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,
About a year ago, a formal application was sent in on behalf of The Ronan Thompson Foundation requesting that one night be lit up Gold to bring awareness to all types of childhood cancer. You see, my son Ronan, died just shy of his 4th birthday from Neuroblastoma, which is one of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer out there. The awareness color for Neuroblastoma is Purple and also just happened to be Ronan’s favorite color. When I filled out the application, it didn’t even cross my mind to ask the Empire State Building to be lit up Purple in honor of my son or any other child out there who had died from this particular form of cancer. I instantly wrote down Gold because it represented ALL 46 children who are diagnosed each day and ALL 7 of them who will die from this disease every single day, as well as the survivors. The color Gold represents all these kids, together creating an umbrella the world of Childhood Cancer so very much needs. You can imagine how heartbroken I was to get our application back to see that it had been denied. To whomever the person was that had to check that box off and make that decision, left me filled with so many questions.
How was this decision made and why? Did the people making this decision really know and understand the world of childhood cancer? Had they ever stepped foot on a children’s oncology floor? Did they know childhood cancer is the number one disease killer in America of our kids? That it kills more children than Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes and Pediatric AIDS combined? How over the past 20 years, only two new pediatric cancer drugs have been approved and how these kids receive hand me down adult chemos instead? How less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute Budget goes toward Pediatric Cancer Research? How these babies, toddlers, teenagers and young adults are repeatedly ignored in this world and many of them are too little to have a voice of their own? Maybe these childhood cancer statistics were well-known, but seemed so overwhelming and sad that nobody at the Empire State Building wanted to step up to take on this issue. I have heard from others before that childhood cancer is just “too sad,” and watched as they went back to living their lives of looking the other way. You know what else is “too sad?” That because of this kind of thinking, most of these kids will continue to be diagnosed and die just like my son due to the lack of awareness. Awareness that you could have helped raise with the sixteen million colored LED light system you had installed just to help out important causes such as this. Instead in the past you have chosen to light it up for “causes” such as a Westminster Dog Show, football games, the release of a Mariah Carey Album, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25th Anniversary. All of these past applications were approved, but why not the many that have been sent in from all the different childhood cancer organizations? Why would you not light up for a cause that would help bring awareness and save children’s lives? Are you really going to tell me that a blockbuster movie or the release of a new album is more important than these kids who deserve to grow up and have a future? Are you really going to tell me a dog show is more important than my son? I would really like a face to face meeting with the person who could look this broken-hearted mother in the eye and tell me that. By NOT lighting up the Empire State Building in Gold, that is pretty much what you just did. You basically just told me my son did not matter. I am here to tell you he DID and he DOES.
Maybe if you were to really hear a story, a true story you would change your mind. Meet Ronan. Ronan the absolute love of my life (as well as my other 3 kids that I am lucky enough to still have). Ronan was born healthy and grew into a little boy who would stop people dead in their tracks because of his drop dead gorgeous looks and huge blue eyes. Beyond his looks, he was a soulful little boy who lived his life being fearless, wild and free. I nicknamed him my “spicy little monkey” due to his feisty personality. For the first three 3 years of Ronan’s life, he was perfectly healthy. We lived a beautiful life where childhood cancer didn’t even cross our minds because the lack of awareness left us ignorant and blissfully blind. During the time Ronan was here any healthy, we had no idea that September was Childhood Cancer Awareness month or that Gold was the awareness color. We were not aware until we had to be aware and that is one of the biggest problems that childhood cancer is facing today; that nobody is aware of the epidemic that it really is, until it happens to them or someone close to them.
Ronan’s diagnoses came out of nowhere. One minute he was running around acting like a normal three-year old boy and the next minute we found ourselves at our local hospital where we were told Ronan had Stage IV Neuroblastoma. As you can imagine our world was turned upside down and we were thrown into a world that I would not wish on my worst enemy. The sad and scary, dark world of childhood cancer that people like you, are just not talking about. A treatment plan was put into place for Ronan as we consulted with the best hospitals and doctors in the world for the specific type of cancer he had. In the beginning, I was filled with so much hope as I was just sure my son was going to survive. There was no way my son was not going to beat this and there was no way his story was not going to be a statistical success. Ronan dying was just not an option. At first his cancer responded very well to the adult poison that was supposedly saving his life. We made it through the first five rounds of chemo and the scans showed major improvement. It was only after the scan right before he was set to go into stem cell transplant that we would come to find out he had too much cancer left in his body to continue on with the treatment plan our doctors had mapped out for us. That course of treatment was no longer working, so a new plan had to be put into place to save my baby’s life. We ended up back in your city at Sloan Kettering where Ronan had been just a few months earlier while we had the base tumor removed out of his abdomen. Ronan and I fell in love with New York together during our time out there. It made us braver, stronger and filled us with so much hope that he was going to beat the odds. I was convinced between our doctors, your city and the unbreakable bond between a mother and a child, Ronan would surely come out of this as a survivor. We started Ronan on a different more aggressive chemotherapy which left us inpatient at Sloan Kettering for 28 days. Soon after that we were told Ronan’s cancer was no longer responding to chemo and I had to walk out of Sloan Kettering, clutching onto my child knowing that his life was going to end. Please stop right here for just a minute. Close your eyes and repeat that last sentence while placing yourself in my shoes. I do not want to explain to you how horrific of a moment that was for me, so the best I can do is ask that you just imagine it and then try to go on about your day.
