1988 was a memorable year for me. I was 9 years old (for most of it) and a lot happened that year - a lot that I thought was a big deal.
Our family and extended family gathered at my grandma's house as my grandpa took his last breaths. He had been sick for quite some time, so we had the gift of time - to prepare. I remember sitting up on the bar stool in the kitchen facing my grandparents' room. I sat and watched as the covers rose and fell, ever-so-slightly, until they didn't. I told the closest relative - my Aunt Linda, and she went into the living room to get grandma.
We cried, we mourned, we planned for the next steps and eventually, slowly, painfully, it got better. I'm still grateful for that gift of time. And the gift of time to heal the pain.
Later that same year, my family made the decision to pack up and leave Southern California for the beautiful Oregon Coast. It took 2 weeks for our house to sell. We packed up the big, yellow Ryder truck and the Pinto. We drove around the corner to grandma's house to say goodbye. As we pulled away from her quaint yellow house, with the perfectly manicured yard and beautiful purple plum tree, I thought my heart would break in two. I felt like we were abandoning her. I wanted the adventure that we were about to have, but I wanted to stay where everything was comfortable...where I had lived my whole 9 years of life.
My first day of school at Rhododendron Elementary was a good one. As I was introduced to my new 4th grade class by my new teacher, Mrs. Helphinstine, a girl in the middle of the room exclaimed, "Yes! A girl!" She and I went on to become the best of friends throughout our school years in Florence. A few days later, I earned the nickname that would follow me throughout my elementary and middle school years: Shamu. Kids are cruel. But again, time heals all wounds, right?
Nine was a memorable age for me. My Christopher was 9 years old less than two years ago and my Laethym will be 9 in a few months. And right now, in those very same walls which house so many memories of my growing up years, a little 9 year-old boy is fighting for his life. Our children came home distraught (particularly Christopher) a few days ago. Each of them clutching a large, white envelope with a news article pasted to the back. Christopher, Laethym and Avonleigh frantically explained that their friend, Donnie had a "really bad" cancer on his brain and that he needed their help! Christopher played Wall Ball with Donnie at every recess and spoke of him often. They were becoming great friends! After listening to the kids pour their hearts (and their piggy banks) out, I sat down to read the article.
SIDENOTE: I would love to put a link to the full article on this blog, but unfortunately, our small town paper doesn't allow public access online without an annual subscription (or e-edition)...lame if you ask me. So here's a similar one that Coast Radio put out.
I read in horror the account of 9 year-old Donnie Luizzi who, after complaining of headaches and dizziness, wound up at Doernbecher Children's Hospital with the diagnosis of: Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (brain stem tumor). And that fast, his life has changed. The rare and inoperable tumor has a 90% mortality rate within 18 months, 97% within 3 years. Absolutely heartbreaking. Donnie will be undergoing intense radiation at Doernbecher for the next 6 weeks in the hopes of shrinking the tumor. In the mean time, he and his dad will be staying up in Portland, in a hotel and commuting home to Florence on the weekends. You can image the costs this family will incur.
The elementary school is having a fundraiser for Donnie and his dad. There will be a Walk-a-Thon tomorrow (Friday, Jan 13th) from 1:30-2:30pm at Hans Peterson Field. If you can come and pledge, please do! If you can't come, but want to donate, PLEASE do!
*An account has been set up in the name of Don Luizzi at Oregon First Community Credit Union in Florence. You can donate at any time - all through his treatment.
Nine was a tough age for me, but nothing like what Donnie is facing. I was never fighting for my life. I always had time on my side (even if I didn't know it). Nine-year-olds have other things they should be worrying about; like who's going to win at Wall Ball or what Angry Birds t-shirt they'll wear next. Not cancer. Not brain cancer. NOT 97% fatal brain cancer! I hope to raise my five little ones to the age of 9 and FAR beyond. They will have their pivotal ages and their trials. I just hope cancer (or kidney replacement) isn't one of them. Our heartfelt prayers are going up for brave little Donnie and for his family.
*PLEASE repost and share (share buttons are below)! This family really needs our help!
**I will be taking lots of pictures at the Walk-a-Thon, so look for Part 2 tomorrow! Luvs!
Some pictures from our efforts to gather donations:
It's hard to tell, but there is ice all around the perimeter of this puddle! Brrrr!
We met some wonderful people...salt of the earth, really.
And we were silly.
And we had a really good time. Together.