My nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia at 2-years-old. I don’t normally share this story because it’s not my story to share but today, it’s time to speak the words.
“My nephew had leukemia.”
To be honest, I’ve been too afraid to say the words out loud like somehow the words themselves might give the leukemia power and bring the blood cancer fates down on us again.
As a mother, one of my biggest fears is losing one of my children. I often say that I don’t know how I would survive it but the truth is, I know exactly how one survives it. I just don’t ever want to have to.
In 1996, a decade before I was a mother, myself, I was an aunt. Yes, I was that crazy, (probably) over doting, obnoxious aunt to my first nephew, Alex. I’m serious, I had his baby pictures on my nightstand. It scared many of a date when I was single.
I come from a large Latino family and, in our family, family is everything. Mi casa es su casa. What’s mine is yours and we love each other’s children as much as we love our own so baby Alex was fair game as far as all of us were concerned. Alex was the pride and joy of my brother, Carlos and his wife, Jodie. Alex was the first of the next generation of the Cruz kids and we loved that kid more than a fat kid loves cake. If only love could make you immune to the cruelties of the world.
When Alex was only 2-years-old the unthinkable happened, Alex was diagnosed with T-Cell A.L.L (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).
With that diagnosis of leukemia, as a family, our world crashed down all around us. The world as we knew it ceased to make sense. I questioned everything I’d ever believed or knew because how could this be happening to a child.
I wasn’t a mother myself at the time so I couldn’t fully understand what that diagnosis felt like as a parent. Hearing my brother’s voice on the phone, hundreds of miles away, with no family around; the pain and anguish in his voice was palpable when he delivered the news. I knew he was broken but he was stoic for his son.
I hung up the phone and sobbed, cursed and prayed. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening. I just knew that this couldn’t be happening. That moment changed all of us. In many ways, it has defined the person I am today.
Experiencing that kind of vulnerability and helplessness makes you realize that every single day is important. Every moment counts. Every word, deed and action of your life means something because your moment may be someone else’s lifetime so embrace life.
Life is fickle and just as quickly as you are crying tears of joy as they are laying your precious newborn baby onto your chest, you can be holding back tears of sadness as you fight for their life. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are someone’s everything.
My brother and his wife are two of the strongest people I know. When you are a parent of a seriously ill child, you lose the luxury of choosing to collapse in a pool of snot and tears when the world beats you down, you just have to suck it up and be strong for your children no matter how broken and vulnerable you are feeling yourself. Once you get behind closed doors, you can collapse, cry, scream and rage against the world.
You have to be brave for the both of you. You stay strong for your child until you make it out the other side; healthy and happy. My brother and his wife are still two of the strongest people that I’ve ever known.
Back in those days, I was terrified every time the phone rang when I saw North Carolina on the caller I.D. On one particular night, I saw my brother’s number. I held my breath and answered the phone, as I always did in those days. My brother recounted the day’s events, heavily uttering the words that he had to lay across his toddler to hold him down so the doctors could do a spinal tap as my confused 2-year-old nephew screamed,
I could hear my brother’s voice cracking as his heart was breaking.
That’s cancer. Doing the hard things to save your loved one even when it breaks your heart. Watching as the person you love is in pain, wanting desperately to take their place and being helpless to take it away.
This all happened when Carlos was only 22-years-old. My brother and his wife survived Alex’s leukemia with grace, love and hope. Thanks to so many amazing people (doctors, nurses, family and friends) including Wake Forest Baptist Medical Hospital and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They went on to have 3 more beautiful children.
Alex went into remission and has not had any relapses. Today, my beautiful nephew, the firstborn Cruz grandchild is a 21-year-old sweet, caring young man. He is our miracle. He is a survivor and we are blessed every single day that we have him here with us. Other families are not so fortunate.
Since then, my brother and his family have hosted countless events to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. It’s the one charity that I never say no to when asked it donate. How can we ever repay the debt of a child’s life?
This year my brother was nominated for the honor of being The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) 2017 Man & Woman of the Year campaign. He deserves it. He is a devoted husband and father who is a pillar of the community and does his best to give back to a world that gave him his son back.
As a family, we have set a goal to raise $100,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society between today and June 1, 2017. I know it’s ambitious but that’s how we Cruz kids roll. We go big, especially when it’s such an important cause.
I am humbly asking for your support in our efforts to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in its mission to find a cure for blood cancers and to assist patients and families as they battle this disease. No donation is too small or too large. Every single dollar counts towards finding a cure. Your donation could help save another parent from having to live through this excruciating experience.
There are two easy ways to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society find a cure:
Make a personal gift. (Your donation is a tax-deductible contribution.). Go to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign Web site and make your contribution at https://www.mwoy.org/pages/in/neindiana17/dbeckp
- Invite your business or organization to be a corporate sponsor.
$25,000 – Presenting Sponsor
$ 15,000 – Platinum
$ 10,000 – Gold
$ 5,000 – Silver
$ 2,500 – Bronze
$ 1,000 – Bronze
$1,000, $500 or $250 – Grand Finale Program Ad
I want to personally say thank you from all of us; it truly means everything to us.If you want to learn more about what the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is doing please go here for latest updates.