Friday, March 1, 2013

Choose Hope

I often say I don't like people.  That people are damaged and that only animals are true and pure and without judgement or conditions.  And to a great extent I believe that.  People have baggage.  People are damaged.  I have baggage and am damaged.  You know who doesn't?  Children.  Children are pure and will soak up what you give them.  And that leads to who their parents are, who their family's are and what situation they are in.  That all determines who they will be as they develop and grow. 

This is a post about Donna.

A child who I never met, but of so much inspiration and who's story continues to inspire those of us who were so deeply moved by reading it.  Donna was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2005 and fought for so much of her young life before she passed away at age 4.  Donna died of Cancer.  Donna DIED OF CANCER.  Pause. 

Her mom is a bit of a hero to me.  A lot of a hero to me.  She is brave and lovely and had the courage and the talent to write this story and carry on a legacy that has touched so many people.  We are celebrating Donna and her family here.  And at the end of this post, you can help. 

I'm new at this mom thing, so I don't feel qualified to speak about them most of the time, but I'm getting there more and more every day.  However, in Donna's case and the case of her mother, Sheila, who I have grown so fond of in such a short amount of time, I am honored to be asked to post about her.  Sheila is so much like me.  She's funny and smart and loves Mad Men, A LOT.  She loves fashion and dishing about awards shows and celebrities and hair and shoes and typical womanly stuff.  She's also very different from me.  She has a HAIR ARCHITECT. I find that HILARIOUS.  But that's neither here nor there.  My point is, we are very different, and yet, we have become quite fond of each other ONLINE and now in real life in the past couple years. She likes me. She respects me.  She values my being a recovering alcoholic, even though she is not one.  That right there is hopeful. That is love and compassion and grace. 

I did an event called Cycle for Survival last year.  It's to raise money for rare cancers. 
I listed Donna as someone I rode for.  I never even met her!
I want people like Sheila in my life.  You know how she got into my life?  By sharing her story about her incredibly beautiful daughter, Donna. Donna was life, and hope and beauty.  And her mother is just like her.  Some say children are like their parents, but my guess is Sheila would love it if we said she is like Donna. 

Now, I cannot begin to imagine what her life is like, what her heart is like after losing Donna.  But I do know she chooses hope.  Every day, she chooses hope.  And that, is a woman after my own heart.  My heart is in my throat just writing about this here.  After I read Donna's Cancer Story, I was changed.  My heart grew for this little girl who did not ask for this by any wrong doing on her part.  Little children do not deserve this awful disease or to die.  Donna and her family made me want to do better, to BE better.  Above all, to CHOOSE HOPE.  After reading all the posts and many of the comments from fellow readers, something strange happened.  I found a little faith in humanity.  To be honest, I found a lot of faith in humanity. 

Sure, who could be FOR a child having a terrible disease and dying?  And yes, it's incredibly sad, but damn, it lifts you up.  READ IT.  For you saying, I can't bear it, it's too sad, READ IT.  I promise you will be changed.  For those of us who have known hopelessness, who have been in so much pain and darkness and think we can never ever get out, CHOOSING HOPE is what can help us.  The teeniest tiniest bit of hope can be a spark to feeling human again.  To be able to put one foot in front of the other and pull ourselves out of the greatest despair anyone has ever known.  I know about choosing hope, Donna's mom and dad know about choosing hope, and a whole hell of a lot of you KNOW about CHOOSING HOPE.   I have heard it.  I have heard from so many of you who have struggled with your own shit and have fought so hard and so long to feel human again.  We all know this pain and what choosing hope can mean. 

Facts and Stats:
  • More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined;
  • Before the age of 20, 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will be diagnosed with cancer;
  • worldwide, a child is diagnosed ever three minutes;
  • the cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate, e.g., brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate, and some, like DIPG, are known to be fatal with no known treatment or cure;
  • 73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment and 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.  
All of these stats can be found on the St. Baldrick's website here.  Information regarding why childhood cancer is so poorly funded can be found here.  

The Childhood Cancer Ripple Effect - 

The purpose of the Donna Day campaign is to raise $ for our head shaving event on Saturday, March 30 in Chicago.  It is our second event.  Last year's started with a goal of $20K and we raised $79K!  This year we have many fewer heads to shave and have set a goal of $30K.  Our oldest shavee is 89 years old and she is doing it with her daughter, a returning shavee for us.  WOW!  Here is the link to Donna's Team Page and I encourage you  to donate to this team or any other team by using the GREEN donate button.  Any amount will be awesome. Seriously.  Many people chipping in $5 and $10 makes a HUGE difference.  If folks want to shave their head, that is so cool, too, and there is still time!  Folks can raise a lot of $ in 30 days! 

How can YOU help Conquer Kids’ Cancer?

1. Donate Now to fund lifesaving research.

2. Sign up as a Shavee or Volunteer at an Event Near You.  (Once you find an event, click on the blue box that says ‘participate at this event’. If you want to join the Donna’s Good Things team, when prompted say you want to join an existing team, and filter for “Donna” at other events).
Donna's Good Things - so much good info over there from Donna's Mom and Dad.

3. Can’t find an event near you? Organize your own event. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation will coach you every step of the way.

4. Have questions about getting involved?
Event page

THAT IS THE CHICAGO EVENT on March 30, 2013 !  I will be there for sure and I cannot wait! 

Thanks everyone for reading and for opening your hearts.  Finding faith in humanity is not easy to come by.  At least not for me.   But here and now and with this story, I hope you've found a little more.  I know I have. 

I choose hope.  I am betting you do too.  Please give something if you can in any way you can.


  1. I can't wait to come and celebrate Donna's life and help raise money for such a GREAT cause! And to see such amazing women!

  2. We'll be there. Thank you for making a difference. Can't wait to see you all again!

  3. Wahoo! Great stuff, Katy! See you in 29 days! xoxo

  4. Tears in my eyes reading this. Love you. Love Sheila. Love Donna.

    When I cut my hair this spring and donate it to Locks of Love, I will be donating it in Donna's name.

  5. Dang it. You always nail it. Happy Donna Day.

  6. I keep saying "BAH" today, but I think that's because I don't have adequate words to cover how my heart is bursting in this moment. Thank you.

  7. Such a beautiful post!! While I was following Donna's Cancer Story, TWH would come along and find me weeping over my laptop. He would ask me "WHY are you doing this to yourself??" and my answer was always the same "If Sheila can tell us about her beautiful girls short life, the least I can do is READ it". And I did. I was uplifted and devastated all at once. I took her words to heart and Choose Hope.

  8. Choosing hope is one of the best gifts you can teach or show anyone how to do. Good luck with the event. I hope you guys surpass your goal like you did last year!

  9. Donna's smile is beautiful --light and love.

    ... choosing hope. <3

  10. I read every post of Donna's story and have not cried so hard in a long time. What an amazing family!!!!!


  11. I'm going to finally read this. I've been avoiding reading the sadness.