A Childhood Cancer Survivor Blogging about the World of Childhood Cancer

Posts tagged ‘Breanna’

Think About the Unthinkable


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

Welcome to the month of September.

This is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

“The White House announced today that September has been declared National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

President Barack Obama made the proclamation to highlight the recent successes in treating pediatric cancer and to underscore the challenges still facing young people dealing with life-threatening diseases.”

From an article in Hem/Onc Today, dated September 2, 2011 (today!)


My friends, I ask you to continue your fight against childhood cancer. For those of you who may read these words who have never looked to face the world of childhood cancer, I ask you to turn and look.

What I want you to see most of all is not a “what,” but many “who’s.”

The children…

It is our serious responsibility to care for the young in our society. If each and every adult knew that tomorrow, 46 random U. S. children will be “chosen” as cancer victims, I don’t see how we can live on without swift, determined action. I don’t see how we can look at these faces and not think about how their lives matter. The dearest way we can show  that their lives matter is to make a difference for the children of the future.


Thank you to everyone who is building the Childhood cancer War Machine for your hours of dedication, sweat, and tears. You know exactly who you are.

I do too.

For everyone else, please bring yourself to think about what is truly “Unthinkable.”

Children do get cancer.

If we know the truth, well…I guess we each have to think about it, and then think about what part we each play in that truth.

Without a doubt, we are all called to action.



“Unthinkable” by Alicia Keyes (played by Melinda in my Team Max Shirt (which by the way is a fashion “must have!”)


Go ahead… think about the unthinkable… 

Beware, you will fall in love with the children, over and over again.

Fair warning.



Souls in Tiny People Shells

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

Sometimes I wonder why we need to walk around in these stinkin’ People Shells. Please forgive me God— I am very, very grateful for my body. I call them “stinkin” because they get messed up, they mess you up, and they give out.

When I hear of another cancer child losing the battle… like Savannah Swandal…

I wonder why.

Savannah will be forever 11, but her smile will be forever mixed with all the love I store in my heart. I never had the pleasure of meeting her here on this Earth, but I look forward to meeting her where she dances now. She must be dancing, with Breanna, and Max, and Alexa, and so many others.

Imagine children in their heavenly bodies dancing and giggling, while God watches them with a love we will never come close to witnessing on this globe. There is a joy and a peace and a happiness that fills their spirits beyond what is beyond what is beyond…

This joy awaits us. Every one of us.

We must be called to love one another.

Being stuffed into this People Shell gets tough… watching our loved ones suffer in their People Shell is torture.

While I am here in this Shell, I pledge to do all I can to make cancer disappear from People Shells—beginning with Tiny People Shells.

I love you, Souls in Tiny People Shells:)

Praying for Savannah’s family. Grateful for the love Savannah shared with all of us.

Savannah Swandal


Croak Cancer, Croak!

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

Swirling feelings from many directions have me spinning a bit today. I am very, very excited about being one of 251 people throughout the world who have been chosen to be 2011 LIVESTRONG leaders. At 7:00 am, I listened to my very first LIVESTRONG conference call. May I please admit that one of my favorite things about the experience was hearing different accents from all over the world? This is something I love about LIVESTRONG—they see cancer as a “global threat” that needs immediate attention. Truly, the entire world needs to notice, needs to learn, and needs to act now to fight cancer.  I am grateful for this opportunity to help LIVESTRONG make survivors stronger each day… and most of all, for the opportunity to help make cancer so weak that it croaks.

Yes… I wish cancer would croak.

As this day has progressed, I received news… bad news. I have an event scheduled for this coming weekend for the University of Art in San Francisco; they are raising money for the University of San Francisco’s Children’s Hospital. For a couple of months now, I have been communicating with a lady named Rachel who is planning this event. I haven’t heard anything from her for the past two weeks—until today. She has been spending countless hours at USF Children’s Hospital because her nephew, Sy, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer two weeks ago. She has been planning this event out of the kindness of her heart to help fight pediatric cancer, and now, she is personally affected by the horror of  her loved one being struck by this terrible beast. Please pray for Sy.

To top off the swirling, I received mail today. I received Breanna’s program from her memorial service. Her mom, Helen, was very kind to send it to me.  I cried looking at her photos. I cried looking at her smile. I cried imagining what her family is feeling. I cried to know that she fought so hard, suffered so much, and now she isn’t here.

Yes… I wish cancer would croak.

Croak Cancer, Croak!

My buddy, Braden Hofen is telling cancer to croak too. In his own words, “Take THAT cancer!”

Go Braden! Go Sy!

Braden says, "Take THAT cancer!"

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Life is Tender

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

There are days in life where there is nothing I can think of but life. Today is one of those days. Maybe it was the news today that Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway passed away from Hodgkin lymphoma. Maybe it’s because I have been thinking of Breanna’s family all week-long and about her memorial service coming up this Saturday. Maybe it’s all of this combined with rain that has settled me into a reflective mode.

Maybe it’s because life is tender.

Yes. It is because life is tender.

Tenderness is something I love in life.

I find tenderness when someone looks at me with love in their eyes and tenderness in the soft voice of a friend. I love the tenderness of warm hugs and the tenderness of genuine smiles.

When I look at the photographed faces and into the hearts and spirits of the childhood cancer warriors I have posted, I see tenderness like no other tenderness here on Earth. There is a peace– a calming gentleness– that comes straight from their souls to fill mine. How they are able to mask the pain, the fear, and the helplessness with their angelic expressions is a miracle in itself.

I can’t help but believe that these little warriors already have the life wisdom to see life through the Great Zoom Out Button. They use this perspective to bring joy and meaning to those around them who can only sit back and shake their heads in amazement. They teach us that life is way too short to bicker, quarrel, or be nasty in any way.

