As I wrote last week, I’ve been sick. Though better, this junk has lingered longer than I’ve had patience for, but as I also noted, I view this as an opportunity to practice patience with myself and the world around me. However, I won’t deny that I’ve whined here and there, and even on this blog. In the last few weeks, there have been times I’ve felt lousy–really lousy–but truthfully, it’s just a cold and it will “run its course.” I take my Sudafed and find relief until that magical day I awaken virus-free.
But, for some, the cold doesn’t go away. It progresses into something bigger like pneumonia, because maybe, underneath the cold, there is something bigger.
About this time 3 years ago, (or was it 4 now?), I received a call from a friend as she was leaving the doctor’s office with her teenage son, D. I could hear the slight tremble in her voice as she spoke. D had been sick with a “bug” he hadn’t been able to shake for almost 2 months. They had worked all the homeopathic treatments she knew of (and trust me, she knows them all!) and for a while, he would bounce back, but never completely. And though she and her family have insurance, she never took the kids to the doctor; up until that point, she had really had no need.
After a routine exam, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray and CT scan to be done immediately; the doctor had already called the radiology department at the hospital to let them know she was on the way. Alarms went off, but the voice of reason remained loud as she left the office and called me. She knows my medical history and wanted someone who could help her navigate the doctor’s terminology, the tests, and the antiseptic halls of a hospital, but above all, to simply hold her hand as they took her son in for the x-ray. I dropped everything and met her in the radiology department 20 minutes later.
That was the beginning of the journey I took with her, D, and the rest of the family. That afternoon, she received the call with the unthinkable diagnosis; her son had lymphoma. I know she wanted to run, to hide, to keep her son away from the doctors and their needles and tests and medicines that poison. I understood, and I also understood D’s prognosis if she/they did that. I knew I was placed in their lives to help them walk this part of their journey. I was in the room as D underwent his CT scans and could joke about the utter coolness of the stickers on “his CT machine” that were never on mine. I sat with D and my friend as the oncologist explained the diagnosis, the process and the post-surgical treatments. To diffuse tension, I teased as he settled into his private “spa retreat” room at Children’s Hospital, with its X-Box, movie library, and pool table one floor down (I was lucky, I told him, if I was given an extra Jell-O during my hospital stays.) I reassured her as we left him at the hospital that day, unexpectedly, so they could do a lymph node biopsy the next morning. And, on the day of D’s “big” surgery, I came alongside a family in fear and disbelief, walking the halls, asking for warm blankets as D waited in pre-op, and offering words of encouragement.
Though follow-ups are still required, this story ends well. In two months, D will graduate high school and set his sites on the future. I can’t count the number of times my girlfriend and her husband have thanked my for being there with them during that time. I know there is no other place I was supposed to be, nor would have wanted to be.
Last month, I revisited D’s journey in my mind. I had offered what I could to help a family facing an unthinkable diagnosis. Then, I thought about another little fighter, Natalie, only 2, who I came to “know” through a friend. I have followed her story of diagnosis, surgery, treatments, and recent follow-up scans through the CaringBridge blog beautifully written by her mother. Though I don’t personally know Natalie, I offered what I could, my prayers. On this date last month, I added my voice to a group of bloggers who posted about Donna, a spitfire little girl who liked to dance and read and eat popscicles. (Donna’s mom, Mary Tyler Mom, shares her very personal story here and the origins of Donna’s Good Things.) I wrote and I donated for Donna’s memory and for children everywhere with pediatric cancer. I offered what I could for the little ones that can’t speak up for themselves.
In the last few days, as I’ve bemoaned the dregs of this cold bug, I’ve had my attention brought once again to the children whose colds won’t disappear because something more sinister lies beneath. On the 24th of this month, three of the bloggers who introduced me to Donna last month will stand together in solidarity with children fighting cancer to help raise awareness as well as money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They will give their time, their money, their hair (yes, ALL of it–zip, zap, nada left), and above all, copious amounts of compassion for those with the smallest voices at the Donna’s Good Things at Candlelite Chicago Event. The Blissfully Bald team was formed by Chris (of the blog …from the Bungalow) and his wife, Karin (of the blog Pinwheels and Poppies.) They didn’t know Donna or Mary Tyler Mom, but Karin was moved to action when she read her story. (You can read about their journey to form the Blissfully Bald team here.) The newest member of the Blissfully Bald team is young adult author, blogger, lawyer, and giant heart, Deborah Bryan, who once swore to never wear her hair shorter than chin length. Deb lost her mother to cancer. She knows well of the hope cancer steals. Her son will stay home with his daddy as she boards a plane to join ranks with Chris and Karin on Saturday, the 24 in Chicago. All three members of the Blissfully Bald team have been unassuming in their campaign to help; there have been humble requests for support (of all kinds, not just financial) made through their blogs and Facebook pages, with only slight mention of their involvement; the focus has remained on the kids.
Last month, when I wrote about Donna, I asked my readers to donate their money or their time or to simply say a prayer to help those whose energies are best spent slaying the dragon. Yesterday, I wrote about the lesson my mother taught me about speaking up for those that can’t speak for themselves; she lived that example as she helped strangers in her neighborhood and children halfway around the world. And in the last week, I have watched the swell of activity as three amazing bloggers live that lesson out loud, with humble voices. In doing so, they have inspired me and others to do the same. Acts of kindness (regardless of size) beget kindness, and we can all make a difference in this world if we help those in need with what we have to offer, be it time, money, or prayers. Just give where you feel called to give. The ripples of your actions will travel farther than you can imagine.
(And though the team has officially met their goal, it never hurts to be an overachiever, especially when raising funds to fight a demon. Donations can be made here: Blissfully Bald – A St. Baldrick’s Team.)
Thank you for reading.