A woman I knew in high school, who I connected with again on Facebook (seriously, as much as it irritates me, it’s been a great thing to have), lost her little boy. He was born with a nevus, specifically a Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, and a large one at that; a two-in-a-million chance. No, seriously, about 1 in 500,000 are born with a giant nevus, so two-in-a-million. The larger the nevus, the greater the risk of developing melanoma, although mathematically, it’s still on the low side (10% or less). Christian fell within that group.
He spent a lot of his life in hospitals, between first replacing the nevus with skin from the rest of his body, and then surgery and treatment for the malignant tumors that spread through him, his mother by his side. There were some very dark days, but he inherited his mother’s strength and attitude. So many photos and videos show him being curious, bubbly, even giggling, playing, enjoying life in the hospital or out.
Last week, after aggressive treatments for his tumors, he developed a urinary tract infection. He fought it for as long as he could. On Friday, about 9:30, in his mother’s arms, his fight ended.
I read about it Saturday morning, AFTER my blog post. I almost pulled what I wrote and put up something else, but I couldn’t stop crying long enough to do it. Although I was alone in my house, I wasn’t alone in the world; several of us, some who’d only known her through her Facebook page, some who’d known her from a past life (high school for me), and others who’d just seen her hours before, spent a good chunk of Saturday in tears.
Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I spent the evening with a few hundred people who had one thing in common – celebrating a life cut short by cancer. People from all parts of her life came to pay respects at his visitation last night, including a fair chunk of SCPA alumni. Others went to his funeral service this morning. I can’t imagine what it was like for her, his father, their parents, their families, people who had grown to love this bright light, celebrating his successes and supporting through his losses by his side. I know that there were a number of people holding their own kids a little tighter the past few days. I know that, even though I never got to meet him in person, my life is a little richer for him being here, and emptier now that he’s gone.
It frustrates me sometimes how much press all the cancers get. Almost no one knows anything about PKD, or how it can make people look pregnant, how they can look otherwise healthy while their kidneys fail, how fatigue sets in at the slightest provocation, how there’s nothing we could have done to prevent it, nothing we did to cause it. Then a friend says she has cancer, says her husband has cancer, says her child has cancer, and none of that matters. Not then.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in the US. I know a lot of survivors, thankfully. I’m grateful for every one. Sometimes, though, cancer wins a battle, and sometimes it’s a devastating one.
Christian’s was a life lived fully, if not long. In his 19 months, his story touched hundreds. He’s the real reason I bought Devon Still’s jersey (which I still haven’t gotten). He spent his last days at Cincinnati Children’s, where the money from the jersey goes.
I’m not one to say a person shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves because someone else has it worse; all that does is make people feel badly about saying anything, so they say nothing. That competitive attitude, the Us vs. Them helps no one, and hurts all. What you experience is no less significant because someone else is experiencing something different. If you’re moved and are able to do so, please donate to a well-researched charity of your choice. Or take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottles of water to homeless people, or buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you. Whatever you do, remember there are parents and children and siblings and spouses and friends who have an empty space in their hearts every day, that you are not the only one in the world with troubles.
A special thanks to the men and women in hospitals and hospices who do everything they can to make a hospital stay as pleasant as possible. I know a few of those, too, and they are truly special people.