And the list ain’t my Christmas list. It’s the list of sh*ttiest things that can happen to folks. And you, Cancer, are at the top. Number one, numero-uno, Primo.
So after my own brush with Ovarian nonsense (I’m the luckiest person in the world, my tumor was caught in a pre-cancerious stage – I’ve heard folks like me described as “Previvors”) and my mom’s demise due to colon, lung and liver cancer, I felt all cancered out.
Then Gerry got sick and it was a whole NEW cancer which we continue to deal with every day. Then Jan’s cancer returned, stronger than ever, and she passed in October. Now my cousin Patsy’s colon cancer is coming back at her stronger than she may be able to handle.
And now, the absolute worst, the most heart breaking family cancer experience to date is my nephew Alex Modesitt’s fight with Ewings Sarcoma.
Alex is the adopted son of my brother and his wife, Karen, but as much a son of their heart as if he was carried by Karen herself. Jim and I both agreed that there was a definite resemblance between he and Alex (dark hair, blue eyes, fair skin) I know it gave Jim a little extra thrill of happiness, but he would have been nuts about Alex resemblance or not!
Alex came to Jim & Karen (or, rather, they went to him) when he was 11, he’s from Russia and they traveled to Moscow to complete the adoption. Gerry, the kids and I first met Alex at the JFK airport when we drove down to spend a few hours with them on their layover from Moscow to Dallas. The kids adore their “big” cousin, who is a remarkable gymnast!
It was just a few years after the adoption that my brother and mother passed away. Karen went from being one of 3 adults in a household to a single mom of a 12-year old in a few short months, and although it was devastating, she did it gracefully. Obviously, Alex has had more than his share of burdens to carry in his young life.
Karen was keeping Alex’s illness more private at first, he was diagnosed this Summer and has been undergoing chemo on a regular basis and is home from school this year. Karen, of course, needs to be there with him.
As the disease progresses it gets harder and harder to keep up with the many, many medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance.
Alex is a charming, brave and singular young man, and is finding a way to grow through this horrible experience, to use it as a life lesson. Alex recently gave a speech to a group in Dallas, and by all accounts he did a stellar job and it was incredibly well received.
Few folks embrace the fish-bowl openess that is a blog, it’s not for everyone. But here I am, blogging about Alex’s cancer, with Karen’s permission.
And you all know why I am.
Wealthiest country in the world, and all that stuff. I’ve said it before but this is just wrenching.
On top of this, Karen has a great job (they’re allowing her to work at home part time) with good health insurance, so if anyone should be covered it should be them. But no. There are SO many things that slip through unpaid, especially when a child is the one who’s sick and a single mom has to be there to care for him.
Karen and Alex can use some help with their finances, the cancer is draining their funds faster than Karen can earn it. Happily, there’s an amazing organization called the Brandi K. McPherson (BKM) Foundation, which funnels donations directly to families of children with cancer. Here is a bit about it:
BKM Mission Statement: The Brandi K. McPherson Foundation is a newly found non-profit organization (established in 2007) that supports young adolescent and adult cancer patients, focusing primarily on Osteosarcoma patients. Diagnosed in 1995, Brandi is a survivor of Osteosarcoma and an above the knee amputee.
The BKM Foundation allows folks to make donations to the families of kids with cancer, with 100% of the donation going to the particular child’s family.
If you like, you can make a holiday donation to the BKM foundation for Alex, and it will help them get through the holidays, Alex’s surgery, and his recovery much easier than they might. Any amount is lovely, accepted with gratitude and humility.
But I do know that in the midsts of the garbage we feel incredibly happy and lucky just to have any time with each other.