Ava Holder

  • Dear Lovely Little Blog Readers,

    I’ve had the chance to meet Ava and her mom, Chrisie, a few times. I have looked this little girl in the eyes and I have seen the fire that exists. She has endured so much and continues to fight like a rockstar. Ava’s family needs help as they start a new treatment in Texas as they have been left with no other options. Please take the time to read the letter written by Ava’s Grandmother below. If there is anything you can do, no matter how big or small, it would help so much. Please keep this little girl in your thoughts, prayers, or whatever it is you choose to do. Please take the time, to remember how lucky you are to have your babies safe and healthy. Please stop and cherish every single second you have with them. I’ll be talking to Ro today and asking him to watch over Ava and help her in any way he can.

    I love you all so much. Thank you for your endless love and support. Thank you for being grateful. Thank you for being the best version of yourself, that Ronan would give anything to be.

    Dear Friends and Family,
    I am writing this letter on behalf of my granddaughter, Ava Holder, who as many of you know is battling cancer. This February marks the 3rd anniversary of Ava’s diagnosis of Stage 4 High-Risk Neuroblastoma. Over the last 1,095 days Ava has had huge obstacles to overcome. Ava has never had a break in her treatment – it has been a constant for our family. It is remarkable that Ava has survived this disease and her treatments to this point. We were not sure Ava would make it to her 2nd birthday. Ava has relapsed in her brain 3 times and in her body several times. Ava is currently in the fight of her life with an inoperable brain tumor and a tumor on her pelvis.

    Doctors have given Ava limited treatment options as she has had her maximum amount of radiation and 17 cycles of high dose chemo which has required 2 stem cell rescues, 5 tumors removed from her brain, and 1 major resection surgery in her abdomen. Despite all this Ava is a vibrant four and a half year old who loves to ride her bike, play dress up, and most of all loves her big brother Eli. Ava looks forward to the future and has dreams to one day become a doctor and help kids just like her.

    Ava has never given up her fight and neither has her family. This February Ava with her family will travel to Houston, Texas where they will embark on an experimental trial that involves chemotherapy and a vaccine treatment. The year long trial consists of traveling to Houston every 2 weeks for the vaccine. The expense incurred over the next year will include airline travel, lodging, ground transportation, meals, and various medical expenses and copays plus any unforeseen costs. Total monthly costs are expected to exceed $2,000. These costs will be incurred every month for a year. Many of you have asked what you can do to help. Having a child with cancer is stressful. It takes it’s daily toll on you physically, emotionally and financially. Chrisie and Nick are so strong and have always handled the situation with such grace and dignity. They would never complain or ask for help themselves which is why I’m reaching out for them and my granddaughter.

    The expenses of associated costs surrounding Ava’s treatments will add up quickly. We have seen our friends and family come together in the past to help Ava but continue to be asked what can be done to help now. So I ask you, our friends and family, to assist financially Ava’s family with current travel and medical expenses. Any contribution is welcomed, no amount is too small.

    Thank you for your continued support and love. Please share this letter with others who have the ability to support Ava. Family updates can be viewed at:
    www.caringbridge.org/visit/avaholder

    All checks can be made payable to Ava’s parents. Chrisie and Nick have set up a savings account dedicated to Ava’s medical/travel expenses.

    Nick and Chrisie Funari
    18036 N 93rd Street
    Scottsdale AZ 85255

    With Great Love and Hope,

    Bruce and Sharon Elliasen
    Cell#602-432-2962

  • www.caringbridge.org

    Through CaringBridge, you can be a part of Ava’s health journey by reading updates, viewing photos and leaving messages of love, hope and compassion in the guestbook. Your support will mean the world to Ava.

A Rebel with a Cause and A Death Hike

Ronan. One of my blog readers called me a rebel with a cause. I LOVE this. I am a rebel. But a nice one. Unless you fuck me over, the way cancer has…. then you don’t want to mess with me. I do have a cause. A big one. It’s to stay here and keep going for you and all the other babes out there who are suffering from childhood cancer. I see your face in every single one of them. Why is America ignoring them? Why isn’t there more of a voice for these kids who are suffering from childhood cancer? Why isn’t the government stepping up to the plate? Why aren’t the schools taking a more pro active roll on educating our kids with awareness? Isn’t it their kids, that they are “educating,” who are sick and dying? You were one of their kids. And you got cancer and died but now life just goes on. You are just a dirty little secret, a pretend little boy, who got cancer, which they quietly acknowledged, but Shhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Nobody talk about it. Forget it happened. A gold ribbon means nothing. It won’t ever happen again. Ronan who? The parties must go on! Doesn’t anybody wonder about you? Or the mommy who is home, crying because she is aware that it is the day of the schools Holiday Program and you should be there. But you’re not so I will sit at home with your Urn and pretend that you are there, singing whatever holiday song they are singing. As long as it’s not that fucking Silent Night song. I hate that song. I’ll never sing it again.

