This is Brandon about 25 years ago. He was just shy of 3 and a half when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) on October 23, 1985. On that same day, I was celebrating my 4th birthday... It's just a weird coincidence but it's pretty crazy to think back and realize that around the time I was telling off the neighbour boy for blowing out my birthday candles, my future husband's family was being told that their son was very sick and discussing treatment options to fight the cancer that was attacking his little body.
25 years later it's all too easy to brush aside or trivialize what his family must have been going through because he's okay today. Because they were lucky enough to be blessed with the miracle of remission.
But did you know that when you have a child who is diagnosed with a cancer like ALL, the doctors will never tell you that he or she is cured?
Did you know that when you have a child who fights a disease that threatens their life, when you live through the nightmare of something like cancer, that your life is changed forever?
... that 25 years later you still worry when you're healthy grown up son looks a little pale?
... that you laugh and cry when that same son has not only one but two beautiful healthy babies - because (1) like any parent you're thrilled to be a grandparent and because (2) there were days when you could barely imagine a future like this?
... that you still remember with vivid clarity what it was like to pace the hallways with your dying baby in your arms... what it was like to let the thought of losing him drive you crazy... what it was like to have everyone look at you with pity, but have very few people actually understand the horror of what you were facing?
Cancer is awful no matter how you twist it or look at it. Childhood cancer is just wrong.
Following the story of Layla Grace this past winter opened doors with Brandon's family to talk about what they lived through when he was fighting leukemia. It's not that it was something they kept secret, or that his family shied away from talking about it ... it's just that discussing little Layla's fight against cancer with them brought a lot of old experiences and memories to the fore. The stories they have to tell are heartbreaking and captivating at the same time.
Over the next few weeks I want to share Brandon's story... his family's story. Why? To help shed some light on how much this kind of experience impacts not only the sick child, but the entire family unit. To share with you another part of why I've been inspired to do all of this and raise money so that I can help (at least) one child who is currently suffering from a disease or illness that threatens their life, to live out a big dream or wish... and to feel hope...
To be continued...