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Childhood Cancer

alec vanderboom

One of the most intimate moments of being a NICU parent was sharing the elevator with strangers.

Children's Hospital in D.C. arranges all their specialties by floors. The second floor is surgery, the third floor is "cardiac", the sixth floor was the NICU.

So when people exited a specific floor, you knew exactly what the basic diagnosis was for their kid. It was like a giant neon sign that violated all medical privacy laws.

Cancer was on the fourth floor.

I can't tell you how often those cancer kids "fooled me."

I would stumble out of my teeny daughter's room, emotionally exhausted by hanging out with a silent, listless baby with ounces upon ounces of ugly green stuff being yanked continuously out of her stomach and head to the elevator.

I'd smile at the normal looking four year old, the one who demanded that her relaxed Dad with a tan and flip flops find her starfish sunglasses to wear for her doctor's appointment. "How sweet," I'd think and relax in the normal exchange of smiles from across the elevator.

Then Dad and daughter would get off calmly on the Cancer floor.

My heart would start doing flip flops.

How do you help when a child has cancer?

I thought this story about a Catholic family who lost a 10 year old son who loved to skateboard was pretty profound.

"For an hour, one Sunday morning last May, the Parks and Recreations board quietly opened the gates to the ‘almost public’ skatepark — allowing Johnny to skate on last time before chemo started. Only now can I understand what a beautiful gift the Board gave our family that day. It’s amazing that when a small town with a heart the size o Texas, told a small boy ‘Yes” — how much impact that one word, for one hour, had on our family — never knowing it would be Johnny’s last time to skate.
It’s the little things in life that make a difference — just saying the word ‘yes’ can change a life, a community, a family and has left us with a lifetime of memories that we will never forget — watching Johnny skate the empty park all to himself, with a big smile on his face and his friends and family cheering him on. "

I LOVE the "YES" part.

Makes me want to say a big YES to more God moments in my own life!

More childhood cancer stories from the New York Times here.

God bless your dear soul Johnny Ramono. Roll forever.