Leaving the bathroom, I grip the paper towels from washing my hands and turn the door handle. Through each door the paper towels create a barrier between my flesh and surfaces that hundreds of others have touched. My coworkers tease me with only a little mockery in their voices as I use the corner of my sweater or sleeve to open doors or my knuckle to push buttons on the copy machine. At home in the medicine cabinet is an arsenal of supplements and fast acting immune boosters to ingest at the first hint of possible symptoms. I own a thermometer, two in fact. I know how to move through the world touching nothing, alert to danger everywhere, on the ready to defend against a virus that could bring death. But this alertness, this habit of caution, did not begin with a pandemic.
Nine years ago there was one single human I was called upon to protect. I had lived with an audacity to believe I could move through the world haphazardly, blithely ignoring any caution for the spread of illness. I mean I was healthy right? I never got sick. Yeah I washed my hands, sometimes. Arrogantly I thought my health was all about me. Then cancer forced the stripping of my child’s immune system through the indiscriminate destruction of chemotherapy. Humbled and frightened, I came to see how the piddly rhino virus (common cold), could take down my sweet girl. Part of her treatment were two $14,000 shots of Synagis (palivizumab), a drug made up of virus-fighting antibodies which can help prevent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). When she did in fact contract RSV a year later, as we attempted to get her cancer under control for a bone marrow transplant, she received $85,000 in Ribavirin, as RSV is known to be fatal in transplant.
My eyes bolted open, alert to a world swirling with danger, invisible and everywhere. I learned to create a sterile field to change Allistaire’s dressing over her double-lumen Hickman catheter. I eyed the nurse as she scrubbed the end of the tubes for 30 seconds and let it dry for 30 seconds to ensure it was safe to draw blood. Outside of the hospital I was responsible for Allistaire’s line care and occasional fluids or antibiotics. My mind began to become adept at following all the possible steps for bacteria or viruses to enter the body of my child. My eyes squinted, scanning for potential danger, intent to protect my girl. Not only did I need to protect her directly, but I had to ensure my own health, knowing how easy it would be for me to unknowingly infect her with my own body’s fight with a virus. My health was no longer simply about me. Protecting my own health was a direct and powerful means to stop the spread of infection and in so doing, show love to others in the most practical way possible, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Allistaire herself would don the little Disney character covered masks or the fancy custom mask made especially for her with pink rhinestones and a little monogrammed “A.” We knew it did little to really protect her from an array of viruses hanging in the air, but it was a step we could take to guard the life of our girl.
To date there are 1,039,757 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, killing 60,964 people.
Each year an estimated 15,780 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States, killing about 1,900.
In 2020, an estimated 1,800,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Last year 606,880 people died of cancer in the United States.
Those with cancer know what it is to live with the terror of viruses. Now the whole earth has become keenly awakened to the danger.
For the 8th year in a row I am asking you to support research at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center through their annual fundraiser, Obliteride. This August I will again ride my bike in thanks for those researchers whose relentless pursuit to cure cancer gave my child double her life span. I ride in hope that more people will have the treatment to overcome cancer and even prevent it in the first place. Allistaire died 4 years ago today. I can’t tell you how much I miss my little wild cat, and it is joy to honor her life and those who will be forced to follow her.
This year Obliteride dollars will fund both Cancer and COVID-19 research!
“Because this pandemic poses an urgent threat, particularly for people affected by cancer, 50% of the funds Obliteride raises in 2020 will support Fred Hutch’s work to halt COVID-19, and 50% will continue to fuel our core goal: curing cancer faster. Right now, Fred Hutch researchers are applying their deep expertise across the research spectrum, from immunology to public health, to advance cancer discoveries and track, prevent, and treat COVID-19.” (Direct quote from Obliteride Director, Jim Birrell)
Sickness and death come in many forms and no one wants research to begin once cancer or a pandemic strike. Funding research now, ahead of the curve, only makes sense! To donate to Obliteride in my name and support both cancer and COVID-19 research, click HERE.
You can also participate in Obliteride by joining our Team Baldy Tops as a 5K walker/runner or ride the 25, 50 or 100 mile routes. To get a glimpse of Obliteride, watch this 1 minute video:
It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years since Allistaire died. I had a friend who was killed in Vietnam 50 years ago. His young sister said that it changed everything in their family life from before and after he died. As the life of our Lord teaches us suffering is the way to a deeper life, but one still shrouded in unresolvable mystery. Christ still bore the marks of his wounds after his resurrection. I know that your suffering has allowed you to enter into the lives of those you counsel with an understanding heart. I pray that the passage of time and your own healing finds you in a better place. Ride on!
Jai, I missed this post originally. I don’t know if the notification didn’t come or if it was lost in the fog of Corona reorienting making my life smaller for a while. Then I thought of You today. And of Allistair, and Solveig. My son Sawyer, who has fought seizures for the past 9 years, who is so close to Allistair’s exact age, turned 10 on March 10. Corona was looming but waited a few more days to change our world here in the Midwest. I thought of Allistaire that day. I remember her every March and think of her light and your lionesslike way that you mothered and taught me how to pray and thank God and Raul at the heartbreak of the fight. I hope you are well. I hope you have more moments of purpose and some of peace and joy. I want you to know how much you have touched my life, heart, and faith. And mostly, that I think of and remember and still talk about Allistaire, who I never met but touched my soul. Thank you for opening up your Obliteride team for me to ride 3 years ago.
Jai: I think of and pray for you and yours often. I hope you have peaceful moments and memories that bring you joy.
Thank you for the Obliteride link.