On Valentine’s Day, no one wants to think about cancer. But thinking and reading about cancer today may be just one notch better than actually eating one of those awful candy hearts. I jest. It’s what I do here as a writer, but it’s also what I do when I get uncomfortable.
And kids' cancer makes me uncomfortable. I cannot even imagine. I can’t bring myself to. I have been blessed with three healthy children and even the shortest stays in a hospital—ear tubes, a hernia operation, one rapidly spreading infection—have put me right over the edge, my face up against a wall of fear.
For two-and-a-half-years, my fellow ChicagoNow blogger and new friend, Mary Tyler Mom, lived plastered to that wall.
I knew I liked Mary Tyler Mom way before I even met her, when I read her blog about another “working mom”. Gwyneth Paltrow can kiss my sweet Chicago A$$ (She can kiss mine, too, btw.) So, when Mary Tyler Mom put out a call for all of us bloggers to write about kids’ cancer, specifically St. Baldrick’s and Donna's Good Things, this Valentine’s Day, of course I accepted.
How do you handle it when your twenty-month-old daughter gets diagnosed with brain cancer? When over the course of just a few weeks she goes from being a healthy, normal kid, to a kid who’s not eating well, to a kid who gets rushed into an MRI, where a brain mass is found, and the diagnosis comes back as papillary meningioma. Brain Cancer.
Last September, Mary Tyler Mom posted a thirty-one-day series on her daughter, Donna's Cancer Story. Beautifully written, it has moments of heartbreak, sheer terror and sheer joy. I confess I had to stop reading it for a while and had to pick it up later. (It will make you cry. A lot. Spoiler Alert: Donna dies.)
After losing a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, do you just curl yourself up into a ball? Not if you’re Mary Tyler Mom. Almost immediately after Donna’s death, she began to give back, forming what is now known as Donna's Good Things, a Chicago non-profit organization.
Today, Donna’s Good Things and St. Baldrick’s need your help. If you’re not familiar, St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a childhood cancer charity funding the most promising research to help find cures for kids with cancer. They need money and volunteers. Oh, and shavees. I should mention St. Baldrick’s has a unique way of raising money. They shave your head. (But, thankfully, only if you agree to it first. Whew.)
Even though St. Baldrick’s is a national charity, they are constantly hosting local events to raise money and consciousness for childhood cancer. Here’s a list of them: Chicago Events, but on March 24th. a special event for Donna is being held. St. Baldrick's for Donna's Good Things Mary Tyler Mom’s goal is to raise $20,000. And she reports, “An anonymous donor has offered a matching challenge. This is VERY IMPORTANT, as stats show that matching fundraisers are way more effective. The skinny is that our donor will match every dollar donated up to $2K from February 14-February 18.”
So this year on Valentine’s Day, instead of buying chocolates, roses or those nasty, chalky candy hearts, do what you should do every single day: tell the people you love how much you love them. As Mary Tyler Mom can attest, our time together can be far too short. And take the money you would have spent and do something good in honor of Donna.