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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Commencement 2010 - Part2

Part II

Commencement 2010 - Part1

Mother's Day

I spent this Mother's Day at my alma mater, Meredith College, delivering the commencement address. It was a surreal experience, somewhat like living in the alter world of pediatric cancer. Much of the speech focused on the very first cancer mom friendship I made with Shirley Staples. Shirley, unbeknownst to me when we met, is also a graduate from the same college with the same degree. Having Shirley be the first cancer mom I met be a fellow grad of the English Department of Meredith, a small women's college in North Carolina, was about as likely as Liam being diagnosed with cancer. Coincidence?

To the Class of 2010, thank you again for inviting me to be your commencement speaker. It was quite a day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

5-19-10 Update

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I don't have much to say other than Liam is doing well. He's happy. His pain was gone after three days and his hair after two weeks. We've had a lifetime of adventures the past six weeks including a positive blood culture for a particularly nasty bacteria that could have been really (really) bad. We've been through two rounds of chemo, 10 long days of radiation, a quickly scheduled MIBG to make sure everything was "OK", transfusions galore and the all-too-familiar game of waiting for his white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets to recover. But, as is the norm for Liam, this latest detour has been a non-issue. He makes the most of it and moves on. He never complains. He inspires all, especially us to keep fighting.

So then why is it that the kid with the endless supply of good luck - he finds a four-leaf clover his first attempt at looking for the elusive lucky token, he finds lucky pennies almost every day, he is the one who can get the tricky machine that requires a combination of luck and skill to secure a prize to not only give up one but two prizes, he is the one who has gone down this awful road with none of the common setbacks and complications so many others have had - not have the good luck to keep him clean? Why? Why? Why? Why does it keep wanting to sideline my son from being all he can be? Why does it keep challenging us? Have we not done enough? Have we not advocated enough? Have we not shared enough about how painful, scary and frustrating this experience is on so many levels? Please, dear God, tell me why this cowardly beast keeps picking on my son..our son...Ella's brother...and the child who delights us all with his sweetness, charm and curiosity? He says that when he grows up he wants to be a scientist. He says when he grows up he wants to work in Dr. Modak's, Dr. Kramer's and Dr. Kushner's lab. We need him to realize his dream and make it a reality. It's the least we can do - give a child a chance to live. What do we need to do to inspire people to get involved? This is the disease that claims more children than ANY OTHER DISEASE. I don't want it to claim mine...he's too valuable to me. He's too valuable to all of us. Please tell me what I need to do to convince those standing on the sidelines watching our story to get involved. I'll do it. Just tell me what you need me to do to convince you that what's happening to Liam could just as easily be happening to your child or any child. He wasn't a heavy smoker. He didn't live a life of poor health choices eating candy all day. He wasn't a sun worshiper spending hours outside without sunscreen. It just happened. And because it can just happen is what makes us all vulnerable and what should make us all care enough to get involved. If you have children, if you like children, if you have a heart...then please stop reading Liam's blog and start doing. The time is now. Not tomorrow, not next week, now. Maybe people are tired of our story. Maybe people feel like they've done enough or want to move on to something else. Maybe it's hard to be a friend of ours because our nose is always to the cancer grindstone while trying to make it look like everything is perfectly normal on the outside. I can assure you, nothing is normal about this life...the trick is to make it look normal so that you can keep functioning.

In the meantime, we'll continue to shield Liam and Ella from the reality of their situation. We'll continue to allow them both to live, love and discover. We'll continue to advocate. We'll continue to believe that Liam will win, even if we can't see the path. We will continue to share victories and cry over setbacks with other friends in this awful journey.

I'm sorry if this isn't the entry you were hoping to read. Maybe I shouldn't post it. But maybe it's time for a wake up call. The words of Dr. Cheung, one of the brilliant oncologists who works so hard on Liam's behalf, haunt me day and night. "It's not science that's holding us back, it's funding." Great. There's a price tag on my son's head. Isn't that just dandy? Can I even begin to tell you how that feels? My son is priceless. Every child is priceless. Too bad not everyone agrees that children are precious, priceless and our future. But in my heart I don't believe that...I don't believe that's what you think. I don't believe that if you asked anyone from a stranger walking down the street to President Obama what their children means to them they wouldn't say, "everything."