I was being obsessive today. Fuming about the lack of awareness that childhood cancer receives. I get that these things take time, but the statistics of childhood cancer, sicken me. The fact that things are not changing, is something that I am not o.k. with. I’m posting something below that is from a website that I go on frequently. It’s a foundation called Solving Kids Cancer. I’m meeting with one of the founders, Scott, in New York this January. Below are a few things about childhood cancer, that I hope makes you all mad. It makes me sick to even have to post this. But this is real people. It’s not make believe. It’s important. It makes me want to go shoot some more guns and punch a lot of things.

Pediatric Cancers:

Are not preventable and do not result from lifestyle choices
Are difficult to detect – children present with these cancers after they have already formed and often metastasized
Are the leading cause of death by disease in children
There are currently no real solutions for these deadly childhood cancers

There has not been a significant breakthrough in the deadliest childhood cancers in 30 years

One of the deadliest childhood cancers which has not seen therapeutic advancement is neuroblastoma
Is the most common cancer in infants
Because there is no system for detecting neuroblastoma, most children present at Stage 4 with metastases1
Despite aggressive treatment, the survival rate of advanced stage neuroblastoma in children >;1 year of age is only 30%2,3
Current neuroblastoma relapse survival rate: 0-10% (rates vary by institution)
Therapies being used are often adult hand-me-down agents that are overly toxic for children. These agents are also not aimed at treating the unique pathology of children’s cancers

Number of effective therapies available to all children with these deadly forms of cancer: 0
There is no standardized treatment for deadly childhood cancers — the only option children have for treatment is participation in clinical trials

Translational research transforms scientific discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical, or population studies into clinical applications to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality.

The Translational Research Working Group (TRWG), National Cancer Institute (NCI)
The status quo is unacceptable

In today’s clinical research landscape, progress is too slow and promise too rare

Average time for a therapeutic discovery to be tested in humans: 5 to 7 years
The possibility of discovering appropriate therapies can be limited by accepted research standards (eg, large scale, multicenter, single-treatment, placebo-controlled, narrow eligibility criteria)

Basic research generally receives more funding than translational or clinical research

Existing ideas need to be identified, prioritized based on viability, and progressed into therapeutic development in humans
The usual players are not in the position to solve the problem alone

Pediatric oncologists are, justifiably, focused on treating their patients, not necessarily on developing and prioritizing new therapeutic discoveries

Research scientists and academic institutions have everyday demands which prevent them from investigating many promising basic research ideas

Rewards in this field are given for scientific discoveries, not practical applications of these discoveries
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are not incentivized financially to develop treatments in small populations such as children with cancer

Conventional nonprofit organizations are not necessarily designed to progress therapeutic development

Parents are forced to become experts in their child’s treatment

With their child’s well-being as their first priority, parents bring a valuable perspective of ethics and a sense of urgency to clinical research
Children cannot advocate for themselves like adults with deadly or debilitating diseases can

To date, there has not been a single group, institution, or research entity effectively and solely dedicated to the task of solving kids’ cancer

Children need help now

You know what else, Ro? Lots of other bad news. While progress against leukemias and lymphomas continues, five-year survival rates for almost all solid tumors in kids and teens haven’t budged over the past 10-20 years. Funding is the number one issue. The NCI’s budget is $4.8 billion, and the total for grants that have anything to do with pediatric cancer is $173 million. Want to know a dirty little secret? Drug companies don’t want to cure cancer. It’s a big money making business, baby. Drug companies want kids to die from cancer. In 20 years the FDA has initially approved only one drug for any childhood cancer • 1/2 of all chemotherapies used for children’s cancers are over 25 years old. • Research and development for new drugs from pharmaceutical companies comprises 60% of funding for adult cancer drugs and close to zero for childhood cancers. • However, the NCI spends 96% of its budget on adult cancers and only 4% of its budget on children’s cancers.

WHY IS THIS ACCEPTABLE? WHY ISN’T AMERICA ANGRY ABOUT THIS? THIS CAN HAPPEN, TO ANYONE!!!!! If I were a parent, reading this, and I had a child who was healthy as one can be, like you WERE, I would be scared to death. I would be so scared because childhood cancer can happen at any age. I would take a stand so I could be a part of making things change so that childhood cancer gets the awareness that it deserves. So that someday, the survival rates will increase and treatments will be better and not so toxic. So that kids are given a chance to overcome this shitty hand they were dealt. It should not just because they were the lucky ones. This is my rant for tonight, Ro. I’m so mad. Sad. Jaded. Scared. Disappointed. Heart-broken. Always heart-broken.

