A Childhood Cancer Survivor Blogging about the World of Childhood Cancer

Archive for July, 2011

Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, Aflac, and Carl Edwards

Grace: A Child's Intimate Journey Through Cancer And Recovery

The wild storm held off just long enough for us to reach our hotel in Atlanta before it busted loose with strong winds and buckets of rain. The drive from New Orleans seemed to go quickly as we drove over Lake Pontchartrain; it was enormous and beautiful in the early morning sun. The hurricane damage to the trees is still very evident in areas around the lake. Before we knew it, we were already through Mississippi and on the tree-lined interstate driving through Alabama. One very odd thing we noticed about Alabama was there was not one bird in sight. They must have been hiding in the trees!

Georgia was a surprise. I did not expect the beautiful streets that had tree branches laden with leaves covering them. It felt cozy and comfortable.

We met Jessica from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta early in the morning. We discovered that parking around children’s hospitals can be challenging, but Jessica very kindly met us out in front to offer us up-front parking. We discovered that kindness is just one of Jessica’s qualities as she proceeded to give us a terrific, informative tour of their children’s hospital. Aflac is a huge support to CHOA… if you would like to see how they help: http://www.choa.org/childrens-hospital-services/cancer-and-blood-disorders/about-us/how-aflac-supports-us

With Jessica at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

My brother, Nicholas, is a huge racing fan. He is a senior who is studying mechanical engineering. He is on the Hornet Racing Team at Sacramento State where he helps to build and design their race car that they bring to competition each year. I have become educated about racing through Nicholas, and one of the NASCAR drivers who has become my favorite is also a huge supporter of CHOA. Carl Edwards has devoted his time and money to help. For those of you who are not familiar with NASCAR, Carl does a back-flip each time he wins a race. After one win, he took out the Beads of Courage necklace that a cancer patient had given him and placed it around his neck. There is a photo of this in one of the art rooms for children, along with the trophy he won from this race.

Thank you again, Jessica, for the tour of your amazing children’s hospital. Thank you to Aflac; may you be an inspiration to many other corporations!

Carl Edwards, you were already my favorite because of your warm spirit. I guess that now you must be my Ultra-Favorite!

Carl Edwards Photo at Children's Hospital of Atlanta

Go Ahead… Jump In!

Grace: A Child's Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery

Today is a gratitude day… as grateful as every day has been since my outstanding medical team helped rid my body of cancer. My three-year scans just came back “All Clear.” For Dr. Dan, Nurse Pam, Nanci, Robyn, Zippy, Jaynie, and everyone else at Cottage Hospital, I give you my love and thanks! I apologize for not being a “normal” patient and thank you for dealing so “gracefully” with my Melinda-ness!

Rather than let “Survivor’s Guilt” overtake me to the point where I cannot function to help others, I have found it necessary to tweak that thought and those feelings into action that will help. The hardest part of all for me is knowing of children who die each day from childhood cancer– knowing the suffering they have faced and the suffering of their families. There is no “Half-Way” point of caring about childhood cancer patients… either you jump right in and become submersed, or you stand on the sidelines with little understanding of what is truly going on.

Fair warning: Jumping in will give your heart the ride of its life.

Truth: Jumping in will bless your life with truly remarkable heroes!

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta making Children Happy and Health

I just read this news from PAC2 about Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation ! Does it get any better than this? Dancing to raise money to fight childhood cancer??????????? Northwestern University– thank you for jumping in! Happy Dance Time!

I will rewind life a bit for my next posts so that I can begin sharing more about the Hope Tour after we left New Orleans. 

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Bigger, Wider, Deeper

Grace: A Child's Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery

Hugo the HopeMobile returned to California one week ago. After three weeks, 3 days, 28 states, and well over 7,000 miles, it has taken me an entire week to process all that has happened so that I can place some of it into words. I feel that it will take my entire lifetime to fully grasp the meaning of this epic journey. I wish– I wish there were words big enough, wide enough and deep enough to describe to you how much this trip has impacted me. I am a different person than when I left home on June 17th.

Being able to visit so many places and having the opportunity to meet absolutely amazing people has made my heart bigger. I love how there is always room for more love in our hearts!!! The people I met taught me to have a wider view of how we need to give without holding back and how we need to express our love with passion and action. I love how when we set out to give our love away, it always comes back so much bigger than what we give.

I witnessed God’s mercy, grace, and His goodness. I felt His deep love. 

People ask me now if it was sad to visit the children who are very, very sick. It was just the opposite. As much as I hate what cancer does and as much as I hate the suffering it causes, meeting the children was a joy! They gave me so much more than I could ever give them; that is the plain truth.

