You are unequivocally everywhere, yet you are nowhere. My eyes still wander for you while making my morning coffee as a hummingbird appears outside my window. I still spend my days chasing glimpses of you in the grocery store as a little boy who looks to be about four years old crosses my path. I search for you in the impish eyes of Quinn, the stoicism of Liam, and the mischievous giggles from Poppy. I desperately beg for you to make an appearance in my dreams, but you never do. Instead, I find myself having the most vivid dreams about things like freeing the Orcas at SeaWorld, your old Oncologists, and situations in my life that feel very unresolved or out of control. My dreams are never about you, and I still don’t understand why when you are constantly on my mind. Last night I went to bed thinking about a phone call I received earlier in the day and the email that followed. Because the email was on my mind as I drifted off to sleep, I spent most of the night dreaming about our friend, Taylor Swift. I woke up the following day in disbelief at the reality of what had occurred the day before.
“A number I don’t recognize called my phone and left me a voicemail. From somebody named Tree. I don’t have any idea who that is.” I looked up at Mr. Sparkly Eyes, and yes, his eyes still sparkle. “My darling, call the number back.” This came from the man who answers every phone call from every unknown number that rings him up. “Ok. Maybe. I’ll call back in a bit; I’m going to look through my emails first to see if I was supposed to talk to someone that I have forgotten about.” He kissed the top of my head as I got up to get to the appointment I was running late for. I did a quick search in my emails, but nothing came up from anyone named Tree. Maybe it was a newly bereaved mom I was supposed to speak to? I’ve been doing a bit of that here and there for Dr. Jo, and a couple of them I hadn’t heard back from. I decided to call back the number from my car, and a woman’s voice answered the phone.
“Hi Tree, it’s Maya Thompson returning your call.”
“Maya! I’m so happy to hear from you; I wasn’t sure if this was still your number.”
My internal dialogue was running wild. Shit! This person knows me, yet I can’t place her. I decided to give it another few seconds to see if I could figure it out.
“It’s still my number; how are things?”
“Great! Taylor has an email she wants to send you, but before she sends it, I need to make sure your email address is still the same.”
Taylor. OMG. It’s Tree. As in Taylor’s everything, Tree. That Tree! I tried to keep my composure as if Taylor contacting me was a daily occurrence. We spoke for a few more minutes as she confirmed my email address, and we said goodbye.
I pulled my car over and called my everything, my New York City, Little Rachel. She picked up, which I was so thankful for because it was the middle of the day, and I knew she was more than likely having sessions with her patients.
“Taylor’s sending me an email,” I blurted out as soon as she picked up. “What?” She squealed with excitement. “What is happening over there?” I told her the back story, and we went over the endless possibilities of what the email could potentially say. I continued refreshing my emails, but nothing new had come through. We chatted giddily for a few more minutes, and I promised to call her as soon as I heard anything. I somehow made it to my destination safely, and as I pulled in, I checked my email.
Taylor’s email was there, but I won’t be sharing her entire email publicly. She is and will always be one of the things I hold dearest to my heart, and her beautiful words will remain private. I skimmed the email. Tears sprang to my eyes. I went back and reread her words, slowly this time as I tried to comprehend what I was reading.
Let’s back up for a bit. In 2019 it became public knowledge that Taylor was being screwed over in the worst way possible by Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and the disgusting Scooter Braun, who must be from the pits of hell. I watched from afar as her life’s work, her blood, sweat, and tears, were stolen from her by vile men because, at the end of the day, when you have an unscrupulous soul, greed is the ultimate decision-maker. You can read Taylor’s public letter below as the cliff notes to the unraveling of the painful betrayal.
“For years, I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.
Some fun facts about today’s news: I learned about Scooter Braun’s purchase of my masters as it was announced to the world. All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.
Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.
This is my worst-case scenario. This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term’ loyalty is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says, ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.
When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words’ Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.
Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.
I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.”