They teach us we have a heart for a purpose.

Please be tender… just as our dearly loved warriors are teaching us by their example.

Please pray for Anais Medina

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“God Gives Children With Cancer Something Extra”

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

Continuing my thoughts from yesterday’s post about the need for celebrities to Step up to the Plate to become dedicated advocates to help raise money for childhood cancer research, I want to acknowledge some people who have come up to bat. One person I want to thank is Jeff Gordon, for his compassion and dedication to establish Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Hospital . Another person who has given from his heart to help children with cancer is Jeff Foxworthy. Mr. Foxworthy has been an advocate for children with cancer for many years. He has helped CUREChildhood Cancer, and he has also helped me.

It was nearly a year ago when I began sending out requests for testimonials/endorsements for my book. I wish I could communicate all that I learned from this process. It was highly educational; I learned a lot about the human spirit. Right away, I heard back from a kind woman named Maggie, who told me that she forwarded my request to Mr. Foxworthy and he responded swiftly and with compassion. This told me he is one of the special people with a loving heart for children. I also learned has given from his heart to help Duke University Children’s Hospital. The words he chose for his endorsement told me he has spent time with childhood cancer warriors; he is not just posing for photos with bald children to boost his likeability. (Do people really do this?????)

This is what he wrote for me, and what he wrote to help other children with cancer:

“I have often said God gives children with cancer something extra. They are remarkable and inspiring people to be around. Melinda tells her story with such honesty and openness that you can’t help but be touched and encouraged. This is sure to be a blessing to all who read it!”

He included a note, saying that I could edit it or “throw it in the trash can!”

I just love Jeff Foxworthy!

Others celebrities who stopped their lives to respond kindly included Ray Romano and Kathie Lee Gifford… I send my deep gratitude to each of them for their contributions.

The responses to my request were as varied as the people who inhabit our Earth. Some people responded with kindness, even when they chose not to help. One response that came from a famous young singer (who I will not name at this time,) I will admit, was a bit disturbing… it ruffled my mom’s feathers.

This was the response from her publicist: “I don’t think childhood cancer applies to _______.”

Now, for my mom, a no answer was just fine. But this statement, for my mom and I imagine for many other parents, was just the same as stating, “I don’t care about children with cancer.” Does childhood cancer have to “apply” to us before we realize that it is the responsibility of every living, breathing adult to care for the children in this world? How can it be that there has not been one new therapy approved to fight childhood cancers in the past twenty years, yet our technological advances have grown exponentially?

This is entirely unacceptable.

Children who “make it” through their tortuous treatments are losing their battle after the battle. The treatments are so toxic that the side effects when treatment ends can be brutally painful and life-threatening.

This is why I keep writing… everyone needs to hear… everyone needs to help.

My friend, Breanna, who I have been asking you to pray for, left this Earth for heaven last night. She made it through her treatments, but effects from treatment caused complications that were too much. Please pray for Breanna’s family, and please do everything you can that will help find a cure.

Breanna (on the right) and her friend Sammie

Once You Choose Hope, Anything is Possible

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

Have you ever prayed for a miracle?

Have you ever prayed for a miracle and then, one day, saw that miracle come true?

For me, today is that day.

The miracle is Braden.

I have written before of one of my heroes, Braden Hofen. Braden is six. I just learned the results of his latest scans after treatment for recurring neuroblastoma.




I am so thankful I had to type it three times, and I can only imagine what his family must be feeling!!!!!!!!!!  Besides giving thanks for the great news about Braden’s health, I am also giving thanks for the hundreds of people who have been praying for him. I am giving thanks for all of the people who have supported Braden and the Hofen family in every way—big and small.

I just hung up the phone from talking with Jonny Imerman of Imerman Angels. Guess who is their newest “Angel”? These “Angels” are “matched,” and they give support to patients going through similar cancer experiences. I absolutely love this! What a great idea, what a great organization, and what a blessing it was to speak with Jonny… no doubt he is a Real Angel. If you know someone going through cancer who could use support from someone who has already gone down the same path (is there a cancer patient who couldn’t use this?) this is the place to refer them!

While I am rejoicing in the miraculous news with everyone who loves and cares about Braden, my heart is, at the same time, heavy with the news today about a friend I have written of before, Breanna. She is fighting very, very hard, and at this time, is unresponsive. Her mom reports that her vital signs are strong. Please pray for Breanna. Please pray those same miracle prayers we have all prayed for Braden.

Let’s multiply miracles.

“Once You Choose Hope, Anything is Possible”

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

Miracle Messenger, Braden Hofen, HOPE!


A Girl Named Breanna

I am thinking a lot about a girl named Breanna.  She is the same age I was when I got sick, and she is fighting cancer right now.  I remember how a girl named Rachel came to see me at the clinic after my first round of chemo.  She had battled Hodgkin lymphoma a year before I did, and she looked healthy and happy… and she gave me hope.  That was where I was headed– right where Rachel was. 

You can imagine the mix of emotions inside me.  It makes me “sick” that Breanna is sick and suffering, and it makes me want to do all I can to stop cancer.  Also, it makes me want to give Breanna hope.

A friend gave Breanna my book and introduced us by email. 

 We have sent a few cards to each other, and I even have a picture of Breanna with her very own therapy dog:)   Breanna told me that she likes when her mom reads her my book because, “It reminds me of me.”  My mom cried when she read this… it means so much to her that my story helps children with cancer.  She has a special place in her heart for children with cancer. 

By God’s Grace, I am now the encourager.  And the cycle of love comes full circle.  I feel humble, and blessed, and greatly responsible to pass on the grace that saved my life. 

Please send prayers to the heavens for complete healing for Breanna…

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