From the moment my oldest son Ryan was born there was one word we all used to describe him (besides the obvious: adorable)… CONSTANT. We still joke about it but it’s true. From the time he was a baby, the boy never stopped moving– even in his sleep.
Then about two years ago, he had a series of “mystery fevers” over the course of a few months. These episodes left my very active kid– feeling extremely lethargic and spiking fevers, at times reaching 103! These fevers could only be kept temporarily at bay by alternating Motrin and Tylenol- for days.
Just when we thought he was feeling better, the medicine would wear off and we’d find him curled up and burning up under his covers sleeping again.
Eventually, he’d be better for a few weeks and the cycle would start all over again.
Our pediatrician insisted it was all just reoccurring misfortune and completely viral, but I had never seen my son so weak– and could one boy really fall victim to the same misfortune so many times??
So I did what we all are guilty of doing at one time or another.
I Googled. I WebMD’d– and my concerns grew.
Link after link, post after post, I began to fear the worst.
I feared my son had cancer.
More specifically, I feared my son had Leukemia– and it shook me to my core.
In addition to the fevers, we remembered that he had complained about pains in his legs prior to being sick. At the time, we were sure they either growing pains or from his 24/7 basketball playing, but what if we were wrong? What if the pain was worse than he let on? What if this was something bigger?
I called my pediatrician and requested blood work.
Waiting for the results was in actuality probably 48 hours but felt like WEEKS. I felt sick. I wept to my husband, on the phone to my mother and privately when no one was around– over nothing more than my own speculations based soley on a Google search and my own darkest fears.
And then finally, I received the call… NORMAL. The doctor was right. The internet was wrong. I breathed a sigh of relief.
A few short weeks later, a mom from my daughter’s cheer team confided in me that her son was dealing with on-again, off-again mystery fevers just like Ryan had. The words she spoke and expression on her face looked and felt all too familiar. I tried to offer her hope that her son too may just have some crazy reoccurring virus.
Then the next day, I learned that her son was admitted to the hospital when his fever spiked dangerously high. A few days after that, I learned that he was diagnosed with Leukemia.
My worst fear was now their reality.
My heart sank and my stomach knotted up. I felt guilty and ashamed that I had shared my story of nothingness with her. I felt heart broken for her sweet, active, happy boy– whom had already dealt with his share of illness’ in the past.
Over the next year, her son went through chemo and radiation treatment. He spent his 10th birthday in the hospital. He missed out on almost all of his last year in elementary school. He lost all of his hair. I watched a family smiling through pain with a strength that I’ve never witnessed before, shuffling to and from practices trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, when in reality their world was turned upside down. During that time, I also saw our community rally together to help this family– fundraisers, meal trains, laundry services– anything to lift their spirits and make their days a little easier in any way possible.
And then one day after his treatment was complete, his mother announced that he was cancer free!!! I felt the purest JOY, you guys!
It is one of those experiences. though not your own, is permanently embedded in your heart.
I was reminded of this time and this family when I was invited to The Hyundai Hope On Wheels event during the New York Auto Show.
Looking back on that time, it was moving to see so many people in our community coming together to do so much good. The whole adage of “It Takes A Village” applies far beyond every day child-rearing.
At the Hope On Wheels event, I learned that for 20 years, Hyundai dealers have also been coming together to support pediatric cancer. For every Hyundai sold a portion is donated to the Hyundai Hope On Wheels foundation funding pediatric cancer research.
With their support, member institutions of the Children’s Oncology Groups of America are working toward the day when no child ever dies from pediatric cancer.
I have never been more proud to be a Hyundai owner!
Beyond funding research, Hyundai Hope On Wheels is committed to increasing awareness and celebrating the lives of child cancer survivors. They recognize that these amazing kids not only often go through devastating treatments on their road to being cured, but many continue with life-long health related issues as a consequence.
It is a goal of Hyundai Hope On Wheels to not only help kids survive, but to ensure they thrive in their lives after the disease.
This year, Hyundai welcomed two new National Youth Ambassadors. Elizabeth Blair, 11 years old, from Phoenix, AZ and Carter Gates, 12 years old, from Colorado Springs, CO. Both were at the event and bravely took the stage to tell their story. During his speech, Carter said during treatment he decided that he had cancer, but cancer did not have him. Powerful and inspiring words I won’t soon forget.
He is TWELVE, you guys! TWELVE.
These two incredible pediatric cancer survivors will travel the country for the next two years sharing their message of hope. They not only fought pediatric cancer, but they continue to win in life.
At the Hope On Wheels event, the star of the Broadway show, Waitress, Betsy Wolfe took the stage and performed one of my favorite Broadway songs from Wicked, “For Good”. As I listened to the lyrics, I realized how fitting they were:
I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives,
For a reason.
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those,
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
At the end of the event, we met the youth ambassadors. We commended them on the strength and inspiration they’re providing to other kids going through treatment and my friend Melissa turned to Carter and asked to shake his hand – to which he enthusiastically replied “Sure! You can even give me a hug if you want to!”
Tomorrow, my son turns 13 and I have never been more grateful for his health.
I won’t say that I know what these childhood cancer survivors and their families have gone through, because I don’t. But that moment I thought pediatric cancer was a possibility for my son–the emotions I felt in those brief but terrifying few days– and then watching it become the reality of a fellow mom in my own community– it is all forever frozen in time for me.
I left the Hope On Wheels event feeling enamored with the massive strides Hyundai Hope On Wheels is making to help end childhood cancer and inspired by the strength, hope and courage these children and their families are providing to others currently in treatment.
“It well may be,
That we will never meet again,
In this lifetime.
So let me say before we part,
So much of me,
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me,
Like a hand print on my heart.”
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
This post was written in partnership with Hyundai Hope On Wheels.
For more information about Hyundai Hope On Wheels and to view a list of our 2018 Hope On Wheels
grant winners, please visit www.hyundaihopeonwheels.org/research. You can also follow us on
Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at facebook.com/HyundaiHopeOnWheels , twitter.com/HopeOnWheels
ABOUT HYUNDAI HOPE ON WHEELS
Hyundai Hope On Wheels® is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to finding a cure for
childhood cancer. Launched in 1998, Hyundai Hope On Wheels provides grants to eligible institutions
nationwide that are pursuing life-saving research and innovative treatments for the disease. HHOW is
one of the largest non-profit funders of pediatric cancer research in the country, and primary funding for
Hyundai Hope On Wheels comes from Hyundai Motor America and its more than 835 U.S. dealers. Since
its inception, Hyundai Hope On Wheels has awarded more than $130 million towards childhood cancer
research in pursuit of a cure.