Sad and grossed out,
I remember reading Taylor’s words and how nauseous I felt after. I had so many sleepless nights during the next few months. I worried about Taylor’s heart. I wondered what would happen to you. You are my life’s work. You are my blood, sweat, and tears, and now somebody other than Taylor “owned” you. I vented on my social media accounts about the unfairness of it all, not knowing if anyone was listening to what I was saying. There started to be chatter on the internet of Taylor re-recording all her old albums so she could own her OWN music again, which was such a bloody smart move. Taylor soon confirmed she was going to do so. I felt so proud of her upon hearing this news, and I let the happiness of that carry me through my grief of letting our song belong to people who didn’t deserve it. ‘Ronan’ was always going to be a charity single, never attached to an album of hers. In my mind, there was no way she was going to re-record it, and I understood why. Knowing that Taylor had taken the most horrific situation and had found a way to get her art back made my wounds hurt less. I was just thankful she had done the most incredible thing for us in the first place. That was more than enough. It was always going to be more than enough, and I had let go of wishing it could be any other way.
Now back to a part of her email that I received.
“I’ve recently completed the re-recording of my 4th album, Red. It’s really exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and one of those ways is that I thought it would be appropriate to add ‘Ronan’ to this album. Red was an album of heartbreak and healing, of rage and rawness, of tragedy and trauma, and of the loss of an imagined future alongside someone. I wrote Ronan while I was making Red and discovered your story as you so honestly and devastatingly told it. My genuine hope is that you’ll agree with me that this song should be included on this album. As my co-writer and the rightful owner of this story in its entirety, your opinion and approval of this idea really matters to me, and I’ll honor your wishes here.”
It took me an hour to absorb the words in front of me. I shared the news with your brothers, Poppy, your daddy, Mr. Sparkly eyes, and a couple of my dearest friends. I cried while sharing the news. I called Tree back and spoke to her for a few minutes about what had just occurred. I told her of course, Taylor had my permission to put ‘Ronan’ on Red. I tried my best to articulate how much this meant to me through my tears, but there are not enough words in the English language that will ever be able to appropriately convey my feelings about this. Taylor has anchored you to this world so you will never be lost, and now she has ensured you will forever be safe in a new, permanent home. She is once again giving a voice to the often voiceless, bereaved parents of the world as well as childhood cancer which deserves so much more funding than it gets.
“Red (Taylor’s version)” will be out November 19th and on that album, there will be you. It is the most perfect album for you to be on as it represents so much heartbreak, love, and pain.
I have so much more I want to talk about and so much more I want to write about, but I’m under a book writing deadline that I need to get back to.
I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
My dearest Taylor,
I love you.
My words of thank you will never be enough. Thank you for keeping Ronan safe. Thank you for never forgetting him. Thank you for breaking rules and breaking free. Thank you for that heart of yours that is made of pure gold. You are a constant source of inspiration to me in so many areas of my life, and there is nobody in the world I would rather have Ronan with than you. I’m going to write to you separately about this but for now, thank you.
Dear Empire State Building –
My name is Kate. I am 9 and lucky enough to not have cancer. I know what I want to be when I grow up, but I hope that job isn’t available anymore when I’m a grownup. I want to cure cancer and help little kids get back to normal life! You might wonder why a kid without cancer would care so much about it, so I will tell you…
When I was six, I learned about Ronan and Maya Thompson and my whole life changed. Unfortunately, I could only know Ro through his mama’s stories about him because he died. My mom is my best friend – just like Ro & Maya were best friends. My mama read me Maya’s list of “How to Live Like a Rockstar” and we have been doing that ever since. I didn’t want mamas to have to feel like Maya feels every day because cancer took her sweet spicy monkey away.
My friends and I do everything we can for kids with cancer. We dance to raise money, we decorate pillowcases and posters to brighten hospital rooms, we host lemonade stands, we wear bracelets, we write their names in the sand on beaches, we release balloons on their birthdays and so much more. We do all we can, but we need the help of powerful adults to put big smiles on kids’ faces. Kids are supposed to be in parks playing with their mamas and daddies, not tucked away in hospital rooms. PLEASE HELP US.
The other day, I gave away really good lemonade and lollipops at our park to raise awareness about Childhood Cancer Month in September. I sat down with two volunteers from Camp Sunshine who wanted to hear all about why I was giving away lemonade. I told them 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer every day and that they are treated with medicine for adults. I told them every fact I could remember. They promised to tell more people. Then there were people who never even stopped to get my lemonade or one of the lollipops. It mad me really sad – not because I was a kid GIVING AWAY lemonade, but because that was one more person who didn’t know how big of a problem childhood cancer is and how much these kids need help.
