A year ago Jeff and I were in uncharted territory. Ben was gone. Jeff had left his job. We took what remained of our family and left Seattle for three months. We spent that time absorbing Ben’s absence, experiencing the fullness of grief, and simply just trying to breathe. During those months we built a memorial, lived through what would have been Ben’s fourth birthday and tried to be as present for Ryan as we were capable of. Neither of us had any expectations of that time, except to try to survive. And on many days that didn’t even seem desirable. Tears were shed. Dirt was dug. Oars were paddled. And strangely, we discovered, time continued. Time does not heal, as Hallmark and good intentioned people would like you to believe. But time passes.
And as it did we began to find words for our anger. Words for the injustice of what happened to Ben – to us. We (okay I) started to direct our rage less at God and more at cancer. And in doing so we began to intentionally think. We wondered if we might play a significant role in bringing awareness and funding to pediatric cancer research. It was not so much about turning something horrible into something good, but more so a determination that was birthed. A confidence that grew. A vision that took shape.
We returned to Seattle and spent the next six months with trusted advisors learning as much as we could. We talked to oncologists, scientists, development experts, business persons and more. Each individual gave their time, kindness and expertise to us. Each conversation brought more clarity. Each step made us ask, if people like ourselves, who understand the brutal reality of childhood cancer don’t step up, then who will? We met other parents who had lost their children to variations of this disease. Their pain, loss and the devastation that was now their lives were similar to ours. It didn’t matter the type of cancer, for at the end of treatment a child either lives or dies. It is that black and white. Slowly, but surely, the mission was becoming clear. This was not just about neuroblastoma, though we obviously care deeply about defeating this particular disease – but about all childhood cancers. And because of the compassion and generosity of some supporters – our vision, and thus this foundation, became a reality.
So here we are a year later. Many waters have been crossed to arrive at this point. The start of this mission does not erase where we have been. The progress that will be made in the future will not change the outcome of Ben’s life, nor the immense sadness we feel daily without him. But it will change lives. It will change the face of pediatric cancer. It will be bring cures. It is bigger in scope than we could have imagined, but then again – we never could have imagined any of this. Are we crazy to think we could play a significant role in curing childhood cancers? Probably in some people’s minds – for it is an audacious thought – but not in ours. For once you have watched your child die with your own eyes your scale of what is crazy, and what is not – is completely different. We have seen the worst – and therefore are freed to dream with no limitations. And so we are dreaming of a day when all childhood cancers will be cured.
That is how it began – in a nutshell. I look forward to writing about how it will continue…