I'm back, all! I know it's been a while since I've done any serious blogging. Thanks to all the people who I "borrowed" from and those who entertained me by reading older posts. I'm balancing lots of different duties, and in the past few months, other priorities forced their way into my life :) But, I'm back! Back to writing, back to blogging, and back to exploring ways that race, health, parenting, and living collide.
So, a theme that I've been noticing these past few days is "the unexpected." It's "the unexpected" type of moments when you realize that something you said or did had an effect on someone above-and-beyond what you could have imagined.
The past Saturday, I spoke at an event to raise money for Camp Sunshine - an amazing healing camp that my family has attended in the past. Last year, I spoke about the importance of feeling normal when you have cancer. I spoke about how my life was filled with materialistic wants, shy needs, and a superficial sense of importance. When my child was diagnosed with cancer, all of those characteristics and qualities flew out the door -- instantly. When I held her in bed, with her chemotherapy dripping into her tiny 30 lb body, I couldn't help but see flashes of what life might be without her. In the wee hours, when the hospital floor was quiet, I morbidly imagined what I would say at her funeral. I pictured her little coffin, a receiving line of relatives dressed in black, and me - crumbled on the ground - wishing I could just tell her, one more time, "I love you."
It's moments like those -- an unexpected diagnosis, an unexpected bad dream, an unexpected taste of vomit in the back of my throat -- that spin me into appreciating what I have; and feeling bad for people who yearn for materialistic belongings. For, if they had to come close to what I felt (what I feel) for my child, they would realize that the new car/the largest television/the cutest handbag, isn't worth shit.
At the event last year, I remember saying the line, "If you have your health, you have everything. Because if you don't have your health, you don't have your finances. You don't have your sanity. You don't have your tomorrow. You only have your today."
Just before I went on stage to deliver my speech, a woman approached me in tears. She told me that my speech changed her life. This past year, her husband lost his job, and the family was stressed over their finances. They kept reflecting on what I had said about "having your family and your health", and that's what got them through their tough time.
Joey's Special Eye
When my daughter was diagnosed, I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd child. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain this to our new baby. How do you explain "your sister has a hole in her head, and it's because of cancer"? I talked with my sister -- writer, Grace Talusan -- and she came up with a fantastic coloring book for children that described, from a sibling's viewpoint, the cancer and prosthetic. While it was published by the Eye Care Foundation, I think we always imagined the coloring book to be something that we just use in our home. A few years went by, and we embraced our own personal copy of the coloring book. I contacted the Foundation a few years later and asked if they were going to reproduce it. There wasn't quite a demand, but I was able to purchase 100 copies to send to other Rb families.
The following year, I returned to Camp Sunshine with additional copies. As I began to hand them out, some families were so surprised to see a coloring book - just what they were looking for! But, then one family came to me and said, "Oh, no thank you. We already have one." I admit, I looked at them like they were crazy. "Well, if you don't want one, that's fine," I said somewhat insulted. "No, really. We have one. Our doctor's office gives one to every Rb kid." I immediately called Grace to tell her that her book was being distributed in a hospital 3,000 miles away!
I checked Grace's site on the day of my daughter's cancer anniversary, and realized that she had posted pictures of kids around the world holding the Joey's Special Eye book! The kids pictured were in Mexico!
We never thought the book would have this kind of reach -- completely unexpected. And, yet, it's so rewarding to know that Grace's book -- Joli's story -- is being told around the world.
Our friend, Richard, has been having a hell of a year. His son had been diagnosed with the same cancer as my daughter. His son's cancer was very aggressive, and he, too, ended up losing his eye after over a year of awful treatment. Once they came to peace with their son's eye, Richard was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. He's been fighting for his life for over a year now. We've been raising money for him through Facebook, and using our "status updates" to promote our cause.
In the midst of our status updates, an artist friend, Jeff McComsey, felt compelled to draw Richard. He doesn't know Richard, never met him, and other than living in the same state, has nothing in common with Richard. Yet, he began drawing. He drew Richard as "Superman." Jeff's drawing arrived in the mail on Richard's first day home from the hospital, and this brought him such strength. I know Richard didn't expect this, and I'm quite sure that Jeff has no idea how meaningful his drawing is to Richard, his family, and friends. Yet, it's this unexpected gift of kindness during an expected battle with cancer that completes this circle.
What have you done that was unexpected today? What unexpected impact will you make on someone's life?