I often felt as though Ronan was being experimented on like a lab rat and I didn’t understand why more strides hadn’t been made in the world of childhood cancer. I quickly learned it was because childhood cancer seemed to be a dirty little secret that nobody wanted to talk about. If nobody is telling the story of childhood cancer, research is not being done because the funding is just not there. Without the proper funds, cures will not be found and these kids will just continue have the same outcomes that they are now, which are grim at best. I proudly stood by Ronan’s side for 8 months and often times I felt so broken, tired and weak to continue on. I would often look to him for strength. His little light would inspire me to get back up and continue to fight. Even after all the awful chemo, surgeries, radiation, vomiting, “pokies”, broviac dressing changes that would leave him screaming, “I NOT A BRAVE BOY!!!,” he always held his head with such pride and dignity, never wanting to show me how scared he really was. It was as if he knew that not only did I need his strength then, but I would need it for the years to come when I would have to live this life without him. After eight months of watching Ronan fight with everything he had, I started to see the way that cancer had eaten away at his little body, leaving him a shell of what he once was. Ronan died just three days before his fourth birthday. Right before he left, I made him a promise. I promised him that I would continue to fight for him harder than ever until the world of childhood cancer changed in a very big way. That means more awareness, more research, more funding and more cures. I never want another child or parent to go though what we have had to go through. Ronan deserved better. All the other kids out there who are dealing with this, deserve better. Things have to change and until they do, I plan on fighting the only way I know how. The way that Ronan taught me– by being as spicy and fearless as possible.
This brings me back to why this whole post got started in the first place — that little lighting request that got denied. September is right around the corner and through social media, I started to hear the soft little roars from other parents in the childhood cancer community who had requested the same thing, only to be denied. One from an individual, and quite of few from other childhood cancer non-profits. These soft little roars soon started to become louder and louder and it seemed as if the entire world (at least in my mind) finally cared about this very important issue. A social media campaign was launched with the hashtag #empiregogold. Thousands of people started voicing their opinions on this matter to any and all social media pages of the Empire State Building. They became outraged when they noticed that their posts about anything childhood cancer awareness related, started to disappear as well as pictures of their children. Children who were currently in treatment and even the one’s who had sadly died from this horrific beast. It was a slap in the face to the many of us that are trying to change this. It was as if once again, our children didn’t matter and this “dirty little secret” was expected to be buried and die. The community of the childhood cancer world was not going to stand for it. After a week of the Empire State Building doing nothing to address the cries of thousands of people, an official statement was finally released:
The Empire State Building makes the following statement on behalf of its employees.
Recently, an individual requested a tower lighting for childhood cancer awareness. It is clearly stated on our Lighting Partner Application on our website that the Empire State Building does not accept lighting requests from individuals. A social media campaign has been launched to lobby for this individual’s request with a false pretense: that the Empire State Building does not care about children with cancer. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In support of organizations which help people suffering from this terrible disease around the globe, the Empire State Building has provided lighting for “World Cancer Day” in partnership with the American Cancer Society, whose mission is to eliminate all types of cancer; for breast cancer awareness, with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; for blood cancer research, with DKMS Delete Blood Cancer; and for pediatric cancer treatment and research, with St. Jude’s Hospital.
Sadly, there are over 200 different forms of cancer—in addition to all of the other diseases and tragedies for which we receive Lighting Partnership Applications. Each of us has a personal cause which is important, and many of our employees have had direct personal experience of loss from cancer as well as other personal health tragedies.
The Empire State Building is making this statement because this social media campaign has become abusive. Empire State Building employees have been personally attacked on the phone and harassed by e-mail and the internet by people who do not know them with profanity, threats, bullying and, perhaps the worst, wishes that they “get cancer.”