Alright. My day. I don’t remember what I did except miss you. I read a lot of articles on childhood cancer. I read up about some doctors. Treatments. Funding. Etc….. I already know most of it. But now I’m getting my fucking Ph.D in this childhood cancer thing. Do you think they will give me a cap and gown when I graduate? Can it be purple? With a star on it? That would be nice. I won’t graduate until I’m on my death-bed and I know with my entire heart and soul, that I’ve done everything I could possibly do. Whatever that means. As long as I make you proud, that’s all that matters in the end.

So, after my day at the Starbucks office, because it is too painful to be in an empty house, I came home. Your brothers had cub scouts so they were with Mimi and Papa. I decided to go on a hike up Camelback. It was later in the day than I usually go, but I was determined to do Echo Canyon today. It was about 5:00 when I started. I hauled ass up the mountain with my music blaring. I didn’t even stop for a break for water like I usually do. I was partly in a hurry, because I knew it was going to get dark soon; but I had no idea how quickly that was going to happen. As I made it to the top, I went over to my favorite tree because I brought a bunch of your bracelets like I always do, to hang all over it. The tree was empty except for I noticed one rubber black bracelet hanging on it. I took it off of the tree, curious as to what it said. In yellow letters, it read, “Believe in yourself.” Tears welled up in my eyes. Was this from you? How is it, that on the day that I decide to hike Camelback, that this bracelet was just hanging there, like it was a gift from you. I froze and closed my eyes. I put the bracelet on and continued to decorate my little tree with about 20 of your purple bracelets. I wasn’t really paying attention to how the sunlight was disappearing and how there was only one other person at the top of the mountain as I was too caught up in my tears. I headed down Camelback. It usually takes me about 25 minutes to get down. I was about half way down when through my tears, I noticed that it was almost pitch dark. Um FUCK. I didn’t have a flashlight with me. I didn’t have a head lamp on. Nobody else was around. I couldn’t even see to navigate where I was. I got lost at one point. It was the first time, since losing you that I was really scared about the situation I was in. I decided to try to stay calm. I started talking out loud to you while trying to figure out how I was going to get down this steep mountain, in the pitch black, without breaking my neck. I said things out loud to you like, “Ronan. You know I wouldn’t be in this situation, if you were still alive. I wouldn’t be doing things like this. I would be at home, with you, where I belong.” Somehow, I made it down basically a cliff, to a little less steep terrain. I used the light from my iPhone which was better than nothing. Without this, I am certain I would have seriously injured myself or died. While I was in the middle of my Hike of Death, I stopped just to take it all in. The darkness engulfed the mountains which were illuminated by the moon, stars, and city lights. It left me breathless. It was so stunningly peaceful and quiet. It was so perfect and beautiful. I felt like I was looking at the inside of my soul. Uncharted territory. Risky. Dark and dangerous, but deep down so beautiful if you just stop to look at what is really there. If you are not afraid of the dark, the beauty will find a way to shine through. I was afraid of the dark at first. But then I just decided to embrace it and trust in it. I made it down safe and sound, but I’m not sure I’ll be doing that again, anytime soon. Or ever. I walked into our house tonight and I said to your daddy, “Well that was really stupid of me.” I think he almost passed out. Not from the dangerous thing that I had just done, but from hearing those worlds out of my mouth. I laughed at his reaction. Then I got sad for laughing because it just felt wrong. I wonder if it will ever feel right again.

I got a phone call today, Ronan from that Rockstar friend of yours. Bret Michaels. A phone call that once again, had me crying because I just cannot believe how much people believe in you. A phone call that filled me with hope that people really are going to start to listen and childhood cancer is not going to be ignored anymore. Bret is going to help make sure of this and he’s doing it for all the right reasons. There is no hidden agenda. He just wants to help because he can. He can’t ignore those big blue eyes of yours. I question the person, that can. There must be something wrong with their soul. Bret is not just talking the talk. He’s walking the walk. Or rocking the rock because he is that freaking AWESOME. After I hung up, I seriously walked over to the mirror that hangs in our entry way looked at myself. I looked at my eyes. They looked different. Like they had a fire behind them. A little voice in my head said to me, “You are strong. You are not weak. You can do this. You are doing this because YOU ARE STRONG.” I’ve never heard those words before, from within myself, until today. The voice in my head sounded just like yours, because it was you. It’s always you.

So Ro. That’s my story for the day. I would like to thank you for getting me down the mountain. You and Taylor Swift. I was listening to her with my headphones on. She sang our song which made me keep going. Because the stakes are high and the waters rough. But this love is ours. I love you my spicy monkey boys. I miss you. I hope you are safe. G’nite baby doll.