The Day Before…

I read this somewhere once…

“The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t a cancer mom either.” 

And it’s true.  I wasn’t.  However, the night before we heard the words “…she has leukemia,” I knew that she already had it.  Under odd circumstances, we had been preparing for leukemia’s arrival for many months.  That night I could see it in her eyes, on her skin and I could feel it in the deepest part of my soul.  But in those last moments at home, knowing life would flip upside down in the morning, I held on tight to what life was like before cancer.  Because everything would change the following day.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was free from central lines, machines and chemo.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she had a head full of thick and beautiful hair that I was madly in love with.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I had no idea what it meant for life to be crazy–even though I thought our’s was most days.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was free of fear.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, a cold was just a cold, germs were just germs; and we didn’t live in fear of either.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, my heart didn’t have to decide which of our kids needed me most at any given moment.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she cried in our arms in pain and misery but smiled when daddy joked.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, it didn’t exist in my mind.

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Looking back at the day before my daughter was officially diagnosed with cancer, I took for granted the things in our life that were actually blessings–chaos from work and the kids, agonizing over what to make for dinner, organizing school and therapy schedules, complaining about mountains of laundry, crying over little things. And sometimes I was blind to the beauty around me.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I collapsed in my living room.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was scared, but incredibly brave.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I cried myself completely numb.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she cuddled her blankie in the car during the ride to the hospital.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I left our six month old baby behind to care for her sister.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she hugged her new nurse.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, fear took over and I assumed the worst.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, our lives changed forever.

One week after her diagnosis. Halloween in the hospital.

One week after her diagnosis. Halloween in the hospital.

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Becoming an accidental pro at the hospital.

Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, the silver linings sparkled brighter than before; and I truly understood what it meant to be blessed even in despair.  Nurses became dear friends and crying alongside doctors was common.  There were late nights and long isolated days.  Pain and pride became one while we experienced tribulations and triumphs.

Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, we learned something new.  We watched our daughter fight for her life.  I found fear, but believed in hope.  We gave in, threw our hands up and prayed for miracles.

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Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, we gained an intense appreciation for those who work in the medical field because they loved, cared for and save our girl while working endless and often heartbreaking shifts.  We learned to advocate for our daughter and for kids with cancer because they deserve more.  They deserve a chance to live a full life outside of cancer.  Kids with cancer deserve freedom from their diseases and a fair shot at just being a kid.

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The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I knew very little about pediatric cancer–especially how grossly underfunded it is.  Less than 4% of federal funding is allocated for all kids cancers.  If you want to learn more hard truths and grim facts of childhood cancer, take a look here … or here … or here.

 

The more we turn our cheeks, the less we will help the future of our kids. Yes, it is scary.  Yes, it is unsettling.  But it is real.

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The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I was a mom unprepared for what would come; and she was just a toddler living a normal life.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, a spark ignited a powerful flame in my heart to fight for kids battling cancer everywhere.  And because of this beautiful face, I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

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The Business About Awareness

3.8%

That is the total amount of federal funding for all kids cancers.  And no, that is not per child.  Just think about that for a bit. 

3.8%…

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Segue…

I hear you now.  Another pitch begging to raise awareness.  That’s fair.  After all, I am not the only person out there trying to grab your attention for a cause.  Here is my awareness spiel.

People, often friends, ask me how on earth they choose where to donate to and who to support.  These days everyone has something to advocate for.  More and more, medically driven causes seem to be where our funds are needed most.  So if you so choose to donate spare monies, how do you decide where to give it?  What are other ways to help?  Here is what I think is important when it comes to supporting any great cause.

-Find a cause(s) you are passionate about.  It is always easier to give to something you care deeply for.  My heart is primarily rooted in Down syndrome research and finding cures for childhood cancer.  Some people prefer donating to one cause, while I spread it across a few different places.

-Donate regularly. You can donate as often as you would like to a cause, but I prefer donating either every six months or once every year.  Many causes and coalitions have at least one major fundraising event throughout the year.  They also have either one day or an entire month that is dedicated to raising awareness, and primarily funds.  The best way to help your cause get ahead is to donate regularly. 

-Volunteer.  Another great way to donate is by giving your time.  Volunteers are a huge part of what makes an organization successful when you consider that a vast majority of them are ran by volunteered time.  Whether you have an hour to spare or extra time each month or if you can help at an annual event, know that that time spent helping will be greatly appreciated.

-Educate.  If you are unable to donate time or money, at least educate yourself on a cause you may be curious and stand for it.  Causes do not just need funding, they need voices.  Learning about a cause or organization as well as understanding why they do what they do is important for you and for your cause.  Use your voice to carry out their message.  If you care for the cause, tell someone why!

Most importantly, be respectful.  During the great ALS Ice Bucket Challenge just a few weeks ago, it broke my heart to see people who were so annoyed that people were dumping water on their heads, saying things like “Stop dumping water on your head already and just give your money…” and remarking how “stupid” it all was.  I mean seriously, anyone who was that annoyed with the videos did not have to watch them.  I’ll tell you something—I am so freaking glad I watched that many people freeze their butts off for a few seconds!  In the process I learned more about ALS, even though I know a few families who have been affected by the disease.  It was ice water and a brief moment of time that helped a ton of people out.  If you don’t like what an organization is doing to benefit themselves, then just pass them by quietly.  And to be perfectly honest, I was a tad bit jealous that they were able to raise so much money!  Can you imagine what that kind of push would have done for childhood cancer or cancer in general?!  Nevertheless, people dumping ice water on their heads a hundred different ways was awesome.  Bottom line, respect what a group is doing even if being respectful means saying “good for them” and moving on—which, by the way, would be totally appropriate.  If it were you or your loved one, you would want people to understand.  More than likely, you would appreciated being supported.

Don’t like supporting a cause?  That is okay.  You don’t have to.  But know that people will continue to raise awareness around you in this world.  I really do believe that supporting any cause or organization is good for our souls.  Supporting a cause in any way gives me something to believe in.  It lets me have a hand in something bigger than myself.

Having said all of that, I am using my voice to tell you that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Cancer sucks, right?  I mean really, who out there actually is like “Yay for cancer!”  No one, that’s who.  Cancer is especially horrible for kids and babies.  Never in a million years did I think I would be a cancer mom and the day before Tessa was diagnosed, I wasn’t.  But I am now, and it is my job to tell you why our kids deserve more than 3.8% of federal funding. 

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View the entire list of childhood cancer facts on The Truth 365 website or any of the sights listed below.  Everyday 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer.  That’s way too many.  Every day, 7 children die from a form of the disease.  That’s too many as well…even 1 would be too many. Cancer is the leading cause of death (by disease) in kids in the United States.  There has to be more than can be done.  For now we can’t guarantee a cure, but we can guarantee hope for children and their families by teaming up against cancer!

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Without awareness, we don’t have money.  Without money, we can’t help our kids.  Wear your gold or whip a cream pie in your face (that’s right, pie in the face challenge)!  Learn the disturbing facts about kids with cancer during and after treatment.  Donate any way that you can.  Those spare pennies really do add up when you think about what it takes to help a child fight cancer, even outside of treatment.  Our future is worth more than 3.8%.  Check out the links I have posted here.  We need way more than awareness to keep our kids alive; we need cures! 

Badger Childhood Cancer Network 

Alex’s Lemonade Stand 

Kids V Cancer

St. Baldricks

Cure Childhood Cancer