The Empire State Building is privately owned. All Lighting Partnership requests go through an application review process. There is no lighting in 2014 for organizations which address childhood cancer. Organizations which behave responsibly may newly apply for a Lighting Partnership in 2015 and future years.
I read this on Sunday when I was trying to take a break from all of this madness. I only wanted to enjoy watching my 11-year-old twins play basketball. My twins who play their hearts out for their dead little brother who will never get the chance to do so. You want a prime example of how kids turn out to be so great? It’s in the eyes of my twin boys who know too much pain and sadness due to the death of their baby brother. They go forth in everything they do carrying the brother that they loved more than anything on earth with them because he is no longer here. So, on the days that I have to wipe the tears out of my 11-year-old eyes as he is standing on the court getting ready to play in the big game as he looks up at me and says, “I wish Ronan were here to see me play…” I somehow have to muster up the strength not to vomit all over the court but instead kiss his forehead, wipe his face and say to him, “I promise you he is watching everything you do and he is so proud.”
The Sunday that I read the official response from the Empire State Building, I felt my knees go weak and the color drain from my face just in time to see my 11 year old’s team WIN the fucking championship game. The one that their baby brother should have been watching from team bench. This is not the reality of just my family, but it is also the reality of so many others. Childhood cancer is not going to go away and until it starts to get the awareness it so desperately needs, it is not going to change or improve. Your official response is a shining example of the major problem facing kids fighting cancer. People think that when they give money to a huge corporate cancer charity, they are helping the very kids they see on those coin jars and posters. Unfortunately, the truth is much different. Please see the following article penned by Jonathan Agin in the Huffington Post last year. The American Cancer Society that you partnered with, pretty much does NOTHING for our children except use their shiny bald heads as a ploy to receive donations. I guarantee you when you mentioned that you had partnered with the American Cancer Society, all the parents in the world of childhood cancer felt like they had just been slapped across the face, including myself.
I am going to wrap this up here because if I do not, this will turn into novel that I do not want to write. Just know that I have watched my son and his fight, inspire millions of the most amazing human beings on the planet. I have seen kids, teenagers, tweens, young adults, grown adults, grandparents from not only the United States, but all over the world come together to move these mountains. All because of Ronan his little friends that you have chosen to ignore, in 2014 at least. Maybe in 2015, you will change your minds and light up the Empire State Building gold like so many of us have requested. If not, I am not worried as it seems so many others are stepping up to the plate due to the harsh stance you have taken. ( I FREAKING LOVE YOU TIMES SQUARE!!!) I think you may have underestimated the advocates of childhood cancer community just a tad bit. We are not the bully’s you made us out to be. We are simply just people trying to change a very dark world and give it the little bit of golden light to help it grow and change. We are simply trying to give these kids, OUR kids a future and a chance so they can grow up to do the amazing things that I know my son would have done. It really is as simple as thinking, “What if this were my child?” If it were your child, you would want the best awareness, funding, and treatments possible so you would not have to kiss their urn every night instead of tucking them into bed.
Speaking of bed, I have to go to mine as it is now early in the morning. Goodnight, Empire State Building. You would look so good in the color Gold.
Goodnight, Ronan. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.
P.S. Please excuse any typos as I have not had much sleep due to obsessing about this little world I am trying to fix. Even though my son may be dead, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight just as hard for him as I would for my other kids who I actually get to tuck in and kiss goodnight. I also just miss my son so very much.
P.P.S We are having our 3rd Annual Gold Party September 27th at the W Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. Do you want to come and just make a big fat donation instead? All the money we raise does not go to anyone on our board as none of us take paychecks and we don’t have any employees. Instead, it goes towards helping fund the clinical trials these kids so desperately need. It’s a really fun party and I won’t even throw you in the pool at the end. Well, unless you want me to… you should have seen last year.
I just want to take a minute on here and say thank you to all of you. After being away for the summer, I came home to piles and piles of mail, gifts for Poppy, checks for the foundation, and I even got glitter bombed after opening up a box. You all make me smile, laugh, and cry on a daily basis and although I can’t write each and every one of you thank you’s… please know that I am doing it here, and I say thank you to you all about 100 times a day in my head.
There are so many amazing things going on. If you have a second, please read about what the amazing Jim Fry is doing below.
If you have the means, please donate to his fundraiser. Every little cent helps. If you don’t have the means, please spread the word for us. What Jim is doing is inspiring and so moving. Even with all of his determination, he knows it is nothing compared to what these kids go through and that is the most moving thing of all.
