Superheroes

Anyone rather personally touched by Cancer is forever changed. It’s left me scarred, occasionally scared, frequently sanctimonious, and quite blabby. Everyone approaches it differently. More elegant victims suffer it without blogs or incessant status updating. Me, I’m share-y. But every cancered parent I have met has at some moment uttered this mantra (prayer?) of thanksgiving: if Cancer must happen, then let it be me. No matter how terrifying those early moments during diagnosis, at least this was mine to bear. The children were safe.

But for thousands of parents each year, cancer isn’t theirs to endure, but instead—impossibly– to witness in the suffering of their children. Christopher’s Haven exists for them.

You might have followed a famous sports bet between adorable celebrities who promised to dress up as their superhero alter egos to benefit sick kids in the losing team’s town. But when the Patriots won, so did everyone; and Star-Lord and Captain America made appearances that did quite a bit more than lift the spirits of children with cancer. They brought attention to organizations like the Christopher’s Haven, blowing up their website in mere minutes with donations. These are things superheroes do.

Yesterday, a lovely lunch was held rather quietly in the lower level of the Loews Hotel. Co-hosted by elegant Sue Farrell and eloquent Diana Knightly, and emceed by the charming and even-prettier-up-close Shonda Shilling, this gathering honored Chris Pratt for his social media endorsement and real life contribution to Christopher’s Haven. There was an enchanting pediatric fashion show featuring current residents and alums of the Haven alongside local kids and a handful of adorable toddlers with famous last names from Fenway. And then… and then… a parent.

I’m not sure how you can speak to strangers about your little boy and his devastating brain tumor without sobbing or reverting to stock cancer tropes or feigned optimism. But this is exactly what one mom did: she stood in front of a room full of well dressed ladies and famous ball players and do-gooding Bostonians and told the truth. Daily life seemed impossible in the face of cancer treatment for their son. How would they commute two hours to the only hospital offering the only hope? Would it be possible to afford two homes or maintain some sort of family routine for the care of their other children? Adrift, terrified, and googling, this mom found Christopher’s Haven.

Within minutes this family had options. Even more, they felt immediately like they had a support network of other parents and children who could minister to their fears and hopes, share their tears and prayers, engage in actual fun, and create those forever kind of friendships. For only $30 a day, Christopher’s Haven provided them a home away from home and an opportunity for their son to have the kind of treatment that offers cautious optimism, but aims for a cure.

Cancer is around every corner for me lately. Two close friends with new diagnoses of invasive cancer and another who learned hers is metastatic disease followed the still very fresh loss of Lisa Bonchek Adams. The quiet in the wake of Lisa’s death is a daily reminder to many of us that it’s never really over. I cry whenever I learn someone must endure the drastic-surgery-and-go-bald kind of treatment. The scientist in me knows this is an impersonal effect of cells gone rogue, but the Churchy Jesus Girl falls to her knees to pray for miracles. Yesterday, the angry skeptic appeared and wanted someone to make sense of a world where children die because we cannot reliably control tumor growth.

The ultimate salve for these emotions is love. There was great love in that room of lunching benefactors yesterday. With a bit of time and money, places like Christopher’s Haven combat sadness with comfort, replace loneliness with friendship, and attack fear with community.

There is also great love surrounding my friends who in upcoming weeks will face a blur of appointments, mutilating surgeries, and terrifying, 3am googling of side effects and survival rates. For them, there may that tiny bit of relief that this is theirs to bear. But while they endure the Let It Be Me, the rest of us will rally to be their superheroes.

In the meantime, everyone in the Cancer world will appreciate these. If you don’t know what to say to your newly diagnosed friend, well, this gal will say it for you. And if you wanted to join in and help families who are enduring the worst cancers—those affecting their children—then please click on over here and be Captain America fabulous.

Love and prayers, friends.

LEMONS

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Ten Awesomely Wonderful Things to Say to Someone With Cancer

These messages made me cry and giggle, made me feel warm and loved. And even if these bon mots never find your lips or keyboard at the right time, “I’m sorry this is happening to you… and I love you” never misses the mark.

“Steel yourself for the hurdles before you, take strength from the ardent support of those around you, seek communion with the Lord’s will and His peace, and keep plowing forward through the awfulness.”

“Whatever it takes. I support you and all you do. Unless you crochet. I can’t get behind that.”

“…with so much love, there is no choice but to come out the other side whole and well. I know this to be true. And will be one of the ones who knows this for you if you ever need reminding.”

“Please know that you’ve made us one community and we will always want to know how you are doing. We are all here for you. Forever.”

“Long hair, short hair, or no hair at all, you will be a tough-as-nails badass camouflaged in Lilly Pulitzer dresses beating the shit out of cancer.”

“I am in awe of your strength, your support system, and your ability to put together a good outfit.”

“Hello God? I am a bit pissed off. Stop fucking with my sister. She has done nothing but support you despite our innate human inability to understand your mysterious ways. Enough is enough. Thanks in advance.”

“Yup. You’ve gotten my husband to pray. Look at the power you have!! We’re going to be thinking about you obsessively tomorrow. With crazy adoration.”

“I send you much love and am figuratively wrapping you in one of those shiny silver post marathon blankets.”

“Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!  Should we go get drunk?”

A picture worth even more: a dear friend's "alter" sending my whole family sweet aloha breezes.

A picture worth even more: a dear friend’s “altar” as a portal to send my whole family sweet aloha breezes