September is national childhood cancer awareness month…. It’s also national Hispanic Heritage month, national poly-cystic ovarian syndrome month, national Hodgkin’s lymphoma month, national suicide prevention month, national uterine cancer month, national thyroid cancer month, and the list goes on and on. Have you ever seen this poster? So many colors, and this is just cancers. It doesn’t include ribbons for abuse, infertility, depression, anorexia, paralysis, heart disease, diabetes, hunger, living under terror, poverty, discrimination, blindness, apathy, loneliness….
Every single person has a story.
I’ve been thinking for a while what/if I should post anything during childhood cancer awareness month…. What could I add? What should I add, if anything? It has always been hard for me to say, “no guys this, this is the most important thing in the world”- I want to advocate for everything, because I don’t want to lessen someone else’s story. So I write this with a humble heart and just share one story among many because maybe there is a reason for someone out there to see this story.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease of children in the U.S., and worldwide a child is diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes. But, it’s more than statistics. It’s a human issue. It’s part of our broken world and it hurts our hearts and it hurts these children’s bodies. It’s one of those things that can be hard to imagine until you see it.
I wish it didn’t exist. I want there to be cures. We pray that God will guide us on how to use Kai’s story for good, to help others. But, I know even if there wasn’t cancer, there are still all those other colored ribbons, the national ____ months, and those struggles that don’t have colored ribbons or months.
I know what you’re probably thinking….. man I wish she had posted a Debbie downer post alert before I started reading, but I don’t mean to be. Yes, these pictures of Kai pain me to the soul, the cancer hurt Kai more than I’ll ever know, and it has scarred us for life. But, that cancer is gone. It can never, ever hurt Kai again. And guess what, more people love Kai than ever before. I love Kai more and more each day – so take that cancer! This isn’t your month or your day or your second. This is actually about hope, love, and perseverance – it’s about us recognizing the humanity in each other.
I kept thinking wow, there are so many months and markers for struggles, why is this? For awareness. We want/need people to see, to ask – what is that for? I think maybe in part it’s because we’ve forgotten to spend time and have courage to ask “what’s your story?” and it’s as if we almost need these ribbons and t-shirts to remind us, hey wait a second, maybe (most likely) there’s something going on in their life I should ask about.
That hit me like a ton of bricks.
I don’t want us to need ribbons or national months or days (and please, please, please know I am not saying there is anything wrong with awareness days or ribbons or any of that!!!). Maybe we can learn to be more aware, more present, and open our eyes and try to really see the people placed in front of us. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment … He responded simply: love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Simple. As. That — community, neighboring, loving others as ourselves
We see our own ribbons, our scars, our stories, but how can we use these awareness months/days more as a reminder of our shared humanity? Some have the gifts of power, influence, or financial capacity, others have knowledge and skills, but we all have heart. I urge us to not wait to see a ribbon or tears to make us act or to even ask the simple question “are you ok?” But, maybe in recognizing our own struggles and our desire for love and comfort, we can remember our call to help one another on this journey.
We have never been the most photogenic family and the photos we have of the four of us as a family are less than a handful. The one below is our last family photo – I’ve felt so strange sharing it. But this photo, yes it shows great pain, it’s not “pretty”, but it’s our life – and buried beneath tense faces and forced smiles are hearts that ache but also contain love that cannot be destroyed, and so I love this, because we were once all physically together, and we will always be together in our hearts.