At each stop, I thought of all of the children I know who have left this Earth way too soon because of cancer. As thoughts of these children who are no longer here filled my mind, my heart went immediately to all the people who suffer with this kind of hole in their hearts. I know there is nothing that can fill that hole.

Deep, deep love remains. This deep love has given birth to many forms of hope that help children with cancer. While we were in Philadelphia, Mom and I had the great pleasure and honor of meeting Joe and Ali McDonough from Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation. We loved meeting and talking with them! By combining their love for Andrew with their own enthusiasm and positive outlook, they have been able to raise money that is desperately needed for pediatric cancer research.

Joe and Ali McDonough from Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation

Now, I need, and want, to give a very special thanks to Joann, Bill, and Char from Alexa Nawrocki Pediatric Cancer Foundation. This foundation is named after Joann and Bill Nawrocki’s daughter, Alexa. Alexa battled cancer when she was two. In her loving memory, they began helping others.

Imagine what it must feel like to have someone give you food when your child is fighting for their life.

Imagine what it must feel like to have someone help you financially when it is time to bury your child.

Imagine how I felt when I met Joann for the very first time on our Hope Tour and she presented me with a check from Alexa’s Foundation to help toward our mission!

What means the most, is not the money, but they believe what I am doing is important—that it can make a difference. From the deepest part of my heart, I want to thank Joann, Bill, Char, and Alexa’s Foundation.

I finally got to meet Joann!!!

From this Bigger, Wider, Deeper Viewpoint, I wish that I could do everything to make a difference. I realize it’s going to take each one of us doing our part.

From this Bigger, Wider, Deeper Viewpoint, I can see the entire puzzle. I can see how we all need to be whatever part we can be of fighting childhood cancer.  Each piece is for the children,  and in its entirety, it is absolutely breathtaking. 

Stopping childhood cancer is about as beautiful as it gets.




The Child First and Always


After nearly 7,000 miles, visits to 15 children’s hospitals, cancer centers, and childhood cancer research labs, I am overflowing with HOPE. Our visit today to Primary Children’s Hospital/Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah was our final visit. Here, I had the unique opportunity to speak to a room filled with patients, hospital staff, and physicians. I want to thank Elaine Pollock and Dr. Josh Schiffman for their help and support to make this incredible day possible. Having this time to share my story and offer personal insights on how we can better help children fighting cancer makes my heart fill to the top. Being able to tour Dr. Josh’s lab, having him show me the research he is working on, and hearing his perspective on how we can stop childhood cancer by preventing it through genetic studies makes my heart leap to the point of skipping beats! I absolutely love how he believes research begins with the patient and then moves to the lab, rather than the other way around. I need to thank Alex’s Lemonade Stand for believing in the work he is doing– for the research grant they have provided for his studies. At the same time, I want to encourage other childhood cancer foundations, corporations, and individuals with bulging wallets to consider supporting his work. 

Finally, I need to encourage people who truly care about stopping childhood cancer to give as generously as they can. Research costs money– plain and simple. Research like Dr. Josh is doing will cure childhood cancer by preventing it in the first place.

What a remarkable goal. 

Let’s believe. Let’s give. 

It’s all about loving the children. As the sign outside Primary Children’s states boldly…

“The Child First and Always”


The Earth is Filled to the Brim with God’s Glory

When my mom and I began this Children’s Hospital Hope Tour, I had high aspirations of writing each night to tell you what happens each and every day. Our schedule has been very tight, and we are filling our days to the tippity-top! There have been many surprises along the way, and we have met people we thought we would never have the chance to meet. When we return home, I look forward to filling in all of the details.

My truest intention on our Hope Tour is to bless the children who are currently fighting cancer to give them hope. My purpose is to give. You know how it feels when everything in you tells you that you need to step out in action? There is no way Mom and I could not set out to complete this mission of our hearts. What I need– and want– to share with you today is how we feel God’s presence each moment of each day… how we feel we are receiving, rather than giving. 

As we drove through upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana today, at every turn, we were overwhelmed with God’s goodness. The beauty of the land that God has given us overwhelmed us again and again, till our eyes brimmed with tears. The great fields of crops and scenic red barns that dotted the land gave me a gratefulness I have not known until this day. Today, I am struck how grateful I am for this Earth God has made for us– for this land that produces the food that sustains us and this land that truly shows us who God is and how much He loves us. 

It is true that He loves us so. It is true that He has filled this Earth with His glory. We need to protect and nourish this land of ours. As our love gift to Him, let’s be good to this land and good to each other.

There is no doubt. I have seen it with my eyes. I know it in my heart. 

The Earth is filled with God’s glory!

God's Glory all around us

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