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? cancer ribbonsSo 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.kai post surgerykai sick

kain in PICU susanbeautiful kai 03.15.14

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.

family photo hospital

kai on the carousel



13 Comments on It’s National __________ Month

  1. Beautifully put! I agree with you, sometimes I wonder why horrible things happen and then I see people reaching out, supporting those around them, loving the down trodden and comforting those who need comfort. Then I am reminded of the love of our Savior for each and every person and how I need to be a little more like him! You, your family, and Kai are beautiful lights of Christ on this earth! Continue to shine, share and love!

  2. Such beautiful thoughts, expressed through your generous heart. Keep sharing please. Your posts serve as reminders of our shared humanity which we often forget in the frenzy of our culture. Grace and peace!

  3. I have been thinking of you especially this month. Last weekend I walked in the fundraiser for our area children’s hospital and just thought about all the stories of the kids for whom we walk. You’re absolutely right – we don’t know everyone’s story! And the best way to respond is with kindness and love. I am going to share this post on my blog (if that’s okay).

  4. Hey Aki,

    I realized that I had never told you that after Kai died I wanted to do something to commemorate him. I bought about 10 beautiful children’s books, half in English the others in Spanish, and inside each one I wrote “remembering Kai” and donated them to the library at Children’s Hospital here in Dallas. I remembered that you said Kai loved Thomas the train character and made sure to pick one in English and Spanish about him. I had such a good time reading the children’s books and picking the ones I thought a variety of kids would enjoy. It brought back such a flood of memories of when my own girls were little and how much we loved reading together – how it was a part of our nightly routine, how it transitioned into chapter books and the great conversations it inspired. I remember when they were newborns I would stare into their eyes and wonder how they would look when they were toddlers, and then teens and later adults. Just the other day I saw something about an old lady who was still full of child-like wonder and I thought “this is what Hannah will be like when she’s an old lady” and it’s sad to think that I won’t be around to witness that phase of her life. I am so sorry still that you lost your sweet little boy. I so admire how you have embraced the pain and joy of being his parent and turning that pain and joy into these inspirational expressions of how all of us can embrace the joy and pain in life. Even though we don’t know each other that well, from my heart I can say that I love you Aki.


  5. Thanks for sharing! I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s SO good to see you posting again. Your outlook is just incredible and so encouraging! So selfless to think of others and what they are going through as well! LOVE YOU

  6. A wonderful post Aki. I think of you, Shawn, Kai, and Maya often. It was great to see Shawn this past week in Austin. I’ll continue to keep you guys in my prayers.

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