Even though most summer vacations are ending, August is still a month when the heat is blistering and the yucky air has that palpable, tangible quality… like a dog’s fart. Also, schools open this month and all the pumpkin spice food products will begin to appear in stores.
If you think it’s too early for it, you aren’t alone. Even though I have a well-developed love for pumpkin spiced lattes, I don’t want to drink one while it’s still 100 degrees outside. I don’t care if there’s a chance that my sweat could smell like an autumnal wonderland. It’s still not worth it.
August is also known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month. The month that celebrates and brings awareness to the 1 in 10,000 babies (including myself) born with a genetic glitch called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). While the condition is rare, 1 in 50 people on this earth are actually genetic carriers. But, since it’s a recessive condition, it takes two carriers getting together to produce a child with SMA. Even then, only 25% of offspring of those unions will even have the condition.
If you are confused by this scientific explanation of recessive genetics, you weren’t fortunate enough to have had the late Mr. Eugene Field as a biology teacher at Patterson High School. I feel bad if you missed out on his amazing greatness. I guess you’ll have to make do with looking it up on Wikipedia, instead.
Awareness months, like this one for SMA, serve an important purpose. They garner attention to the cause and provide a catalyst for fundraising. Many other medical conditions and diseases have their own awareness months, too. I’m sure many of you have taken part in such worthwhile events. After all, these are vital tools for generating donations for research. But, while raising money for a “cure” is very important, we mustn’t forget that we have to also support those living with these conditions, too.
We have to make sure that there are services and infrastructures available to help those currently living and fighting these conditions— and their families. As someone on the other side of this, I must say that I occasionally cringe when I see so many fundraising efforts with simple, pithy titles about running and walking for cures. Sometimes I feel like they miss the point. After all, before we can get to the moment when someone could possibly be “cured,” there will be a lot more time spent with the person needing support and helpful resources.
Let’s be honest, from a practical point-of-view, a “Walk for a Cure” isn’t really going to do a patient much good if they don’t have a way to get to their doctor appointments. Or if they don’t have personal care assistance in their homes or even nutritious food on their table.
And, I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but you know that 5k Run for Cure you did last year? The one where you wore those new $85 running pants from Lululemon? Yeah, that run is probably not going to help a rural woman in Kansas afford the pharmacy copay on the anti-nausea pills that she needs during chemo.
I don’t mean to imply that these fundraising efforts are useless. Nothing could be further from the truth. These events and funds are incredibly important. So, keep on running in your crazy expensive stretchy pants. But, while you’re doing it, remember that there’s more that we can do. Awareness means more than a “cure.” It’s about living in community— together. Helping each other. Whether it’s August, or any other month of the year.
Until then, happy August… and happy running.