I first became involved with Cookies For Kids Cancer after my younger brother's testicular cancer diagnosis. I am a baker at heart and the overwhelming helplessness I felt during my brother's treatment fueled me to hold 2 bake sales in an effort to do something productive and worth while. It is, after all, an amazingly easy and fun concept! My daughter, Lola, helped me bag treats for my first bake sale, and 2 summers ago, as we sat around a bit bored and wondering what we could do, we decided we should host another mini-bake sale. So we did. On the grass in front of our neighborhood, with a few friends, we sold lemonade and cupcakes and cookies and bread. She wore her green CFKC shirt and danced on the corner to attract people up the hill to our semi-secluded cul-de-sac. It is one of my favorite memories thus far with her. I was so proud of her desire to help kids with cancer and loved watching her develop a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. That was June of 2014. Little did we know, less than a year later, Lola would be diagnosed with ALL and would herself become one of CFKC's kiddos. The following is something I wrote immediately following her diagnosis. It perfectly encompasses the shock and fear and hurt and worry that immediately settled in for us.
Leukemia. I can't say it yet. I'm actually shocked I can type it. I feel so detached from myself, like a third person looking in on this whole thing. Watching your child writhe in pain is what they should use as a torture tactic in wars and in prison. Her little mouth puckers and pulls, her eyes are so puffy and tight, all she says is "my stomach hurts mommy" and all I can do is rub her feet and her legs and tell her how brave she is. How did this happen?! How did we get here?
I look out the window and see the hospital I birthed her in, and think, was this disease in you this whole time? Lying dormant, waiting to be awoken? When you're pregnant you go through 900 different tests to make sure everything is ok. Vial after vial, ultrasound after ultrasound, and then when they are born with fingers and toes and they are breathing, you think, "I did it. I grew a healthy human!" What you don't comprehend at the time is that it's not done, it's never done. My job is to keep her healthy, my job is to keep her safe, and here we are...sitting in the hospital, our new home for the next month, awaiting a spinal tap and a bone marrow draw to type my baby's leukemia. So what was me helping her up after falling down, or talking her through how to handle friend drama, is now me feeding her ice chips and chap sticking her lips while we wait for the next set of results. In a matter of 12 hours my life has gone from familiar and on the way to comfortable, to completely foreign and unknown.
We are 1 year into treatment and Lola is currently in the Maintenance phase. The fear and the worry and the anxiety are still very much present, but we have grown together in ways I never could have comprehended. Lola is back in school full time, she swims at the pool with her friends, she eats big, full meals, she laughs and giggles and tells jokes non-stop, her once long blonde hair that held on longer than most before being shaved away is finally re-growing and coming back very curly, and she is slowly adjusting to this "new normal." She is also a little mini-nurse and will demonstrate port accessing on her baby dolls for anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. She is my guardian angel and her bravery and strength and heart inspire me all day, every day. For those of you just beginning your journey, please know every day will bring something new, but every day is one day closer to the next phase. It is a marathon, but you can do this! Thank you Cookies For Kids Cancer for raising the money that you do, for spreading the word about childhood cancer and for supporting little fighters like my Lola- we couldn't do it without you!!