When I first read Donna's Cancer Story, about 2 and a half years ago, I hadn't yet met Sheila (aka Mary Tyler Mom). I hadn't yet had babies. I wasn't pregnant, but longed to be so badly. I was facing a life without being able to get pregnant due to infertility. I had a child sized hole in my soul. My point is, I didn't - I couldn't - fully comprehend what having a child and then losing that child would mean. I still can't.
Sweet Donna, Sheila's beautiful girl.
I read the series with a naive view of Childhood Cancer and came away with an outlook upon life that was forever altered. Sheila tells Donna's story far better than anybody else could, so I urge you to do the difficult thing and read it. You will cry and you will yell and you will grieve, but it is so worth it.
People go on after cancer has ravaged their families. Because you have to, I would guess. I mean, you don't ever have to go on, but the human spirit compels most of us to JUST KEEP GOING. They never for one second forget or pretend it's OK though. How could they? Many feel a responsibility to help others and to continue to advocate for their kid. They don't want other families to go through what they went through. They are devastated and angry but eventually that leads them to be fierce and brave. It is something no parent should ever have to go through. But after you watch your kid, your tiny, innocent, precious child waste away, what other choice do you have? I watch these parents with awe. I'm amazed by their grace and dignity and fortitude. I've had the privilege of meeting several cancer-stricken families, living with cancer or afterwards. After their child is gone. AFTER THEIR CHILD IS GONE. From this terrible horrible disease.
I was fundamentally changed due to Sheila and Jeremy's sharing of their lives during their stay in Cancerville. Today, I have this friend who's lost her young beautiful vibrant daughter to cancer. I have Sheila. Given what she's gone through you would think she would be bitter or sad, forever wallowing in the pit of despair created from such a terrible blow of losing a daughter. Instead, she lifts people up and shares her experience strength and hope with others in a way I admire so much. She's also buckets of fun and a hoot and a holler, so that helps.
I'm so grateful for my friend. Recently, she dropped off some of Donna's clothes and my girl is wearing them. It's a great pleasure to send Sheila a picture of my girl wearing her girl's clothes that she so lovingly picked out just for us. The circle of life. It's a terrible awful thing, and yet, this is one small way we can help Donna live on.
Donna's dress on my girl.
Now that I am a mom, I am terrified. I don't live in fear every day, but it's there. Isn't it there for all of us? The what ifs? The WHAT IF IT HAPPENS TO MY KID? Can you even imagine? I can barely type the words. This is why this is everyone's concern. Every kid that gets diagnosed with cancer is ours. We are all in this together. We are all responsible. It doesn't just happen to somebody else. Someone you know and love has cancer or will have cancer or has had cancer. No one is unscathed. And when it happens to a child, well, our collective outrage needs an outlet.
I have an outlet for you. St. Baldrick's. I urge you to click through these links and really read the statistics and facts.
St. Baldricks is a fantastic organization that creates these events where people shave their heads for money. Money so desperately needed for Childhood Cancer Research - both for a cure and for preventing it in the first place. The event in Chicago that Mary Tyler Mom is behind is on March 29th, and this will be the third year that I have had the honor of attending. If you want to give money or your hair, information can be found here: Donna's Good Things at Candlelite Chicago.
These super cool t-shirts are going fast, but please order them! Hall & Oates are going to love theirs.
Pass all these links along, pass this blog along. Do your part and I'll do mine. BE LOUD. Give money. Give time. Give exposure. Give hope.
Happy Donna Day 2014. Let's do this. We'll meet you there, Donna Girl.
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