If I could, I would go to companies who make medicine and ask them to help, but I’m a little girl. So, I have to do what I can and be sure to get great grades so I can go to medical school and fix it myself. My mama tells me to ask adults for help when I can’t do something by myself. So, for now I am asking you to help me tell more adults who can help. I live in Boston, but I love New York – everything about it. During my first trip to New York, you were lit up pink for breast cancer. And I just saw you lit up green for the Ninja Turtles – my friends love them! You have such a beautiful building and I hope you will light it up GOLD. That will put smiles on the faces of kids, mamas and daddies everywhere!
I know you are very busy. So, if you take one thing from my letter, please take Maya’s advice on living like a Rockstar. She said, “Trust your instincts. Listen to your heart as it is more powerful than your mind.” I hope your heart will show you the power of fighting for kids with cancer.
Our lovely friends at SpirtHoods are re-relasing the ever so popular Spicy Monkey just in time for September! There will only be a limited number available and the first time around, they sold out fast!
Stay tuned for a release date! We love this company so much!!!
Dear Empire State Building,
My name is Sabrina Houara and I just finished my first classes at Arizona State University, where I’m majoring in health sciences pre-professional, hoping to finish in 3 years instead of four. That’s me: over-achiever, future doctor, overall nerd, and voice for kids with cancer.
I know with every part of me that I was meant to be a pediatric oncologist, but I may have never found this path if it hand’t been for Maya and Ronan and their inspiring love for each other. Like so many others I first heard Ronan’s story when Taylor Swift first sang her song Ronan, based on Maya’s blog. I looked up the story and spent the next few weeks reading and bawling.
It seemed unimaginable to me that this beautiful little boy could have been ripped from the world so soon, and that so many kids are taken by this awful disease known as childhood cancer. I’m still baffled by the statistics. I knew after just a few posts in that I had to do whatever I possible could to help change this, but I still wasn’t sure how. Then a few days later I approached my parents with an idea: I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist, and they were completely on board. I quickly began forming this idea of what kind of doctor I would be, but I already knew. I would be the kind of doctor I would want for myself, for my own children whenever I have them. I want to be the type of doctor to fight for each and every patient with everything I have, because this is life or death for them. When I tell people that I’ve decided to go into this field I’m usually met with some form of the phrase, “Oh that will be so sad, I could never do that.” But if I can save the life of just one child, it will be worth it to me. These kids will be dying whether or not I’m right there on the front lines, so I will do everything I can as a doctor to help change this for them.
The thing is, it won’t matter how good of a doctor I am (and I plan on being a flipping good one) if we can’t get more funding for childhood cancer. The more funding we can get, the more experimental trials we can fund, and that brings us one step closer to finally finding a cure for this horrible disease that is taking the lives of so many children. The key to getting more funding is to raise awareness, to get people to realize that childhood cancer is a real problem, and that it takes the lives of 7 children every day in the US alone. Those who survive are left with side effects from treatment that will affect them for the rest of their lives. We need for more people to see this, to want to help.
This is where you would come in. Lighting the Empire State Building gold for one day in September would bring heaps of awareness. Many families were seriously hurt when you denied their requests, it felt like you were saying their child didn’t matter. I don’t know any of this firsthand, but it’s easy to tell from the social media campaign that came soon after two non-profits filled out your application and were denied.
You can still make this right. Please find it in your heart to change your mind, for these kids. For Ronan and far too many others. Help us make it so that no parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or cousin has to watch their loved one slowly die as a result of childhood cancer. Help us make it so that no child knows the pain of having their little body invaded by cancer and the horrific treatments that go with it. Help us raise awareness for childhood cancer so we can find a cure and no child will ever die from this killer again. Again I say, you can still make this right.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Advocate and Future Pediatric Oncologist
Dear Empire State Building,
My name is Jennifer Garcia and I am a 24 year college student from California. I have been to New York once and I remember feeling like it was the most magical of places, the place where anything could happen. I always aspired to go back one day and I hope when I get the chance that I can know that for one day in September the top of the Empire State Building sparkled gold for our kids. I say ‘our’ kids because it shows how much of a tight knit group of people we are, us activists for childhood cancer awareness.