I feel a movement happening in the world. One that I am so touched by. I’ve literally received thousands and thousands of emails and letters from not only adults everywhere, but kids as well. Kids who I swear are going to change this world of pediatric cancer. They are holding fundraisers for Ronan, starting clubs at their schools, writing reports about the lack of awareness out there, doing amazing school projects about Ronan’s foundation, writing songs for him, doing their birthday parties and instead of gifts they are asking for donations instead, etc…. I live for the youth of America. I live for these kids who are going to grow up to do amazing things all because of a little boy they learned about because he will never get the chance. And they know that is so wrong and how it could happen to anyone; even them. They aren’t scared and running the other way. They are being proactive about this very broken world and to me, the mother of a child who died from this… that means everything.
I got sent a little poem from a 13-year-old girl named Eugenia. She had a class assignment and it was to describe a room and explain how the objects in the room say things about the person living in it. She chose to do it about my bedroom. The poem is below.
The light on at night illuminates how she doesn’t sleep well thinking about how she feels it’s her fault
The athletic shoes next to the door jog the idea that she runs to clear her mind
The pictures of her son all over the room visualize how they were close and that she misses him like crazy
His little bald head in the photos discloses that his life was a hard one even though it was short
His toys on the floor play out his innocence; how he was taken too young at 3 years old
The boxes of tissues whisper about how she spends every day crying over him
The spot on her bed between her and her husband portrays that he would sleep in their bed
The urn on her night stand murmurs that they keep him close and never let him go
The necklace around her neck filled with some of his ashes witnesses how she needs to keep him close to survive
The letters of apologies opened and unopened spell out how many loved ones he had
The bracelets with his name on them tie up the fact that they are trying to spread the word of this horrible disease
The computer on the floor next to the bed reminds us how she needs her blog to express her emotions of grief and pain and tell his story
The sonogram under the pillow wet with tears of joy and despair portraits how her new baby will be a girl; he always said he wanted a little sister
The deep sad look in her eyes sends the message to us that even on the happiest of days she will always be sad because her life is incomplete without him.
For Maya and Ro. Always for Ro.
This 13-year-old gets me better than most adults. As I read the words above, the tears just poured to the floor. I thought it was so heartfelt and beautiful. I am so moved by this younger generation of kids and the way they are helping move these mountains. Thank you, E. Don’t let anyone every dull your sparkle;) You are making this world a better place.
I’ve got to run now and work on this book.
I hope you all are well and please know that I know, that I would not be where I am today, without you. Thank you for helping me to fight for my little boy so much so that his name will never get lost.
I’ve still been really tired, but really busy. I’ve tried to take it easy. I had dinner last night with Tricia and Marisa. My two oldest friends from my oldest most perfect life that no longer exist. It has been hard to be around them since going through all of this. Hard because I know they loved you in a way that a lot of people didn’t just because of the fact that they knew you so well. It’s hard to see that raw pain in their eyes that looks a lot like my own. They both know about this baby. Marisa was one of the first people I called to tell. She is my go to gal on all things related to pregnancy. She was ecstatic over the phone, but it was even better to see her in person. She gave me a long hard hug with tears in her eyes. She gave me the listen here talk which consisted of things like, “Now, I’m here to tell you, we need to be a part of this baby. You can’t push us away anymore. I am here to say, I will stalk you at your doctor appointments, your house, the hospital…. you have to let us be a part of this. We all need this. This is such a good, positive thing for all of us. Our friendship needs this. We are not going anywhere. We are taking over.” I giggled, got teary eyed and quietly listened to my friend do what she does best which is be a jewish mother hen/best friend. I told her I knew. That of course I would let them be a part of this. I miss them so much. I told Marisa I know she has stepped back and given me my space, but I never thought she went away. Believe me. I know what it feels like to have people go away, Ro. A lot of people that used to be in my life, have. I don’t know if it’s due to the uncomfortableness of this. Due to not knowing what to do/say/or how to act. Due to me pushing. Or a combo of all things. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is I know who is here for the long haul. The good the bad and the worst. I’ve always known our Little M was in this for everything, no matter what. I have missed my friend so much. It was a 3 hour dinner that was very much needed. I could have stayed tucked in our little table all night long with the two of them. It was a really, really good dinner. They talk about you so much, too. They are not afraid to speak your name. I so need that. I means everything to me.
