She is ten. She has just finished chemo. Her cancer is back.
When I was a kid, I remember there was this movie, maybe one of those after school morality plays, that told the story of lots of children with cancer and their time at a summer camp just for them. I think the film was supposed to be happy, uplifting, joyful. I couldn’t watch it. All that illness – all that potential death in bodies as young or younger than mine – it made me ache so badly that I had to turn it off.
In college, I babysat a group of children on Wednesday mornings so that their moms could have a Bible Study. I got up very early (at like 7am) and drove the few miles to spend two hours in the basement. Most of the time, I asked if we could play house and if I could be the baby – then I could lie down.
In that group of kids was a little boy named Kyle. His hair was so blonde and his face so perfectly found. He played and played with the other kids, scooting little trikes around the basement and coloring endless page. He was 3.
Over time, Kyle spent more and more time in my lap. He’d curl up and watch the other kids play, as the chemo coursed through his young body, as his hair feathered away.
At Kyle’s funeral, the pastor said, “We prayed for healing for Kyle, and we don’t know why we didn’t get that answer to our prayer, but we still trust – as best we can – that God is good.”
I have lived my whole life with the specter of cancer. My mom was finishing up her treatments for her first occurrence of melanoma when she was pregnant with me. This ghost has haunted my life for every single minute of every single day. You think I would get to used to it.
But I don’t. I don’t want to. Children should not lose their hair because we have to pump their bodies full of toxins that nearly kill them and hopefully kill their errant cells. Children should not die.
One of the things I most look forward to when this world is made new is that all of these children will have new bodies with hair just like they want.
Today, I think of Alyssa and her family as they are in Houston getting information that, we all hope, can become a miracle. I think of Kyle and his siblings, who must now be in college themselves. I think of all those children in that film, their bald heads soft and tender with hope.
If you would like a way to take action against cancer, please seek out your local American Cancer Society, join a local Relay For Life, donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or see if there is a nearby family who might need your help with meals or funds to get to treatment or babysitting. Anything you do will help – you and them.
On June 9th, I will be shaving my head to be in solidarity with people who have lost their hair to cancer, especially Alyssa and the other children I know and have known. I’ll be sure to post pictures.