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After leaving Michigan, we headed straight for Comer Children’s Hospital. No, no, not because of the horrific nose bleed Atia had the day before, but rather because it was the annual Oncology Picnic hosted by The Pediatric Oncology Department at The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.
We had never been before, but I had heard that it was a blast. So, we made a point to go.
This very special event is for the young cancer patients and their immediate family members only. Both inpatient and outpatient pediatric cancer patients benefit from an afternoon filled with games, entertainment, food and drinks. It’s a chance for the children and their families to escape the realities of cancer treatment for a few hours and simply have fun.
The picnic didn’t let us down; it was great fun! We hung out with friends we’d made throughout treatment, and it was awesome seeing the medical team walking around in shorts and t-shirts. It was a little reminder that these amazingly brilliant and talented men and women are just that – men and women with lives outside of the hospital – normal people doing extraordinary things.
The highlight was the wet sponge toss. Every year the kids line up to throw wet sponges at their doctors – a way to “get back’ at them for the pain they’ve inflicted throughout the year (of course not intentionally – just the nature of the beast – curing cancer hurts).
Interestingly, Atia disliked that game immensely. As a matter of fact, she got really upset and emphatically told the kids to stop hurting her doctors, especially when it was Dr. Rubin’s turn. She didn’t understand that it was all in fun and that, for the most part, the doctors weren't really getting hurt – except for when the few bigger kids really whipped the sponge at them, then we all cringed.
Though, my favorite part was our Flashes of Hope photo shoot.
Flashes of Hope is a nonprofit organization that changes the way children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses see themselves through the gift of photography and raises money for pediatric cancer research. The portraits, taken by award-winning photographers, help children feel better about their changing appearance by celebrating it. For families of terminally ill children, it's especially important to have a portrait that preserves forever the beauty, grace and dignity of their child.
Each family is presented with framed enlargements, proofs and a CD of all the images so they can make additional prints. Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, all services are provided free of charge.
Their goal is to photograph every child until every child is cured.
Sometimes, the pictures they take are the last a family has of their beautiful or handsome warrior.
Not only did they capture some beautiful images that day, but I made a wonderful new friend and gained a lifetime appreciation for Flashes of Hope.
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