Your Liam asked me today how a baby got inside my stomach. Ummm…… this was is not a story I am ready to explain to my 9-year-old. I just reacted with the first thing that came to my mind which was, “A stork.” Liam looked at me and goes, “What’s that?” Crap. Kids don’t know about storks these days. I said, “It’s a bird that leaves a baby on the porch of the house.” Liam rolled his eyes at me and goes, “That’s not true.” “You’re right, that’s not true,” I said. I then responded with, “I asked Ronan for a baby. I told him I thought it would be really nice for all of us if we could have a baby in our family.” Shit. I hope this works I thought to myself in my head. Liam just looked at me and goes, “O.k. That was really nice of him to do.” YES! I smiled at your brother. I couldn’t believe that answer worked. Saved by your Romazingness once again.
Holy hell. I am so glad this secret is out. I have hated keeping this in. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to talk about things on here! I was so nervous to post for some reason. You all are the SWEETEST. Your kind words have truly made my night. Thanks for all the support and love, with everything. I can’t believe I have not gotten any nasty comments yet. That NEVER happens! It’s nice to know that the kind-hearted people out weigh the mean/sad people by far. You all are truly the best. Oh, and thank you to the man that came up to me today at Chelsea’s Kitchen. He was someone I didn’t know, but said he recognized me and wanted to tell me how this blog has changed his life and made him such a better dad. I never get dad’s that come up to me! It’s always moms. It meant so much to me and truly made my day. Thank you Chelsea’s Kitchens stranger:)
That was yesterday, Ro baby. Today, is here and I am beat. I woke up today, so tired. I didn’t sleep well last night. Too many things swirling through my head. I had another golf lesson today. My giant boobs are becoming a handicap and interfering with my game. Just when I was getting really good…. my professional golfing dreams might have to be put on hold. My sweet instructor tried to convince me otherwise though. We talked a lot about you today and this new baby. She said she was sick to learn of all I had been through. I told her I knew, that everybody was sick over the loss of you. My lesson was great but my energy was zapped after I left there. This baby does not like the heat. I came home to try to rest. My phone kept buzzing with text messages and emails. I had too much to do to slow down for the afternoon so I sucked it up and got a lot of things done. I was on my way over to see Katie when I pulled over to stop at A.J.’s to get us some drinks. I got a text message from Robyn, Ezra’s mom who has now become someone that I treasure so much, that knowing she is in pain, the same way that I am, destroys me. Ezra’s fourth birthday is this Friday. She should be planning it not thinking about what she is going to do, on his birthday to survive the day. She should be playing with her twin 2 and a half years olds, not just one of them. We both decided that life should not go on after this. I told her this life is a death sentence, where we are forced to stay alive. I went to go into the store, reached for my wallet and pulled out a bag of your ashes instead. This caused me to go into complete hysteria and have a total breakdown in my car where I couldn’t breathe or stop screaming and crying through my tears. I forced myself to go into A.J.s. I didn’t have my sunglasses to hide my blood-shot eyes but I didn’t care. Iced Tea’s or bust. I made it out alive, but I went in armed with my FUCK YOU stamp that my friend from Australia, Ali, sent me. I was going to stamp it on anybody that got the way of a grieving mom who should have been carrying a 5 year-old on her hip, not his ashes in her purse.
I spent the rest of the day with Katie and a got a surprise visit from Mandy Bee who just happened to stop by The Garage while I was there. We caught up and made some plans for a little event we are doing on September 20th. I’ll talk about that later as I am wiped out tonight from this day. G’nite baby doll. Sweet dreams. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe. Have a good party with Ezra on Friday. I know you two will do something extra spicy. I miss you so much.
Calling All RUNNERS! The Ronan Thompson Foundation is an Official Charity of the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon! Want to be a part of the Rockstar Run on Jan 20, 2013? $165 entry fee and $1,000 minimum fundraising requirement (easy!). We’ll register for you and even get you a fancy fundraising page. Details to come! You can do the half or the full. Thank you for all the love and support! Let’s all run for Ro and these kids, together!!
Ronan. I had a lot to get done today. A lot of stupid, everyday stuff. I had a my little Mandy Bee, to help me get my things done. Sometimes I need help. This little Bee knows it without me even having to ask. Even if it’s just things like going to the post office, picking up dry cleaning, etc… This little Bee swoops in, drives me around, helps me with all of my little chores because some days, even the littlest things, seem like big things to me. That’s how it was today. I walked into Walgreens with this little Bee. I ran into an old friend of mine. One that has quietly been waiting for me, on the sidelines. The last time I saw her, you were sick. She’s been reaching out to me, but from a distance which I so appreciate. It was pure alignment of the stars, that I ran into her when I did. She was sitting in a chair, waiting for a prescription. It took her a minute to recognize me as I was in my best undercover Fedora Forever 21 hat like I love to wear, when I am feeling in a piss off world kind of mood. I looked at her, without saying anything for a minute. As soon as she recognized me, she got up to give me a hug. I stood with her for a while. I nuzzled into her neck and started to cry. Mandy Bee swooped into grab the items I was carrying, before I dropped them.
