It is no secret that 4 ½ years ago Charli was diagnosed with cancer.
Shortly after Charli’s last treatment Chad, Charli, and I took part in our first Relay For Life in Platte County. It was a moving experience, and one that we weren’t equipped to take in. We did not know if Charli was done with treatment, if we would be back in a few weeks, etc. However, year two was a different story.
At our second Relay Charli was named their honorary-chair and her story was the feature for the night. We had much of our family and many friends there with us that evening. It was at that moment that I decided the American Cancer Society would be where my focus would be to fight childhood cancer.
When I made this choice, I received a lot of negative commentary from other parents of childhood cancer patients. They felt that the ACS was not the best place for my time and effort. In fact I was told that they would only exploit Charli and that I would work so hard and no kids would be saved. My response to that was, “well if that is true, I will do my best to change that”. I set in on this journey to be a voice, a face, and an advocate for childhood cancer. It was my goal to educate as many people as I could that “kids get cancer too” and take the message “all the way to the top”.
Each November for the past several years I have participated in the “Nebraska Summit”. This is a training the ACS holds in Nebraska to educate and celebrate the state, outstanding volunteers, and those who want to know more to do more. It was at this event, this weekend at approximately 10:00 am that I realized I have reached my goals. This is not to say I have met it in a way which means I can stop…but it means I have met it in a way which I can feel confident that I did what I set out to do.
Before I go further I have to say that I realize we all have goals. I have had many goals in the past. I am generally the person who sets a goal and when I meet it, rather than celebrating I set the goal further thinking my first goal was probably too easy.
In 2010 I was named a “Hero of Hope” for the state of Nebraska, one of two for our state. This gave me the great opportunity and perfect platform to tell our story to people from each corner of Nebraska. This is exactly what I did. Our family stayed very busy this past spring and summer traveling the state to speak at events. I shared with about 350 people this weekend that the things we did on these trips have been some of the best family memories I have had to date.
In September, through contacts I made through the American Cancer Society, I was approached by an amazing volunteer who would be traveling to Washington DC to lobby our representatives to NOT support cancer research funding cuts. For this visit, they wanted to share Charli’s story. They marched the hill with Charli’s story in hand. They took Charli’s picture along with her story and spunk to the decision makers of Nebraska and educated them on why cancer research funding cannot be decreased. Lives depend on in…her life depended on it years ago. The reactions they received were that “Charli looked so healthy, she was sick?” The answer to that is YES…she WAS, but with progress which was made through research she was SAVED and is a SURVIVOR. Charli is just one story of many, but she is a story. She is OUR story. They all agreed that no one would benefit from a funding cut to cancer research. (this alone is a great win for the state of Nebraska)
Not each story ends with tears of joy though, mind you. We need to remind of those stories as well. Because you know what, one day we will have the research to save that life. I hate that lives have to be lost while we learn, but we DO learn. Progress IS being made. If you would like to argue that with me, I would welcome the conversation.
While at Summit this weekend I was honored as an “outgoing Hero” and I said my “good-byes” as we welcomed two new and amazing women to share their journey with the state. Shortly before going on stage to thank everyone for welcoming me and my family into their hearts I realized that the two things I wanted to accomplish on my journey had been done. I was flooded with emotions! Thousands of people have now heard of a little 7-month old baby girl, named Charli, fighting cancer. These are people who wouldn’t have if I would have bowed to the opposition I was getting or my choice to join in the fight against cancer with the American Cancer Society. I have heard personal stories about what people have been moved to do after hearing Charli’s story. Nebraskans serving in congress in Washington DC have heard Charli’s story. I know they hear a lot of stories and have a lot of things thrown at them…but that will not lessen the impact that knowing our daughter’s story made its way to Washington DC. To me this is huge. Charli has broken down barriers which many told me was not possible.
With the help of the American Cancer Society, and specifically two amazing people who go by “Stephanie” and “Pat”, my two goals were reached. To this I say thank you. To this I say, children’s lives will be saves. To this I say, people have had an impact made upon them which would not have been done if not for the opportunities the ACS gave us.
The realization of goals doesn’t happen every day. The realization of a goal which you know touched other people as well as yourself, doesn’t happen every day.
I have been asked why I spend so much of my time doing these things. To me, that is a silly question. But, that is because Relay is what I do. If every single person touched by cancer did just one thing…wouldn’t life be different? But, that isn’t the way it is, so this is why we do it. Statistically I know my family and I are not done fighting cancer. Will it be in one of my children again? I pray to God not. But there are a lot of people close to me who may be fighting tomorrow, next month, next year, or in ten years. It may be me who at the doorstep of cancer one day. It may be you.
One thing is for sure, I KNOW the American Cancer Society is making a difference in the fight against cancer. I see it every day, I live it every day. And thanks to the ACS I realized two pretty amazing goals in my life. These are goals which can never be taking away from me, and for that I am forever thankful.
I urge you to consider a way which you can volunteer your time in the fight against cancer. A world with less caner is a world with more birthdays, and as a mom who anxiously awaits the next birthday to celebrate with my kids I see the greatness of a birthday.
The realization of my goals has been brought to me on behalf of the American Cancer Society. Imagine what they can do for you!