September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
June 24, 2016:
Looking around throughout the corridors of this hospital during our long, harrowing stay, I realize that it is not just seeing my own daughter's suffering that has me emotionally ravaged. Of course, she is a major part of it, but it is seeing all the children in their rooms, all the parents sitting vigil and/or walking the halls - it's a silent gait - it's a silent passing, yet a screaming inside my head that I cannot seem to comprehend completely. While heartbreak seems to be piercing all logical thoughts, we pass each other in the halls and smile in an unsaid understanding where words are simply not needed. I sometimes cannot even believe that I'm in this place, sharing moments in such sorrowful harmony. I watch the parents, the mothers, the children who are the other patients on the oncology floor, they are tortured souls who all look the same; we are kindred spirits existing in another realm not seemingly of this Earth. There is an undertone that just seems to sweep everyone under and away from reality. I just watch as I helplessly become part of this world. A world that is not so much depressing, as it is more like a cult of numbness. Numbness; there is no other way to survive. For a moment, as I look toward a future of triumph, I can see how people have flashbacks once out of treatment, for we are fully enveloped in a silent war.
Flashback to October 15, 2015:
On this day my daughter, Giuliana, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. "Your daughter has cancer" - 4 words that I never imagined I would ever hear, yet there I sat, all alone in a room full of doctors listening to what seemed like echoes in my mind of horrible nightmares that have passed. Nightmares that were never supposed to come true, ones that only existed in the deepest recesses of my mind, that harbored all of my fears, but never my reality. I sobbed for what seemed like a lifetime. My saving grace was the information that leukemia was the "good" cancer, that Giuliana would only suffer for 2.5 years and then she will be cured. Imagine the compromise entailed in the belief that my child would ONLY have to suffer a little. We were considered the lucky ones. With that said, being lucky means feeling guilty for the countless others who are not.
As the months progressed, Giuliana's diagnosis increased in severity. She was originally diagnosed with Moderate Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Three different rounds of cyclic chemotherapy treatment accompanied by 3 bone marrorw aspirations later, Giuliana was now diagnosed as Very High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with a 40% survival rate without a life saving bone marrow transplant; with transplant her survival rate goes up to around 80%.
July 1, 2016:
The Silent War had scheduled its D-Day. Today was transplant day, the re-birth of my daughter, the day Giuliana received her life saving bone marrow transplant. Donor: Anonymous.
There were many moments throughout her disease that Giuliana would feel scared, sick and desperate for relief. Within those moments, I would always hug her, put my head to her head and whisper in her ear, "It's ok, it will be ok", "Mommy loves you, you got this", "Pray to Jesus", "Think happy thoughts, rainbows and unicorns", "I love you, this will pass". In those sweet moments of comfort, the pain seems to lessen with every word of love and encouragement. Today, she asked me, "Mommy, can you hug me and do that thing where you tell me it's going to be ok?". I hugged her to comfort her, yet she had no idea that it is really her little hands wrapped around me that ease the greatest of pains, that hold the most love and are the most comforting, that I needed and need just as much as she needs mine, maybe even more.
August 24, 2016: The undertone of sorrow
The undertone of sorrow turns into an undertow that sweeps us all away deep into the abysmal waters created from the many tears we have cried. Just on the horizon, you can see the crowds of people, but they cannot understand your words from this distant world we are struggling in, they cannot hear our screams, they do not see our fight to survive. Above the water line lies the blazing light of the sun, a light in darkness so black that it almost defies the night. Suddenly, the light, now shaped into a wonderous hand, reaches into the water and pulls us out. This hand is not made of one, but comprised of the many hands united together to save all of us who are drowning. It represents a universal gesture of love, of help, of hope for a cure.
30 Days 30 Stories:
Thirty days, thirty stories, yet we all share one universal story. That story is not just about cancer, for I refuse to give it that kind of power. Instead, I will use the word cancer, as a catalyst to spread the one story we all share; that story is universal love. So, cancer no longer becomes a noun to be feared, but a verb to initiate action; the reason why I am here, why we all are here to write our stories. For without love, and baring witness to the very thing that seeks to destroy love, we would never be moved by the deepest parts of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, to save love. In Giuliana's case, someone gave the ultimate sacrifice and that was a piece of their life, which has now enabled my daughter to live and have life. Giuliana's new life came in the form of one small bag, yet one huge, lifesaving gesture; one hand out of the many united together, reached in to save her.
Without love and our universal desire to help raise awareness and create a movement toward a cure, all of us would not be here sharing 30 days worth of 30 stories in an effort to create infinite days worth of living without cancer.