You think that we are pushy, mean and threatening? We are passionate, angry, devastated and some broken beyond repair by the loss that we face everyday. The loss of a child whether it was our own child, a friends child, a little brother or sister or a beautiful boy with the most sparkling blue eyes that you only know through photographs and the words of a mom who will never stop fighting for him. I was aware that kids get cancer, I saw the St. Jude commercials and I would frown for a moment and then the program I was watching would come back on and I was sucked back into the happy state of ignorance. All that changed when I watched Taylor Swift sing at the Stand Up To Cancer telethon. Before she even finished the song I was sobbing uncontrollably. When i was finally able to compose myself I raced to my laptop and typed “Ronan” into Google. My world changed that day I could no longer just shake my head and think how sad when I saw the St. Jude commercials or the collection jars at the supermarket. I started doing research and was horrified when i found out how underfunded pediatric cancer research is. All the times I donated to American Cancer Society only 1 cent for every dollar went to pediatrics. Our kids are getting swept under the rug like a dirty secret. It seems like the world is whispering, “Shhh, If we don’t talk about it maybe no one will notice.”
Well, we have noticed, it is all around us, the world is full of scary things and we want to protect our children any way we can. Unfortunately, we can’t protect them from this we can kiss away their tears and try to make them smile but this isn’t just a scraped knee or them teased at school. This is the biggest bully they can face and no matter how much we whisper to them “It’ll be okay” we know this is one thing we can’t promise to save them from. There is nothing worse then knowing you can’t protect them. When I read that Maya was trying to get you guys to go gold for ONE day in September, sadly my first thought wasn’t this should be easy. My first thought was this is going to take some work to get noticed. What kind of world are we living in where we have to shout and send out petitions and trend worldwide on twitter to raise awareness for childhood cancer. You light up different colors for the dog shows and the Ninja Turtles movie premier. Are dogs and ninja turtles more important than our kids? In a way that is what it sounds like your saying.
I read the message that you don’t take requests from individuals just organizations. The Ronan Thompson Foundation is an organization and they along with thousands of others are begging, yes begging, you to change your mind and do what is right. Restore our faith in humanity and turn gold for one day. We are not a picky bunch, you choose the day in September. Just please light up gold. I am not one to beg or plead but I want to have kids one day and I don’t want to bring them into this world knowing that Cancer is a possibility for them. I want them to have endless possibilities for happiness and success. I want them to live spicy sparkly lives and I want to know that the possibility is there for all kids. We can’t save them all but we can try. We can try extra hard for those kids that didn’t get to reach their full potential. The one’s that we only saw fleeting glimpses of the outstanding things they were going to do. Help us make their lights continue to glow gold.
Be Bold Go Gold,
Dear Empire State Building,
My name is Payton. I am fifteen, almost sixteen. I have never been in the hospital. I do not have cancer. None of the people close to me have cancer. Still, I am a pediatric cancer advocate. I read the blog of Maya Thompson after I heard Taylor Swift’s song Ronan. This soon led to multiple children on Facebook, who I look for on my newsfeed everyday. One of these children is Lilly Bumpus. She’s a beautiful toddler, in remission. She suffers from side effects of the 75% adult strength chemo she was given. Seizures and tics, with no explanation. She has night terrors, about people coming in and waking her up in the middle of the night to check her vital signs.
I’m writing this from a hospital bed, as my appendix was just removed. So I can understand how the nighttime checks could scare someone so young. What just happened to me is nothing. Nothing, compared to what so many children go through. They live with IV needles and ports and constant pain. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to leave a needle in your vein for a long time, but it sucks. These children go through surgery and chemo, radiation and clinical trials. While we, as people who understand how horrible this disease is, fight for awareness, these kids, teenagers, and babies fight for their lives. In the US, 7 of them lose everyday. 46 are signed up to fight. Families are forced into this battle, for their kids. I cannot even imagine life without my little sister. Some of those siblings, whose brothers and sisters you refuse to represent, know what that life is like.
Maya Thompson’s older sons learned that at 8 years old. When his 1 year old sister got a black eye in a baby tumble, one of these boys asked his mom if baby Poppy was going to die. An 11 year old. Because he watched as cancer took his 3 year old brother. No child should ever have to fight cancer, no parent should ever have to lose a child to cancer, no sibling should ever have to watch this disease take their brother or sister. You don’t need to know someone closely. You just have to look around and realize how wrong these kids’ situation is. You just have to want to help them. To tell everyone, “pediatric cancer is wrongly underfunded, and we need awareness, so we can save these kids.”
