Kids and Cancer
Facing the unimaginable and unexplainable
-Julie Ryan Evans
I sat down to write my blog this weekend with a host of ideas from the last week’s happenings, but really, it’s all pretty insignificant compared to news I got last week about a little boy in Omaha named Joey, whom I’ve never met, but can’t stop thinking about.
He’s the son of a friend I met during my first days of college who over the years came to be my very best friend. Kathy was closer to me than any friend I ever had. We had so much in common, so many fun times and deep talks late into the night. I remember we’d try to sneak out of our sorority so that we could just have alone time without sharing each other with anyone else.
For almost 10 years we were inseparable and knew virtually all there was to know about each other. I would have never imagined not having her in my life. But two of the things we had in common were a very strong stubborn streak and fierce pride. Those two things, coupled with an argument about something I’ve lost sight of over the years, ended our friendship.
For about eight years we didn’t speak–not an e-mail, a phone call or random encounter. We just disappeared from each other’s lives, leaving–in mine at least–a huge void. I thought of her often, and almost reached out … but never did. Then time kept piling on, and it seemed too late.
A few months ago she read an article I wrote and sent me an e-mail about it. I was surprised, maybe more surprised than I’ve been by an e-mail, but also thrilled. It was great to hear about her life and start to reconnect again.
We found that our lives had taken some similar paths, including the fact that both of us now have 5-year-old boys. Actually, she has two 5-year-old boys–twins Joey and Jack–and then two other boys as well. Four in all. I never would have imagined her with four boys, but life never is what we imagine it will be.
This past week I got another e-mail from her, one that I’m sure she never imagined writing … one that shook me to my core, and I haven’t been able to shake from my thoughts ever since I heard the news.
Her beautiful, energetic, vibrant 5-year-old son, Joey, has cancer–two tumors in his brain. One minute they were having a picnic; the next he was having seizures and in the hospital where doctors told her and husband the unfathomable, the unbearable.
It’s every parent’s nightmare, but Kathy and her husband can’t wake up from it, because it’s their reality.
So I’m left aching for, praying for, crying for Joey, whom I’ve never had the privilege to meet, and for Kathy, who I’m so happy to once again call my friend. I’m also gasping in fear at the thought that it could just as easily be one of my own children stricken at random with such a devastating, unimaginable diagnosis.
I’ve always thrown out the mantra and tried to believe that everything happens for a reason. But when something this awful happens to an innocent child, it makes you question everything.
While devout in her religion, Kathy has never believed everything happens for a reason. In fact, a few months ago when everyone was doing their 25 Random Things About Me list on Facebook, her third item was eerily prophetic: “I think saying ‘Things happen for a reason’ is a cop-out.”
And really, how can there possibly be a reason for a 5-year-old to face such a fate?
I do hope, however, that there is a reason that we reconnected before this tragedy struck her family. I hope there’s something I can do to help ease their burden, some role I am supposed to play to make their journey a little easier. Because cop-out or not, it’s all I’ve got right now…