As a parent of three, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to hear the chilling words of a doctor, telling you that your child has cancer. But when I was a teenager, my parents heard that diagnosis for not only my older brother, but my younger brother as well. And while my brothers were undergoing chemo and radiation and surgeries, my mother was in her own battle against breast cancer. I remember those years as hopeless and hopeful; as each of my family members battled and then lost.
My little brother went first and quickly while my mom was in her first remission. Jimmy was diagnosed by Halloween and died in my dad’s arms right after Christmas. In the dark, right before dawn on December 28th, my brother asked, “am I dying now?” and my dad somberly answered, “Yes.” And just like that, he was gone. I watched from the doorway of his childhood bedroom as the light left his eyes and the energy of his spirit rushed past me. His presents laid under the tree, never to be played with, as quiet visitors came and went, their faces pained and full of grief.
A few years later, my older brother John was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Typically a cancer that had a high cure rate, my brother had waited to see a doctor because he was afraid of the diagnosis. And when it turned out to be stage 4 cancer, he underwent extensive and expensive treatments including a bone marrow transplant, for which I was his donor. During his battle, our mother’s breast cancer returned in the form of an evil metastasis, which attacked her bones, spine and brain. She became confused on a Friday, slipped into a coma that evening and died that Sunday, never knowing that her oldest son would soon join her and my little brother in Heaven.
A few months later, John died much as our mom did; the cancer invaded his brain and left him confused. He asked for his “mommy,” asked why she hadn’t visited him. Over and over, I was forced to tell him that she was dead and he would cry like it was the first time he’d heard the awful news. Quickly, I learned to just lie and say that “Mommy would be here soon” and he’d accept that for a moment until he forgot and asked again. On his second to last day here, we told him that “mommy and Jimmy were waiting for him in heaven.” He struggled to lift his poor bald head and stared at us, nodding. This time he accepted. This time he understood. He never asked again.
When it came time to choose a local charity for the national “Power of Running” campaign, I knew that I wanted to help a small local foundation in a big way. I came to know Chrisie Funari, the President and Founder of AZ Cancer Foundation for Children, because she and her family lived in the neighborhood behind the store. Chrisie’s daughter Ava was diagnosed with cancer when she was a mere eighteen months old. Little Ava fought hard in her time here on earth but eventually, she was called to Heaven when she should’ve been starting kindergarten.
Like many of us, before Ava’s family faced this diagnosis, Chrisie thought cancer happened to other people. We never picture the way life will be when Cancer comes to stay at our homes. And we aren’t prepared for any of it; not the procedures, not the travel, not the costs, none of it. The frightening statistic is this; nearly every day in Arizona, a child is diagnosed with cancer. While we ache for a cure or pine for prevention, there are things that must be done to help the families that face this every day. This is where the AZ Cancer Foundation for Children wants to step in and this is where Chrisie and I ask for your help.
Throughout the “Power of Running” campaign this August and September, there will be opportunities to help by purchasing certain items in our Fleet Feet Sports store. The vendors of those products will then donate a portion to our local charity. The AZ Cancer Foundation for Children is committed to helping these families by providing funds to defray travel costs through the Travel Assistance Program. They are also collecting funds to help childhood cancer research. If a parent hears that there’s hope for their child through a treatment in another state, they shouldn’t have to then agonize over the cost of travel. We’d like to carry them there, on Ava’s angel wings. Think of the comfort that little Ava provides when Chrisie gets to say to a worried family, “We can help you with the costs.”
So whether you purchase the items included in the campaign or just feel compelled to assist through a donation, we are incredibly grateful for your support! Thank you for opening your hearts to the local children that need you.
Linda and Chrisie
Click to donate to AZ Cancer Foundation for Children, a 501(c)(3) non profit organization