We fell into a rushed/emotional talk. I then said to her, “I’m leaving tomorrow. What are you doing, tonight?” We made plans to meet up and to catch up. I had a lot of shit to do, tonight, but I didn’t care. I needed some time with my Janet. We met up. It was as if no time had passed at all yet the entire world had changed. I caught her up on things. She knows the outside of my world like a lot of people do, due to reading this blog, but tonight I got to sit down with her and catch her up on my inside world. She made me laugh with her great stories of me and how we first met. I had forgotten the details as my memory is still long gone with most things in my life that happened in the past. I was telling her all of my crazy ideas about what it is I want to do for you. She just looked at me and said, “Do you remember how you met me??” I said, “Yeah. You were one of my professors. I was one of your students….” She goes, “Oh my god. You really don’t remember? You don’t remember how the course I was teaching was closed, due to it being all full of students? How you tracked me down, on campus, and begged me to let you into my class?” I just looked at her and said, “Ummm, no. I don’t remember that at all.” She goes, “Maya. This is how I know you are going to get this done. I told you, NO, that my class was full and I was not going to let you into it. You didn’t even give me an option. You somehow made me change my mind and open up one more spot for you. I did not want to. I even thought to myself, GOD, this girl is annoying. But you wouldn’t take no for an answer. And I told you no, more than once.” I smiled at Janet. “Yeah… I guess I kind of remember that now. A little bit.” The memory of this is still faint but I can remember parts of it. Janet went on to say, “You told me that I wouldn’t be sorry. You gave me some sassy pants attitude that you would be the BEST student that I had ever seen. Something in your eyes made me believe you. I knew there was something different about you. And so I finally agreed to let you into my class. And you know what, you were my best student. You sat in the front row of every class. You kept all your promises. You were my star student. One of the best I’ve ever had.”
I giggled at Janet’s memory. I guess after being in her class for a while, I also made her agree to go to lunch with me, even after she told me that she did not interact with her students, outside of school. I somehow got her agree to go to lunch with me and after that, our student/teacher friendship flew out the window. We became very close friends. The last time she saw you, we went to Chelsea’s Kitchen. I think you were still pretty little, but I remember you being such a handful even back then. In the best way possible, of course. I have no idea, where you got that from:)
Our dinner tonight turned into a 3 hour dinner. I listened to Janet tell me how proud she was of me for all I am doing. I let her words sink in. I listened to her advice as I have always admired the things that have come out of her mouth. Her words mean a lot to me. They always have. As we were leaving, some man who had been sitting by us for most of the night, was telling us goodbye. He got the gist of your story due to his overly curious mind/really wanted Janet’s phone number. He told me he was sorry about you and he thought it was really great what I was doing. I just looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’m here to fuck cancer, in the ass.” True statement. Those are the words that came flying out of my mouth. I don’t think he knew quite what to make of my statement which in turn, made me giggle. My filter did not exist tonight, in that moment. This is just how I am. Love me or leave me. Take me as I am or let me go. I am o.k. with all of it.
I have one more little thing to say tonight. I don’t have a high tolerance, for listening to people complain about stupid shit in their lives anymore. Stupid shit such as, ” I am so stressed. I have this party to go to. I have this many errands to run. My kid has an ear infection. I didn’t get time to go to the gym. My life is so busy, stressed, awful and my kids are driving me crazy.” If you complain about this stuff, I can guarantee you, I will shut down. I will not say a word to you because I have mentally checked out. I have already written you off for the time being. I am not doing this to be mean or hurtful. I am doing this because all I am trying to do, is survive. I cannot exist in a world full of pretend problems. I don’t have the mental capacity to handle that. If you think I am being harsh or unfair… please take a second to read this. I think you will better be able to understand, what it is, that I am saying. This is from my friend, Ava’s caring bridge tonight. If I sometimes come off too harsh, jaded or unfair… you only need to read these words to understand why. My heart is sad, heavy and broken. I am so sorry to Christie, Ava, and her family. Nobody deserves this.
