Tomorrow will be 18 years since I last got to see my Dad. He died on October 30, 1999 after a grueling battle with glioblastoma. The same thing stole his dad when I was 10.
Yesterday, I watched as genius doctors, heroic children, and courageous families gathered together to celebrate successes, honor losses, and write a better story for the future at the first Emily Whitehead Foundation Believe Ball.
As I sit here now, I’m still in complete awe at the… the… I can’t find words to do justice to the compassionate, selfless, caring, innovative, tenacious, and dedicated individuals I was blessed to spend the last ten months helping. These doctors are curing children who were given death sentences – just like the death sentence of any glioblastoma patient.
When I first met Emily in 2011 at Penn State Hershey, she and her family were tired and worn down. Jess Smith, Amy Denholtz (Lewandowski, now), Bobby Eismann, and I attempted to entertain them in their room because she could not attend the party. We promised that if she could make it to THON, we’d give her high fives from the stage. She made it to THON and the magic of that moment still brings tears to my eyes.
Those same tears came one year later in 2012 when she was at the finish line and the four of us were able to a snap photo with this amazing hero.
Those same tears flowed last February when, on the anniversary of our first high five, I got the chance to connect again at THON, with this bright shining soul.
The very same tears of complete awe came last night as I witnessed the doctors, children, families, and volunteers faithfully celebrating, honoring, and vowing to continue the fight for a cure. A cure to this cancer. A cure to pediatric cancer. A cure to all cancer.
The Believe Ball was an inspirational event. The overall and family relations committees that I was so grateful to be a part of were the most dedicated individuals and I am so thankful for our time working together. The volunteers that did a lot of the dirty work the day of (I’m talking to you, Mama T) were indispensable. It may seem trite, but all I can say is: Thank You.
Thank you because here is how I see it:
When you are out there fighting for a cure for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and pediatric cancers, you are fighting for a cure for all cancers. And when you are fighting for a cure for all cancers, you are fighting for a cure for the kind of cancer that killed my family. Whether you know it or not, it means a great deal to me. Thank you.
Today, I rest.
Tomorrow, the battle rages on. We MUST work tirelessly to write a better story. What will YOU do to help?
Please take a moment to watch this beautiful short film (3:39 – I promise you have the time) by Oscar winner, Ross Kauffman.