Little Army Guy

When you think about kids you think about footsteps thumping through paved streets in order to catch the humming ice cream truck before it rounds the corner, squealing laughter projecting off the trees as a friend just misses tagging an arm during recess, macaroni necklaces, dirt cups, birthday parties, scraped knees with neon Band-Aids and bedtimes stories read cuddled up in bed. Unfortunately, not all children are lucky enough to enjoy these simple pleasures because they are confined to hospital rooms. Some may think this means that these kids are stronger than the ones who cry from a twig scratch on their arm so they don’t need things like Batman Band-Aids to make them happy, and in some cases this may be true, but the bottom line is they are still just kids. Kids who would give anything to jump out of their hospital beds and scamper out into the streets to exchange a fistful of quarters for a SpongeBob popsicle; kids who would love to feel the grass under their feet as they dodge classmates in a friendly recess game of tag; and kids who, more than anything, just want to be home, in their own beds, reading their own special books with their families.

 The other day at the hospital I had a little girl tell me, “I love everything in this world except for cancer, tumors…and vegetables.” That statement goes to show the struggle that goes on in the minds of pediatric cancer patients. They are living with such a horrible disease that it forces them to look at life from a different perspective and see and feel things that most kids their age may never even encounter. But, at the same time, they are still just kids who, indubitably so, hate vegetables. And I’m talking all vegetables. Mom tried to hide a potato under a pile of cheese for this little one and she was NOT having it. Bottom line is, kids are kids whether they have cancer or are perfectly healthy except for one small scrape on their knee. We should all learn from these children and never take for granted the little things in life. If you have children, embrace the days when little Amy uses her chubby legs to scamper away from you every time you put her down. You may be tired of chasing her around, but there are children out there who have learned by the age of two that sprinting away from their parents isn’t even an option for them because it will result in ripping the life-sustaining IV out of their chests, or getting tangled up in their “tubies.” If you don’t have kids, look back and reminisce about your favorite childhood memory. Perhaps it was going to a carnival, shooting hoops with your dad, making snow angels for hours after the first snow fall, or riding bikes to your neighbor’s house to play with their dog every day after school. Whatever it was, think about life without it. What if instead of playing Red Rover every day during recess, you were confined to a hospital bed and could only see the sunlight through a tiny window in the corner of your room? Unfortunately, this is what childhood is like for many kids battling cancer. It’s not fair. It sucks. This is why we need to learn to appreciate our lives and our stories, and use the stories of these little fighters to inspire us to help others out there who aren’t as lucky.

 One such story was highlighted in a song performed by Taylor Swift at last week’s “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon. I was happy to see so many celebrities join together to fight against the horrible disease that claims the lives of so many incredible people year in and year out. Swift’s song, “Ronan” was co-written with the mother of a child who died of Neuroblastoma after just four years of life. A picture of this child with giant sparkling blue eyes, flashed on the screen at the end of the performance and I just had to learn more about this boy’s story.

 His name was Ronan Thompson. He was and still is the light in the life of his parents and two older brothers. Mother, Maya, described him as “the missing piece to their family puzzle” and said “this spicy little spirit took over our world…(and) constantly made us laugh and love harder than we had ever done before.” Ronan’s family spent three blissful years with this little sparkplug before noticing a drooping eye in a family picture that was taken on an annual trip to Washington to visit his grandparents. Initially his pediatrician said it was nothing to worry about, but a mother’s instinct told Maya this was not the case and so she scrambled around looking for different doctors to examine her baby. Unfortunately it turned out she was correct in her concerns and something was, in fact, wrong with Ronan, very wrong. An MRI and CT scan showed a small mass above his eye and another in his abdomen. He was diagnosed with stage IV Neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid tumor cancer in children. (To learn more about Neuroblastoma and childhood cancer in general, visit The Ronan Thompson Foundation website at: http://theronanthompsonfoundation.com/neuroblastoma/facts). Ronan used his incredible spirit to fight his cancer hard “like an army guy” (as Swift’s song relays), but unfortunately lost his battle in May of last year. His mother, Maya, along with other family members and supporters, continue to fight the war against childhood cancer by advocating to others through their foundation, The Ronan Thompson Foundation, as well as with other media outlets such as his blog, “Rockstar Ronan.” The mission statement of this blog which is written from the mother’s perspective with a voice that speaks to her “Ro baby” and to all those out there who want to listen, really stood out to me because it reminded me of why I started this blog. It says: “We want to change the world. We want to be the reason you wake up in the morning and make the most of your life. We want to be the reason that you stand up for yourself and don’t take no for an answer. We want to be the reason you are the best mommy, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt uncle, grandma, grandpa, or ROCKSTAR that you can possibly be. We want to be the reason you live your life to the fullest because that is how Ronan would have lived his. And he never got the chance. Which is f*king bullshit. You are here. You can do anything. So DO IT!” If you read through the blog you will discover just how impactful this little guy’s story can be on your life, regardless of whether or not you ever knew him, or any other child battling cancer for that matter. I am so glad that Taylor performed that song and I was able to read about his story and the dreams his mother has of changing the world in his honor. Ronan lived just four years of his life, but he was able to make his mark on our world’s universal story. His ink is smeared throughout the pages of his mother’s story and his mother is using it to form the words that will mark the pages of so many others out there fighting the same battle, as well as those who will be inspired to join in this fight and help write better childhoods for the youth of the future. #all1story

To check out Taylor Swift’s performance of “Ronan,” please go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS7JrI-JPOc

“Ronan” hit number one on iTunes charts today. Looks like Ronan’s story already touched the lives of so many others around the world. Keep it going by purchasing the song on iTunes. All proceeds go to the Taylor Swift Charitable Fund.

 Become inspired by Maya Thompson’s blog at: http://rockstarronan.com/

 To learn more about Ronan’s story, childhood cancer, or to make a donation, visit the Ronan Thompson Foundation at: http://theronanthompsonfoundation.com/

 September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer in children, and yet all twelve major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than 3% of the National Cancer Institute’s federal budget of $4.6 billion. (http://www.nballiance.org/facts/) Please help to change this.

 Everyone deserves a childhood.