Friday, March 1, 2013

Feeling Blessed on #DonnaDay

Sometimes you need a reminder of how good you have it. I'm just as guilty as anyone. This past month or so, I've been mired in some combination of self-loathing, frustration, seasonal depression. Then, a reminder of how good I have it helped me snap back to reality. Last Friday, one of my high school classmates posted this picture on Facebook:

One of my fondest memories.
That's Monsignor Donovan High School class of 1993. My class. (Look in the middle of the picture. The guy in the white t-shirt, white cap, sunglasses, big goofy grin. That's me. 17 years old.) Our senior class trip to Disney World and Universal Studios was an amazing experience that I still talk about to this day. Anytime I tell a story or even mention in passing that we took a class trip to Orlando, people are amazed. Back then, I knew it was a privilege. I knew I had earned it. I knew my parents reluctantly paid for it but probably couldn't afford it. They were also paying private school tuition. What I didn't appreciate then, but do now, is that I was blessed. I am blessed.

A couple of hours earlier on the same day that photo appeared on Facebook, I got to hold a piece of American sports history:
Sometimes my job is so cool it's actually
worth the aggravation and sleep-deprivation
That is the jersey worn by Mike Eruzione (uh-ROO-zee-oh-nee), the captain of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team. The team that beat the Soviets at the Lake Placid games in what is known as the "Miracle on Ice." That is the jersey Eruzione wore when he scored the winning goal to beat the Russians. And because of my job as a television news producer, I was able to hold a piece of history. Yes, I earned where I am in my career. But I also recognize that I am blessed.

Suffice it to say, last Friday I was feeling particularly blessed. That night, I received an email from Mary Tyler Mom, asking me to participate in today's Donna Day to raise help raise awareness and money for childhood cancer. I initially balked... because I am blessed. I have no experience with childhood cancer. (Knock wood.) Mary Tyler Mom is the only person I know who has a child with childhood cancer. (I often speak of the dead in the present tense. After all, Donna is STILL her child.)  As much as I love and admire her, we've only met through blogging. I may know her, but do I really know her? I may know her daughter by reading Donna's Cancer Story, but I don't know her.

I worried that my connection to childhood cancer was superficial at best. I didn't think I could do such a day - Donna Day - justice. Then I read this post about how underfunded childhood cancer research is compared to other cancers and thought to myself, "What if it were Peanut?" How hard would I fight? How often would I write about it? How angry would I be if I felt she and others like her were being ignored?

So here I am, feeling blessed and writing about childhood cancer. Blessed for the opportunity.

Sweet dreams, Peanut.
Where I am most blessed is at home. My family. Every night as Penelope lays sleeping, I go into her room before I turn in for the night. I kiss her softly on the cheek and whisper, "I love you" in her ear. I do it in hopes that she'll hear it in her dreams. Even in her dreams I'm trying to protect her. I do the same thing before I leave for work in the morning. Even in my absence I am trying to protect her. Then I go to work, and I do my job for her. To protect her. So she can have the best possible life that I am able to provide. So she can be sheltered and fed and clothed and feel secure and loved. Protected.

But what if none of that would help her? What if all my effort - and my career - was good for was health insurance? What if even that wasn't enough? What if I couldn't protect her? I would be angry. Frustrated, Heartbroken. I would feel hopeless. That is a horrible combination.

I would also feel something similar to what I felt when my dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack more than ten years ago. So much of that day, and the days and weeks that followed, are a blur. But I also remember so much of it so vividly, as if it were yesterday. Among the parade of people I recall filing past me to offer condolences at my dad's wake was my best friend's parents. These are the people who routinely hosted me at their house, drove me to and from hockey games, and even were the first ones to take me skiing. I remember his dad hugging me. Then he asked me how old my dad was. "59," I answered sadly, knowing his life was cut way too short way too soon. "You got hosed," he shot back sympathetically. "Yeah. You got royally hosed." He was right. That's how I felt and he knew it. He knew I was cheated out of another decade at least with my dad.

I feel that way still sometimes. Then I realize I had 27 years with him, and a lot of people don't get even that much time with their dads. And now I think, you know who got hosed? Mary Tyler Mom. Her husband and son. Donna. They got hosed. A little girl dies at four years-old after fighting a brain tumor for most of her life? That's bullsh1t. Cancer sucks. It hoses people. The littlest people. People who need more protection than they're getting.

I revealed my daughter's name in this post to make her even more real to you, and not just the main character in the story I choose to share here on the blog. She is my child. My only child. Flesh and blood. Laughter and sadness. Hopes and dreams. She turns six a week from today. Donna is real too. Her cancer was real. It killed her. She was four. I would do all I can to protect Penelope from going through what Donna did. Unfortunately, I can't. That scares me. So we must do more to protect our children. We must do more for childhood cancer. We'd all want our child to have a fighter's chance.

Consider this:
  • More US children will die from cancer than any other disease.
  • Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every three minutes.
  • The cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate. Brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate.
  • 73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment. 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.
Childhood cancer is so poorly funded it's outrageous. (Click here to find out why.) So please donate what you can to St. Baldrick's. Our goal is $30,000 by March 30th, the day of the big head-shaving event in Chicago. CLICK HERE to go to our team page and use the green donate button. If you can give just $5 or $10 it would make such a big difference. 

If you want to shave your head, there is still time to sign up and raise money yourself. I would shave my head, but unfortunately I'm afraid that wouldn't net much. Still, I am otherwise blessed in so many ways and hope you are inspired by my blessings to recognize yours and help. 

And if there is one post on this blog that you will ever share, please let it be this one.

Thank you. Bless you.


  1. so lovely and gut wrenching. I feel your love and gratitude and that's what this is all about. give that Peanut a kiss for me too.

  2. Beautifully said.

    When I was four, I lost my best friend to leukemia. She was also four. I didn't understand why I couldn't see Lisa anymore at that young age. But I did understand the pain, the suffering, the unimaginable loss her mother was feeling.

  3. I wub jou bery mooch, DKL. I do.

  4. This......this was so touching. I'm at a loss for words to describe how it made me feel. "oh my god, what if happened to MY child." That's how. Now excuse me while I go cry a little.

  5. That was so beautiful. As a cancer mom myself, my Donna Day post said that as cancer moms, we don't fight to raise research money for our kids, we do it for yours. When you got to that point here I had tears streaming down my face.

    Also, your daughter is just gorgeous.

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