Today, 6/22/2012, the hospital is celebrating their 50 year anniversary. This place has meant so much to us in the 5 years we have been here. It has taught us that cancer is beatable, that life is precious, and that one man’s promise and vision can truly change the world.
Danny Thomas, the founder of St Jude Children’s Hospital, made a pledge early in his entertaining career to build a shrine to St Jude. That promise became a vision of hope. “Danny told his close friend and mentor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, about his pledge to build a shrine to the saint. During their conversation, an idea began to take shape. The shrine would be a hospital for needy children, a place where they would be cared for regardless of race, religion or ability to pay – a hospital where no suffering child would be turned away. ” (from http://www.stjude.tv/danny_thomas_story.cfm) Because of this vision over 50 years ago and Danny Thomas’ ability to see a dream through to reality, my baby’s life was saved.
Cancer is ugly. It is painful and it is cruel. It rips families apart, destroys bodies, takes parents from children and ends lives before they begin. It leaves one feeling utterly hopeless and alone.
As I leave St Jude I am walking into final preparations for Ft Bliss’s Relay for Life. This will be our family’s second year to attend. Last year Katie was asked to be the grand marshal of the event. I was hesitant at first. I felt like our lives were already inundated with cancer and I did not want to further submerge ourselves into a culture I felt would bring more pain. It didn’t. The night brought healing and a sense of empowerment for Katie as well as the rest of the family.
This year’s theme for Relay at Ft Bliss is “Let’s Face Reality.” At first when I heard, I was mortified. Reality! Face Reality! Who wants to face reality in the darkness of diagnoses and looming death? I walk through the halls of St. Jude in a daze trying my best to forget that some of these children will not be here on our next visit. Yes the place brings hope to so many, yes the journey brings life lessons you would never give back, but the pain our children face we would avoid at all costs. Reality hurts.
The last thing when facing cancer that I want to think of is reality. But then it struck me, in the form of a kind guided word from a friend as well as the patient created art displayed on the walls of St Jude. Reality is that miracles do happen. Reality is that my daughter should be dead and she isn’t. Reality is that we just passed the 5-year cancer free mark and she is now referred to as a survivor. Reality is the journey has blessed our family in ways words can not cover.
Cancer can not rob us of this. It may destroy our bodies, but it can do no more. Nothing can separate us, not even disease, from the love of God that has granted us eternal life.
As painful of an experience as my daughter’s cancer, the journey brought joy and Christ showed us His loving kindness through the pain. But had he chosen to not heal her body, it still would not have been the end.
Death does not have the final say, it is not the end, it is a form of healing. This side of eternity it hurts to be left behind but on the other side, where loved ones have gone before us, it is magnificent!
Danny Thomas was not the only man who promised to change the world, and he was not the only man who fulfilled that promise. Danny Thomas has stalled death on this earth for so many children who fled to his hospital because their prognosis was hopeless. Through him, they found hope and a desire to beat the odds. Jesus came to this earth as a man, as the only Son of God, to not stall death but to defeat it once and for all. When Jesus gave his life on the cross he had the final say over death. He ushered in a hope for all of man that death would not destroy but would only be the beginning of an Eternity with God.
So thank you Relay for making me face reality head-on, thank you Danny for giving my family more time with our precious Katie, and thank you Jesus for guaranteeing that when we place our faith and hope in you cancer can never defeat us!