My youngest son Peter had a sad coming of age moment this week. He had bought a second hermit crab as a companion to one he had gotten down the shore last summer. Crab number two died within days of being put in his new surroundings. Then, a week later, Peter’s first crab died, too. He was brave about it until bedtime, the hour he usually came downstairs to put fresh food and water in the cage. That’s when it hit home for him that this small living creature that he had cared for so lovingly and diligently for over the course of an entire year was gone.
That anniversary hit home for me, too, and I have been dwelling on it ever since. Peter is going to be twelve this fall, but a month shy of his first birthday, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood leukemia. The news was devastating to us. We thought we were about to lose a son after nurturing him for a year. It was a lightning bolt out of the blue. It was a diagnosis that radically changed our lives for the next three-and-a-half years of treatment, and ever since in terms of how we view the everyday and the serious.
Despite Peter’s current loss of a hermit crab, you know that our story had a happy ending. Eternal gratitude over defeating an illness as devastating as leukemia prompted my family last year to get involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s primary fundraising vehicle, the Light The Night walks. This year, I have had the honor of working with LTN’s chief volunteer team, every member of which has been touched in some way by leukemia or lymphoma. Some of these brave folks are currently battling a blood cancer themselves.
The Philadelphia walk last October was amazing to behold. Rain was expected, which everyone prepared for. What wasn’t factored in was a monsoon-like deluge that the skies unleashed about a half-mile into the course walk. Just about the time, my family and I were ready to throw in the towel (because we hadn’t brought a towel along and the umbrellas were now officially useless), we looked around and saw walk participants in wheelchairs, some being pushed by family members, some soldiering on themselves in motorized units, and we realized that this was a group that never gives in.
This week that same group met under brighter skies at Citizens Bank Park because the Phillies were helping the Eastern PA Chapter of LLS kick off the 2010 walks in grand style. Nearly one thousand walkers were on hand to hear inspirational pep talks, fundraising tips, and encouragement. I saw a number of kids, cueball bald from chemo, and a few in wheelchairs, and it took me right back to Peter’s tough times at CHOP. Childhood cancer isn’t fair, doesn’t discriminate, but it can and must be beaten.
Add to this group the many adults of all ages who are battling leukemia and lymphoma and you could not find a worthier cause than the Light The Night walks. I just learned that a good friend’s wife and his son-in-law are both battling stubborn and tricky lymphoma diagnoses. Several weeks ago at a family reunion, my cousin’s wife shared details of their son’s tough but successful regimen to beat his blood cancer during his early twenties.
I encourage anyone who reads this post to get involved in some way. To form your own team or to become a corporate sponsor, please visit the Eastern PA Chapter of LLS’s website for more information. If you prefer to make an online contribution, you can do so via the LLS site or my family’s fundraising page. No matter what loss you or a friend or neighbor or loved one are suffering or have suffered at the hands of leukemia or lymphoma, you will gain tremendously by being involved in this incredibly worthwhile cause. Let’s make all blood cancers a thing of the past.