Every Mile Will Change You (Day 244)

September, which starts right now, is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. All month long, our family is tracking our miles, raising awareness and raising funds for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Our funds will support cutting edge research and support families in treatment. 

Please stop reading my blog right now and sign up for The Million Mile. Join our team (#BigLemonade) and track your miles along with us. You can track the miles you walk, run, cycle, swim, row, horseback ride, dance, whatever you want. You can come back here and read more. 

You may wonder what tracking miles has to do with childhood cancer. How can this help?

I can tell you, from my experience, that every mile you track will change you. 

For me, when I am riding the Peloton, I think about how blessed I am to have lungs that work and to have a heart that is pumping. Sometimes, I think about my daughter, Lily, who might be a crew team practice, running before getting on the water. She'll probably be one of the slower runners; but she shows up, every single day because she can--she has air in her lungs and legs that work. Lily's sheer grit when it comes to living and thriving keeps me climbing higher and faster. 

When I am running or walking around the lake, I sometimes think about how far we traveled for treatment (3,000+ miles); but more often I think about the families I know who travel for years--month after month--all over the country in search of cures. I think of my friend Leslie and her beautiful daughter Lakelynn--I've lost count of the years they've been traveling from North Carolina to Boston once a month for the only treatment they've found for a rare sarcoma intermeshed in the nerves of Lakelynn's arm. When I think of the distance we go to save our children, I know I can go a few more steps and log more miles. It is nothing compared to what Leslie and Lakelynn do, simply for a chance to live a pain-free life. 

The ways I've been changed are not because of cancer; but because of the incredible work of giving back that landed in lap. 

It was never cancer's intent to allow this to happen; in fact, the early days of Lily's diagnosis had me more disconnected and more self-absorbed than ever before. But, then, I heard Alex Scott's mother, Lz, speak and everything changed for me. It was not cancer that changed me. It was the hope and the ability to be a small driver of hope that changed me. 

Every mile you log this September will change you, too. You'll be better for it. So if you did not listen to me before, please go, now and join our team, Lily's #BigLemonade World Record Million Mile Team 2021.

And if you need more motivation, if you still think you can just wait until tomorrow to sign up, let me leave you with this story:

Two years ago, tonight, on August 31, 2019, Lily was so sick she had to be taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

I'll never forget that night. Lily had been vomiting. It seemed like a stomach bug; until it did not. Then, it was clear something else was happening. She could not stand. She did not know what was happening. She was struggling to remain conscious. 

What felt like the entire Haddon Township Police Department was in our home.  I can still see the looks on their faces--the officers from our town that would stop by our lemonade stand or visit the children's schools when we told them that Lily had a brain tumor as a baby; this could be her shunt and we have to go over that bridge to CHOP now, one way or another. 

Even they knew that there was nothing they could do to protect a child from cancer and the long term side effects that linger and taunt normal life at every turn. 

That night, the officer in charge asked to tell them every horrible thing from Lily's diagnosis; he needed to make sure he could get permission to bring the ambulance over the river to Philly. And he got it. Lily had emergency surgery a few hours later. 

Then 18 months later, we were back at the CHOP emergency room, again. And again it was Lily's shunt. 

Lily always tells me, "this is forever, mom."

And it is; but someday, it doesn't have to be. Someday, we can have cures without a cost; cancer without death and a world in which children don't have to fight forever to simply grow up. 

Here's the link, one last time: