Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Volunteer Voyage, Part II

Nine months pregnant with my third child (in 4 years no less) seems like an unlikely point in my life to contemplate volunteering for the first time, but that's where I found myself in May, 2004. Because my two sons came early, the second one prematurely so, I was advised to take it extremely easy and rest as much as possible the last several weeks of my pregnancy. So I found myself, having decided to leave work in anticipation of my daughter's early arrival, waiting at home. And waiting. And waiting. And as her due date came and went, waiting some more.

As a result, I spent an inordinate amount of time on the computer, often at the Babycenter site, commiserating with other moms who were impatiently waiting for their bundles of joy. It was there that I first learned of baby Allie and her fight against acute myeloid leukemia. Like hundreds (thousands?) of other women, and often their husbands, I was sucked in to Allie's fight by her big blue eyes, sunny smile and Jenny's eloquent description of the cancer battle. Once my daughter was born, I continued to check the Scott website daily, often reading about Allie's latest levels or treatment protocol as I nursed my own gorgeous, healthy daughter. Like so many others, I was moved by Jenny because I could relate to her. It wasn't that I didn't know that babies and children could get cancer before May 2004, rather I realized then that my babies and children could get cancer. If it could happen to Jenny Scott, a good mother and wife, an educator like myself, a person who seemed so real and relatable, well, wasn't it just a crapshoot, a roll of the dice, for any of us?

I lost my own Dad in July 1999 at the age of 44 to pancreatic cancer, but was still able to retain a philosophical, spiritual outlook on his untimely passing. Due to my own personal beliefs about the way the universe works, I was able to find peace with the whole process. But reading about Allie's battle, watching Jenny and Andrew stand helplessly by as their daughter lost the fight - that made me hate cancer to the core of my being. My mother (after watching what my Dad went through) describes cancer in almost human terms, a disease so wily that it can outsmart medicine, "hide" in areas of the body to avoid chemotheraphy, and hibernate until the body loses its vigilance. I never fully understood how she could personalize a disease, a medical entity, until I entered the world of pediatric cancer.

And there is a world, a whole world, of children fighting for their lives, a world that I remained blissfully ignorant of before Allie Scott. Suddenly, with my eyes and heart wide open, I discovered many other families going through the same process. Like a blind woman suddenly given the gift of sight, I was overwhelmed with the sensory and emotional overload of learning just what a heartbreaking epidemic pediatric cancer is.

I've always considered myself a responsible citizen of the world. I was a vegetarian for 16 years. I recycled before there were blue bins on every street corner. I voted conscientiously. But suddenly, I had a passion, a reason to break out of my comfort zone. Although I'm not particularly religious, the phrase "There but for the grace of God go I" entered my head on a daily basis in those months after learning of the Scott family. Joining the fight against pediatric cancer was something I never saw coming in my busy life as a full time mother, wife, and school counselor, but I felt compelled to do something, anything, to help those children and parents who were not as lucky (and yes, I believe it is mere luck) as my own three children.

to be continued


christy said...

"Like a blind woman suddenly given the gift of sight, I was overwhelmed with the sensory and emotional overload of learning just what a heartbreaking epidemic pediatric cancer is."

Unbelievable. Tracey, you amaze me with your words on an almost daily basis.

Tracy said...

Your latest installment is exactly what I went through. It is just amazing how so many of us felt the same when we found Allie. And so many of us came together to fight. "Blissfully ignorant" true. Now forever changed. I can't wait to read your next installment.

Robin Brunet said...

I have to agree with Christy. I too could have written my arrival into the world of pediatric cancer in quite the same way as Tracey. My daughter Amelia was a June, 2003 baby and I was also a frequent visitor to the babycenter world. The rest, they say, is history.

anniemcq said...

Beautiful. Thank you, Tracey.

Kelly said...

Just like Christy, I stumbled upon the world of pediatric cancer much the same way. I was on babycenter with my April 2004 son and learned of Allie. I read her posts daily, and it was the 1st time that it really hit home that the awful disease happened to real kids. I could relate to Jenny in so many ways, and it really scared me. There are so many pediatric cancer patients I still check on, sadly most have gone on to Heaven like Allie. It is something I can no longer idly sit back from and do nothing about, it has changed my life forever.