This post is now available as a podcast! You may either download the file from archive.org or listen below.
Many of us have a cause that we connect with; something we can really get behind and champion. Now I’m no champion, but I’ve recently added an incredibly worthy cause to my list thanks to one incredibly brave little girl and her courageous parents. More on that in a moment.
We all know that language is powerful. It’s why we read the blogs we love and love the blogs we write. The main function of this blog is to connect hearts and minds by sharing my experiences with honesty and hopefulness. My mission is simple: equality. And one of the things that falls under the category of equality is access. I feel strongly about equal access to education/higher education, for example. But there’s one aspect of life to which access is sometimes taken for granted.
Most of us don’t have to struggle daily just to stay alive. We might struggle to pay bills or struggle to understand our children/partners/coworkers/neighbors/you-name-its. More likely, we’re “struggling” to get through a Monday morning or complaining about having enough coffee to get us through said morning. And our kids? If they’re lucky, they complain about which flavor of ice cream you bought or how they only got 30 minutes of Nintendo DS time.
Thankfully, I’ve never had to make decisions month-by-month or day-by-day that would dictate whether or not I’d live, for how long, and at what cost. Even more thankfully, I’ve never had to make those decisions about one of my children.
But Mary Tyler Mom has. Sadly, so have countless other parents. According to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, more than 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year (that’s about one every 3.5 minutes), and one in five children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will not survive. But as sad and angry as that makes me, this post isn’t about numbers, and it isn’t about death.
This post is about hope. It’s about life. It’s about gratitude.
Karin read Donna’s Cancer Story as it was published in series last September to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it changed her life. (I’m hoping she’ll write a post about that herself.) I, on the other hand, hesitated. I had read so many powerful statements by folks who had read it, and honestly, it scared me. I liken it to the feeling I had before my ex-wife and I decided to try to have children. Change, even positive change, is stressful, and I knew this story would change me.
One day I decided to start reading Donna’s Cancer Story. I was in the right head space to do it, and I was going to read as many as I could straight through. BUZZ! Wrong. I got three posts in and already I was starting to feel traumatized. I took a break that lasted a few months. In the meantime, Karin and I got married and held a “Donna dance” at our wedding reception in lieu of a dollar dance, and raised about $130 from our very small, very generous group of friends. And it felt good. It felt right. Guests dropped their donations into a box and we danced to Katy Perry’s “Firework” (You MTM lovers will know why) and it was glorious. That money will go directly to Donna’s Good Things.
So when we read about the Donna’s Good Things/St. Baldrick’s event in Chicago to raise funds for childhood cancer research (more on that at the end!), we said, “Let’s do this!” Sure, we could get involved in something more local, but this is for Donna. For Karin–and for me, knowing how Donna’s story had affected Karin–that was enough. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we already have amazing friends in Chicago (Jamie and JvG) who have extended an open invitation to stay with them, AND that Mary Tyler Mom will be there, along with Katy of I Want a Dumpster Baby and Nikki of Moms Who Drink and Swear! Gah! No brainer!
But then–THEN–knowing that the reason I was getting involved in this was already a good one, but wanting to know full well the impact of Donna’s story, I finished it this past weekend. In two days. Actually, I read the last 18 posts in the span of two hours, only taking breaks to clear my head (literally and figuratively) with tissues and my Rubik’s Cube (respectively). Talk about vicarious traumatization. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. It wasn’t pretty, folks.
That weekend, I spent more time with my kids. I won’t pretend that it was all sunshine and daisies all day long, but I was more patient with them, more present with them, and more appreciative of them than usual. I spent the better part of an hour at dinner time Sunday night pushing through a would-be battle of wits with my middle son over his demanding an apple and bargaining with me such terms as, “If you would just give me an apple, I would stop crying!” (BTW, it wasn’t about the apple. He can eat apples all day long if he wants. It was the way he went about demanding it and spiraling into a tantrum over it. Principle.)
I was hungry and irritated, but I was thankful. So very thankful. My son is here–right here with me–alive and healthy to be carrying on about his demands. What would MTM give to have this moment with Donna?, I thought. I also gave my step-son some much-needed bedtime cuddles from Daddy (“Daddy,” he called me, wow!), and for a little while, the near-constant worries associated with raising a son with special needs (my oldest) seemed insignificant.
Having finished Donna’s story Sunday night (Monday, really, about 2:30 a.m.), I called off of work Monday and spent one more full day with my kids. Call it a mental health day. Again, not all fun. But good. More present. Thankful. We went to the library. We played Wii Sports. We watched Toy Story 3 (again). We ate pizza and apples and carrots in ranch. After books, I sang them a goodnight song (“Godspeed”). And I was grateful for every minute of it.
Donna has given me a gift. Donna–through the well-crafted and very brave words of her mom and dad–has given me perspective, has shown me what it means to demonstrate grace in the face of adversity, and has enriched my understanding of truly living.
And so it is with utmost gratitude that Karin and I participate in the Donna’s Good Things/St. Baldrick’s fundraising event! We formed a husband and wife team called Blissfully Bald to raise funds for St. Baldrick’s Foundation in honor of Donna by having our heads shaved. That’s right! Bald. Hairless. Nothin’ on top. And blissfully so! Donna’s Good Things
wants to will raise $20,000.00 for childhood cancer research before March 24th. We set our goal low ($1,000) just so we’d be sure to reach it, but we’re hoping expecting to raise much more than that! Karin and I are paying it forward. Will you help us exceed our goal?
To pull from Mary Tyler Mom’s vocabulary, choose hope, and may you live until you die.
Well, what are you waiting for?