Monday, August 4, 2008

Lessons from Emma

My minor role in fulfilling this tiny girl's dream of wearing a flower girl dress is so insignificant compared to what 21 cyclists did this past weekend to try to save her life.

When I look at this photograph of Emma, who doesn’t realize cancer may have been in her beautiful little head forever, I am reminded of many things -- but especially of how much heavier are the burdens of others.

I could grouse this morning about the computer virus that ruined my weekend writing plans, or my struggles to get No. 2 son to focus on his approaching departure for college, or any number of irritations in my life.

But I can’t stop thinking about Emma, the 21 members of "Team Emma's Enchantment" or all those 5,000-plus other people riding bicycles through the hills of Massachusetts to try to help her and other cancer victims survive. Every cent raised from pedaling hundreds of miles in the Pan-Mass Challenge goes directly to the Dana Farber Cancer Center for treatment and research that could find a way to stop Emma's tumor. The money raised by Emma's team will go toward unraveling the mystery of low grade astrocytomas like hers.

Emma doesn’t fully understand that she has cancer, or that she is in the midst of nearly a year of chemotherapy. She only knows “headache seeds” make her feel yucky sometimes, that she can’t always go to school when she wants, and at 6, she weighs less than 40 pounds – the magic number that would free her from the car seat like her younger brother. I suspect that's enough to make her suspect that life isn't always fair.

I first heard about Emma a year ago. It was at a wake for my friend's mother. My friend introduced me to a second cousin from across the state, who blurted out. “If you know anyone looking for a flower girl, will you please let me know? My daughter desperately wants to be one.”

“Sure,” I said with a smile, although thinking the conversation had taken an odd turn. My friend later told me about Emma's tumor, that she loves princesses and her greatest desire to be a flower girl was not the type of request the Make-a-Wish Foundation could fulfill.

I enjoy challenges, but I didn’t know anyone getting married. I called churches. No luck. Frustrated, I shared Emma’s story with my co-workers. One suggested a bridal show might still provide an opportunity to be a "flower girl." She game me the name of the organizer of a show scheduled the following weekend.

“Do you still need models for your bridal show?” I asked over the telephone. The woman quickly replied that all slots were filled. “I'm not asking for me,” I persisted, “but for a little girl with cancer.” That was enough to set things in motion. My small part in Emma's fairy tale was over.

Emma’s mother later sent me this picture of that happy day. I keep it to remind myself of many things, including:
· The importance of perspective – not just the obvious conclusion that those who love Emma are dealing with issues of such magnitude that my problems pale in comparison, but also that Emma’s friends and family truly understand how precious every day is on this earth.
· There are more kind and generous people in the world who want to help others than those who do not. My co-worker and Ashley at Occasions Bridal and Tuxedoes responded without hesitation, which brings me to the next point.
· If we really want something, we may have to find the courage to ask for help to get it -- whether it be from a stranger at a wake, or friends, neighbors, co-workers and even family. It can be something as relatively minor as needing assistance to keep the house clean or as welcome as finding time to work on a novel. Or it can be as monumental as doing everything possible to make dreams come true for someone you love.

To contribute to “Team Emma’s Enchantment” PMC fund-raising efforts, click here. To donate to the Seacoast Young PMC TEam, click here.

1 comment:

Pen N. Hand said...

Lost the first one, but you've given me an idea for a new blog.
Check me out on Monday at sometimes we must do more than try to sell our books.