Please Pray for Ava
Written 7 hours ago by Chrisie Funari
i am sorry – I have bad news. This is so hard to sit here and type. I just got home from the hospital and am exhausted – we all are – nothing in comparison to Ava. Ava’s scans show that she has a lot of new progressive disease in the front part of her right brain, her esophagus/chest, pelvis and stomach area and in her spine. This is in addition to the disease she already had – her brain tumor and her tumor on left pelvis. This new disease did not show up on her scans 6 weeks ago – or on her follow up ct scan just 3 weeks ago. So, it means this new disease is growing rapidly. Ava got extubated last night at midnight. It is almost indescribable what it feels like to watch your child go through that. She will continue on daily dialysis and the goal is to keep her comfortable and keep her pain under control. Ava’s body is not able to handle any cancer treatments as her kidney’s are just not working. She has zero urine output and her legs and stomach are swollen since they are full of fluid. Her doctor said we would come up with a plan of care next week. Ava continues to be in pain so this afternoon she was hooked up to a morphine pain pump and she seems a lot more comfortable. We are so saddened by all of this and thank you for your continued support and prayers. We are taking it one day at a time.
-Is this what is going on, in your life? If not, shut up and be thankful for all the fucking soccer practices, ear infections, homework and graduations that you have going on. Seriously. I feel like I sound like a broken record. If you are going to complain about things that you should be thankful for, please be kind enough not to do it around me. Please continue to keep Ava in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever else it is, you might do. Then get up and go hug and kiss your kids because you are so fucking lucky, to have them. Reading Christies words ripped me to shreds. I know them all too well.
Ronan. Please take care of Ava. I can’t sleep tonight. It’s now 2 a.m. I have not been able to stop thinking about Ava, all week, but today she has been on my mind, all day long. I don’t like this world I live in now. I would like to go back to the world of unicorns, rainbows and puppy dogs where childhood cancer, does not exist. How many kids are going to have to go through something like this, before something is done? I am trying really hard to work as fast as I can, but it is not fast enough. This should not have happened to you, Ava, or the thousands of other kids I am hearing about. Enough is enough. I love you, baby boy. I love you. I miss you. I am so very sorry. I hope you are safe. Sweet dreams, baby doll.
The update is we are coming home tomorrow. I am scrambling, have been scrambling for a couple of days now, mentally, I was not ready to go back to Arizona. I feel like I’ve taken these past couple of days to get my mind wrapped around coming home. I feel like I am ready now. Who am I kidding, I am not ready at all. Everything about this trip has been so positive and I am beyond sad to leave earlier than expected, but we cannot fight the COG on this. The COG is the Children’s Oncology Group and they are who is charge of Ronan being on study. We have to stay on study, we want to stay on study, because we really are hoping that Ronan is going to be chosen for 2 stem cell transplants, instead of one. If we go off of study, we won’t have any chance of getting a second transplant, and after the research we’ve done, we really feel like this will increase his chances of survival. So, in a nutshell, the COG is bigger than the doctors and we just have to follow their rules. Hard for me because I really just want to give them the middle finger. I just want what is best for Ronan, and as I said before, I feel like letting him heal fully here is what he needs. But things change and now we are coming home.
Also, Ronan has developed an infection in his broviac line. He has been spiking fevers the past few days and they thought it was just due to surgery, but they tested his blood and one of the cultures came back positive. This is a minor bump in the road considering all we have been through. It is something that Sloan has under control and has been reassuring me that it is something that is treatable with antibiotics. Well, they started the first dose of antibiotics last night and as I was holding Ronan, I looked down and his entire head was red and he started itching it like crazy and screaming bloody murder. I looked at Mace and Tricia who were both white as a sheet and said, “Call the nurse, he’s having a reaction.” Sure enough, I was told, he had developed what they call “Red Man Syndrome” to the Vancomycin. The nurse came rushing in and told me they would start him on Benadryl to get rid of the reaction. I was pissed. I wanted to know why in the world I wasn’t told that this could possibly happen, and I was informed that it happens to about 60/70 percent of the kids that get this antibiotic. Gee, I wish somebody would have told me this little piece of information, just so I could have been aware of it instead of being scared to death because I did not know what was going on with my child. What if he would have stopped breathing or something?!? We were soon able to get it under control and thank god for Dr. Maze, who I was texting during this entire thing. He took the time to calm me down and explain everything to me. We had a not so good nurse last night who did not seem to know anything and seemed very nervous about all the questions that were flying her way. Other than that, the nurses have been incredible and so has the care. Last night was rough but we got it under control and were able to get Ronan settled down and back to sleep. His fevers have stopped and we will get one dose of his antibiotic tomorrow at 7 a.m. with the Benadryl before, which takes 2 hours. We will hop on our flight after we see Dr. La Quaglia and as soon we land in Phoenix we will have to go right to PCH so we can check in and get Ronan’s second dose of the antibiotic. He has to have it twice a day for about 10 days. All of the doctors here have reassured me that we can still start his chemo, even with the infection, as long as his fever does not come back. I’m even more mad about having to leave here now. How mad is Ronan going to be knowing that we are going home, but don’t really get to go “home” and he has to stay at PCH for about 10 days. It would have been so much easier to stay here. STUPID COG. If you can’t tell I’m a wreck. My anxiety is through the roof and my nerves are shot after these past couple of days.