Some people are pulled into this fight for their loved ones,and to make sure it never happens to someone else’s, but I fight for all of them. For Ronan and Lilly, Paxton and Mateo, Ellie and Alyna. I want you to light up gold, so in the future, Babies like Alyna, toddlers like Ro, and teens like Talia won’t die. So Lilly and Kaitlin and so many others can stay in remission. And Mateo and Ellie and every other kid facing cancer can win. Childhood cance is wrong. You don’t have to experience that to know it’s true.
Please light up gold,
It’s time to… #BeBoldGoGold!
Get your glitter on! We’re kicking off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a bang & a sparkle! Throughout September, we’re turning ourselves into spicy, gold human billboards for childhood cancer awareness and want YOU to join us! Welcome to the #BeBoldGoGold Challenge!
HOW IT WORKS:
-You deck yourself out in your gold bling or glitter—jewelry, clothes, facepaint, you name it, you rock it. You head out into a public place. Talk to at least one person about childhood cancer—tell them a fact, like that 46 are diagnosed with cancer every day. The goal is to raise awareness, so talk to as many people as you can & encourage them to take the #BeBoldGoGold Challenge
-Film/photograph your adventure, and tag us in it! We’re reposting submissions to our new #BeBoldGoGold Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. When you post your video/photo, nominate 3 people to carry out the challenge by tagging them. They have 48 hours after being tagged to get their gold on! Make sure to hashtag #BeBoldGoGold and #RTF.
-At the end of September, we’re giving a prize to whoever goes all out and makes the biggest impact (aka raises the most awareness)! We’ll also have #BeBoldGoGold shirts available to purchase (link coming soon). If you would prefer to donate instead of (or in addition to) the challenge, visit: http://www.theronanthompsonfoundation.com/ & share the link.
The Challenge kicks off August 29th… stay gold!
I have been in the middle of writing on my blog for weeks now, but I have had so much to say that my post has gotten insanely long. I was going to try to finish it tonight, but between being so wiped out because all of my babes are sick this week, book writing, and very little sleep… I don’t know if it is going to happen. I also now have to write a blog post about something that I am VERY upset about which is going to cut into my updating you all even more. In the past, I have requested to have the Empire State Building lit up Gold for one night during the month of September to shine awareness on childhood cancer. My requests have always been denied for some really lame ass reasons. They light it up for pretty much every cause out there, but apparently childhood cancer is not good enough to be one of them. Last night it was lit up green for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Go turtles!) Seriously, WTF? You can light it up for a movie, but not real life heroes like kids who are fighting cancer??
I am LIVID and I am in the middle of writing a “DEAR EMPIRE STATE BUILDING” blog post, but I am not sure if I will have the stamina to finish it tonight. I am not the only one upset about this. The whole childhood cancer community is in an uproar and is blasting this all over social media, but whomever is running the social media for the Empire State Building keeps deleting all posts related to why they should go gold for one night during the month of September. I am going to leave you with this post tonight, written by somebody else until I can finish my own. We need to get moving on this. We need them to do the right thing and change their minds. I know the hard way how little attention childhood cancer gets. My son died because of it. Lack of awareness equals lack of funds and lack of funds is why childhood cancer is the number one disease killer in America.
Please help us out in whatever way you can. Make phone calls to the media about this, leave comments on the Empire State Building’s Facebook Page, Tweet this, anything you can think of to let them know that we are not going to just go away. Our kids fighting cancer do not have a voice. It is up to us as adults to advocate for them. Please use the hashtag #empiregogold. I truly believe if we all come together, they will do the right thing.
WHY THE FUCK IS THIS SO COMPLICATED? ALL I WANT IN THE LIFE BESIDES MY SON BACK IS FOR NO OTHER CHILD TO EVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH WHAT RONAN WENT THROUGH AND NO OTHER PARENT TO HAVE TO KNOW WHAT LIFE ON THIS EARTH IS LIFE BECAUSE THEIR CHILD IS DEAD.
Childhood Cancer needs all the awareness it can get, otherwise things are never going to change and that is just an unacceptable world to live in. I won’t stand for that and anybody that knows anything about this world, shouldn’t either.
Thank you all always for all that you do. This is a war that cannot be won alone. New York is my favorite city in the world and I am truly hoping this can be turned around in a positive way.
I promise to post soon. If Poppy will get off my boob so I can actually finish typing. For now, read this. Get mad, get angry, don’t stand back and do nothing. Please. I am begging you.