dad in my search for neuroblastoma treatments on an international level for Zoe ( but mostly I read his dad’s blog, hoping against hope that they would find a treatment somewhere that would work. I was at first overwhelmed with sadness when I saw his beautiful photo, still alive and healthy, looking like he was heading off to school. The unfairness is so bitter I can taste it.

 But I want to believe… no I NEED to believe that if that boy had been born today, we could save him this time. We could come up with some new treatment before the cancer got to him.

But who am I, to try to fix the world, little me in my little corner of Switzerland? What can I do?

But wait. I can at least try. Gold in September? Ok. Let me think a bit.

I live in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, in between Geneva and Lausanne. What kind of monument or landmark is symbolic of our region? What could we, here in our corner of the world, turn gold to support childhood cancer awareness?

What represents this area of the world, and is known and recognized internationally?
Well… I sit and think a bit. I tap my nails nervously on the table as I think it over. A crazy idea. There’s no way it will work, they won’t say yes anyway. There’s almost no point trying…
The Jet-d’eau, in Geneva, is a historical landmark. In existence since 1886, it can be seen from far away, even from flights at 10,000 meters above.
And they light it up at night.
What if I asked them to turn it gold in September? At least for a day?
No, I’m thinking crazy thoughts there, why would they do that for me? (Yes, I often have conversations with myself. Yesterday, for example, I realized that I was strangely not stressed about Elliot’s upcoming scans for his one year-post remission check up. Then I said to myself that in the past, I was always completely stressed, and it all turned out good. So then I thought, but does that mean that this time the results will be bad? So now I’m stressed. Yep, that’s right, I talked myself into worrying.)
But hey, I’m also an eternal optimist.
So I said to myself (not out loud) “Why not? The worst thing they could do is say no, right?” (Well actually the worst thing they could do is laugh hysterically at me and print my  photo in the local paper with the headline “Canadian woman loses mind in quiet, conventional Switzerland”).
Fine.  I’m going to do it anyway. For Adam, who couldn’t be saved, but who’s life was so meaningful despite being too short, touching many families going through the neuroblastoma battle even here in Switzerland.  And for the baby born today who isn’t even diagnosed yet. Because there is a baby being born right now, who ‘s parents have no idea yet…Can we save him? Can Adam’s battle somehow mean that this baby stands a chance?
And I’ll do it also for all the kids in the Geneva hospital right now, just a few minutes walk from the jet d’eau. And all the kids in the Lausanne hospital, where I’ll be on Monday with my son, worrying. The Lausanne hospital, where I sat last week with Zoé’s mom, on a balcony perched beautifully overlooking the city of Lausanne and the lake and the jet d’eau off in the distance, having a coffee and digesting the bad news about Zoé’s latest tests. For the other mom who joined us on that balcony, looking scared and exhausted, and for her son who has the “good cancer”, a leukemia with a cure rate of 80%, but who is fighting for his life because of a massive fungal infection caused by the low-immunity from the treatment. I can at least try to do something to make people know that our kids need a voice. They need to be heard, they are crying out to be heard.
So I looked up the people who are in charge of the Geneva Jet d’eau. It took a little research. I found out who to contact. I made my pitch. I actually had to make my pitch a few times, since I was not always in touch with the right person.
My pitch was nothing very spectacular. Basically, I told them I had a kid who had had cancer, and was in remission, and that it was the worst experience of my life, and that many parents of kids with cancer would love to be as lucky as I was… And that I would really really like it if they could light the jet d’eau gold for at least one day in September.
And guess what.
They said yes.
So if you think I’m stopping there… No way. Let’s go GOLD for September. What else can we do?
To support neuroblastoma research go to: 

13 thoughts on “The quiet rumbling that turned into a roar.”

  1. Sweet deal! Good on you – and I salute you. We need more fighters in this world. And as a survivor myself, I super-hug you and your child!

  2. Hello Nicole, I’m a medical doctor and own a first aid training providing company (English) in Zurich but run courses all over Switzerland. I shared your post on my Facebook page and on my timeline and any groups I am in but would like to know how we can help and support Going Gold even more. I’ve had some friends ask the same question. Any information would be appreciated.

  3. Great job Nicole! I can’t wait to see the color gold glowing over the lake. I know your efforts are increasing hope for children and families all over the world.

  4. “Why is it so important to go gold in September?”

    The simple answer is, “Because it has to begin somewhere” and it all begins with awareness. Change will only occur if more people are aware. If we can color the world gold in September, awareness will grow exponentially, leading to greater funding and research that will save children’s lives and lead to more humane treatments for our kids. It works! If you don’t believe it does, look what the color pink has done for breast cancer; higher survival rates, earlier detection, and many more drugs developed by the pharmaceutical companies. Our kids deserve the same.

    Please do all you can to help us color the world gold in September. Please do everything and anything to help make September as gold as October is pink! It all begins with awareness.

    Awareness = Funding = Research = A Cure!

    Tony (Cole’s Dad)

    Please share and join us
    Help increase Childhood Cancer Awareness at:
    “A Day of Yellow and Gold to Fight Childhood Cancer”

  5. Amazing! & Well Done you!
    Which date are they turning it gold?
    i will wear yellow (i don’t have anything gold) in support on the same day. & i would be happy to blog about it on my tiny blog so a few more will know about.
    i have had friends who have lost their little one to cancer so i feel (i may not fully comprehend) the pain cancer can cause…

  6. you keep talking, Nicole! As it is turning in to life-defining action. You bring tingling to my body, tear to my eye, hope to my heart and somehow a sense of pride. Perhaps in your big heart and humanity.

  7. Nicole, I write a regular column for Displaced Nation (home to international creatives), and my angle is how writers use place – it’s called Location, Locution. I wrote to lots of writers, asking them to pen a piece for me. Paulo Coelho donated a brilliant piece on Jet d’eau, and how it is unique in terms of monuments. I’ll put his ode to the Geneva landmark as the September blogpost and link to your site as my own small contribution. Congratulations for making a golden roar.

  8. I’m so proud of this accomplishment! My daughter is a leukemia survivor, and we, too, are trying to turn our hometown & surrounding communities gold for September. We sell gold bows for our downtown park benches, mail boxes, etc. You’ve given me encouragement to push for more! Together, let’s keep on fighting until all childhood cancer cure rates are 100%!! Thank you for all you’re doing!

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