I sent out an email yesterday to somebody who shall remain nameless, asking if there was any possible way they could fly us privately back home. Part of my panicking was the thought of putting Ronan on a flight. Within the hour, I got an email back, and then a phone call saying, absolutely, they could get us back to Phoenix on their private jet. No worries that is was so last minute, no questions asked, they were just so happy to help. I cannot say thank you enough to you, SB and Mr. B. You have just given us such an amazing gift in helping with keeping Ronan healthy. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and I can’t wait for the day that I can personally thank you with a big hug and one of Ronan’s famous smiles. We are beyond grateful that there are such kind people in the world out there like yourselves. O.K…. SB….. I know you said no more thank you’s so I’ll stop. After one more huge, THANK YOU!!!
Last night was one of the most heart wrenching/fucked up/hilariously funny nights that I have ever had in my LIFE. Tricia and Macy (who now by the way are in LOVE with each other;))stayed at the hospital with me until about 1 a.m. Macy picked up Thai food (which was to die for) and we got some bottles of Sangria to go and smuggled them into Sloan. While Ronan slept, we ate, talked, laughed, cried, and laughed some more. Macy and Tricia got to see what my world is like on a day to day basis. Macy was bawling half of the time which in turn made me cry and our poor sweet roommate…. she had a crisis with a bloody nose, throwing up blood, and she was scared to death. She is the most beautiful 11 year old girl that I have ever met and she is fighting bone cancer. She has had 17 rounds of chemo and surgery on her leg. It was a privilege to share a room with her and her amazing mom. I tried to help with the bloody nose situation, since I have been there many times with Ronan. I went over and I tried to explain it to her and to calm her down but I wanted to just curl up and die. Her mom was on her bed holding her while her little girl sat and told me how tired she is of being sick, how much pain she is in and how scared she is. I started bawling, and when I finally went back to my side of the room, Tricia and Macy were bawling as well. In the 3 days that we spent with this little girl I heard her talk about all the things she appreciates in life and how she is so thankful for her “good days.” She is wise beyond her years and stronger than most adults. One of the most beautiful, inspiring, souls I have ever met with an amazing family who will no doubt, get her through this. Tricia, Macy and I bonded over so many things last night and Macy is now without a doubt, a friend for life.
I got all of our stuff packed up today while Tricia stayed at the hospital with Ronan. I came back to Sloan and Trish ran out to do some things. She is probably in the middle of cleaning our room at the RMH so we can be all ready to go tomorrow. Thank you, TT~ I don’t know what I would do without you. Macy came by to say good-bye to us and left me with a card. After she left, I opened it up and started to cry just from the words on the front of it. I’m an emotional wreak tonight. Ronan is depressed and told me tonight with his lip quivering, that he misses his brothers so much. Tomorrow is going to be awful. All Ro wants to do is to be home with Liam and Quinn but he can’t. I’m not even sure that the boys’ can come to PCH to visit due to it being RSV season. UGH. I don’t even want to think about how much Ronan’s heart is going to break going from one hospital to the next. Poor baby.
Tonight I say good-bye to New York with a heavy heart. I’m scared to go back to reality and back to my real world… I’m scared I’m going to lose the Maya that I have found while being in this city. As crazy as this sounds, this trip was one of the best trips of my life. Knowing that Ronan came here with a big job to do and it was so successful and positive, is maybe why it seems so hard to leave. I’m sure most of this is just my anxiety speaking. It will be wonderful to be home surround by my sweet twins, amazing husband, family and friends. I have missed you all dearly. I’ve just got to figure out how to keep this momentum going that I have found in this city. I will forever be in love with New York, Sloan Kettering, Dr. La Quaglia, Dr. Kusher, and the whole team of Neuroblastoma doctors. I will be back here next year to run the Marathon with Ronan in remission and waiting for me at mile 16. I love you New York! I feel so blessed to have had you heal myself and my baby!!
Goodnight world. Thanks for all of your love and support!!!