Cari’s Story: Awareness into Action

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day a different guest blogger will be featured who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer.  Stories are always more potent than statistics.  

By Cari McQuinn

First smiles, first steps, first waves, first words, all the firsts, are such an emotional part of parenthood. There is something about the pride and happiness of those moments that expand your heart in ways you didn’t even know were possible.

It’s no secret that having three children, in less than three years, means a whole lot less time to sit and wait for these firsts to blow my mind. For my precious little third born, these moments just crept up on me.   My littlest guy has had some of his major milestones slip through the cracks. Baby book? What baby book?

Curls donated to help other children with cancer.  Amazing.
Curls donated to help other children with cancer. Amazing.

Needless to say, my little blondy- locks got some long overdue, well deserved, real-deal attention for his first real haircut. We shaved those luscious baby curls to raise money in support of Donna, her loving wonderful family, and St. Baldricks. And raise money, we did!

First haircuts can be emotional enough in their own right, but this? This was different.

This was pride meets gratitude, meets admiration, meets generosity, meets Billy Zane (seriously though).

Yes, that really IS Billy Zane at the Donna's Good Things shave for St. Baldrick's in March, 2014.  Odd and wonderful!
Yes, that really IS Billy Zane at the Donna’s Good Things shave for St. Baldrick’s in March, 2014. Odd and wonderful!

It was heart exploding on so many levels. There sat my little man-perched on a platform among people that were all there to love, support, and most importantly-raise money for pediatric cancer.

He never shed a tear as the clippers buzzed his sweet little head. He was so brave. He had no idea what he was taking a part of and no idea what this head shave represented. He had no idea how touched I was when Sheila shared the story of Donna’s first haircut. He had no idea how many other amazing people were shaving their heads, donating their hard earned money, all of us- unified in the fight to end pediatric cancer.

When his head was fully shaved, I snatched my little baby up, as he flashed his mega-watt smile at all his adoring “fans” and believe me…it’s a moment I will never forget.

September Cari3

If you don’t know the story of Mary Tyler Mom’s beautiful little Donna, I encourage you to take a moment to fall in love with her, through the beauty of her mom’s written word. It’s touching, beyond measure.

And when you are done hearing her story, do your part. Do a walk. Have a bake sale. Shave your head. Do whatever you can commit to. Do it, to honor Donna and her family. Do it, so that someday no other family will have to know what it means to live without their child.

We can all come together to fight this bullshit disease (I never said my words were the eloquent ones).

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Speaking of bullshit, there is a lot of chatter in the childhood cancer community that “awareness” campaigns are bullshit and it is ACTION that is needed to better support pediatric cancer.  No one can dispute that more and greater action is needed, but that action always has its seeds in awareness.  Without awareness, no one knows that action is needed. Cari’s post above is a textbook version of that.

Cari, the author of this post, is a mom who had absolutely NO connection to childhood cancer (thank goodness), but became aware by reading one child’s story, my Donna.  I have always believed, as I say in the intro that precedes each of the posts in this September Series, that stories are more powerful than stats.  When you know a child with cancer, you are more inclined to want to help.  Awareness is part of the solution, but that awareness morphing into action is the ultimate goal.  I remain so very grateful to Cari and others like her I have met because they want to turn their awareness into action to support children with cancer.

And last March, as I watched her little one’s beautiful curls gather on the floor beneath him, knowing that this mom I barely knew, outside of a shared interest in blogging, was willing to donate his first haircut to help raise $ for research for kids with cancer, well, it still sort of gut checks me. I will never be able to repay the deep gratitude for the kindness of so very many.

Now, I challenge each of you readers to really consider Cari’s words, which are worth repeating:

“. . .do your part. Do a walk. Have a bake sale. Shave your head. Do whatever you can commit to. Do it, so that someday no other family will have to know what it means to live without their child.”

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You can follow Cari McGuinn at her blog, The Tot Wrangler on ChicagoNow or her page on Facebook.  And for more on what it was like to watch her son’s head be shaved, how even for a few weeks she got a glimpse into how others perceive kids with cancer, READ THIS very powerful post.  You will love her, just like I do.

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