Monday, May 6, 2013

My Ugly Shoes

I have a friend named Beth who has a daughter that has been battling childhood cancer since last August.  She is finished with treatment but still fragile.  Any illness is a worry.  Any weird symptom takes her to that dark place.  Anything but her daughter being her bouncy, joyous self brings the shadows, the worry and the heartache.

I know it well.

May 16th, 2002, Patrick was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
August 2nd, 2005, he finished all treatment.
He is considered cured.

Yep. Miracles happen.
Smart people, devoted researchers, tender nurses, vigilant doctors change lives and create some sort of critical mass.  A deadly diagnosis just a few decades ago is now curable.
It's a hellish process but you get there.

Here he is:
Celebrating St. Patrick's Day 2013 at a pub with his dad and big brother.

He gets to live his life. Try new things.  Contemplate girls and dances and traveling and what high school will be like.  

He has a future...because somebody lost theirs.

I can't help but hold close all of the children who came before Patrick.  Those that tried new treatments, new tests, new therapies and got to the point that they'd try anything.
Those that knew they wouldn't make it and still they tried.

Not long ago, childhood leukemia was a death sentence.
For some types, it still is.
But the people at St. Jude's kept at it. 
They wouldn't give up.

St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, let them keep trying.
St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, still takes the lost causes of children's illness.
They still work tirelessly on the most devastating diseases.
They work miracles everyday.

St. Jude's is special, very special.
I like to tell this story so that people can stop feeling just good about St. Jude's and can start to feel in awe.

There was an incredible research scientist that was from Australia.
There was no hospital in Australia that was like St. Jude's.  Nothing even close.
He decided to take all of his training and his passion and move back to Canberra to replicate St. Jude's over there.  
He got big donors.
He got amazing researchers together.
He built a state of the art research center for Australia.
For six years, he gave it a go.
It failed.

This doctor who gave all of himself over to this mission had this to say about it:
"There is no place like St. Jude for a scientist.  There is a terrific atmosphere in the highly interactive clinical and basic science programs, and the tremendous levels of funding make it all possible for me to do my research without interruption." 
--Dr. Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Dr. Doherty doesn't say it out loud but I will.  Something very holy and sacred is happening at St. Jude's.  Something that is intangible.  Something that can't be researched or itemized but something that everyone who has been there knows...a greater power is part of the solution there.

Patrick's amazing doctor, Dr. Jolly, did a three year fellowship at St. Jude's.  He knows.
We know.
Patrick benefited directly from that research and that sacred work.
He has his life today because someone dared to fight against the lost cause of leukemia.

Today my friend, Beth, posted this poem:

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I don’t think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
I can tell in others eyes that they’re glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I’m not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some women ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has a child with cancer.
-Author Unknown

I know those shoes well.  They've been at the back of my closet for awhile, but I still know them.
I wish I didn't.
However, I'm grateful today for all of the others who have worn those same shoes before me.
Those that took a chance and searched for the impossible.
I'm grateful to the mothers and fathers who had nowhere else to turn and were welcomed into St. Jude's.
I'm grateful to Danny Thomas for creating a powerful place of hope and care for the worst cases and the most desperately ill children in our country.
I'm grateful for miracles, most especially the one who shares my world. 

**If you want to say thanks, send a donation to St. Jude's.  Trust me, they will use your money well.**

1 comment:

  1. Such a perfect poem. There are so many types of ugly shoes. I am so happy that St. Jude's helped make Patrick healthy, and that they are still out there doing such good work in the world. I also love your constant commitment to noticing and praising the good things happening all around us.