Today is Donna Day — it’s the fourth annual Donna Day, actually. Donna Day is a made up thing, really, but then again, what special day isn’t? At one point, Valentine’s Day was just February 14 and Mother’s Day was one gal’s idea to honor her own mother who had just died. So, yes, Donna Day — it’s real to me and I will champion it as long as folks will indulge me.
But this year feels different somehow. Donna Day, in a very real sense, is no longer about Donna, just as Mother’s Day is no longer about Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis from Grafton, West Virginia. That is both sad, I think, but necessary, too.
Long story short, Donna Day was created as a blogging campaign to raise funds for the St. Baldrick’s shaving event created by a gal who was so inspired after reading Donna’s Cancer Story that she felt the need to do something. $290,609 later, I would say we’ve been pretty successful. But our work is not done.
In late October last year, I had a message from a friend I had met through blogging (where I seem to meet so many amazing people). We live in the same Chicago neighborhood and had both performed in the 2013 Listen To Your Mother live lit event. I liked her. A lot. She was sweet and warm and open and completely lacked pretension. She was also wicked funny and made me laugh.
She was thinking about cutting her hair short and donating to a good cause, could I recommend a reputable program? This gal has an amazing mane. Like, amazing amazing — thick, wavy, what might be described as a horse tail. Any person to wear a wig from her head of hair will be profoundly lucky.
The conversation looked a lot like this:
Friend: I had a question I thought you may have the answer to – what is the best organization for donating one’s hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients? I am looking to shear it shorter for a great cause!
Me: Cool! I think Pantene has a recommended program, but let me check. Also, if you want to raise some $ for kids with cancer, you can wait until our March St. Baldrick’s event. Also, I am shameless.
October turned into November and before you know it, winter had descended. BOOM. This winter will go down in history as one of my worst ever. An endless series of hospital visits with my Dad, anxiety, fear, sadness, bad news after bad news. Yuck. Screw you, winter.
My friend reached out to me in January and that conversation looked a lot like this:
Friend: Question – I have yet to cut my locks because it got cold and I liked the insulation. I don’t know if I am up for shaving completely, but could I raise funds by waiting and chopping it off on the 28th [our St. Baldrick’s event]?
Me: So, YES, you can absolutely set up a fundraising page to cut rather than shave. We have had a few folks do that. Only caveat is that the shavers (licensed beauticians) will chop, but not cut or style your hair, so it would require a trip to your usual place of beauty. Make sense? I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU ON BOARD!
Friend: Got it! An earlier slot would be great. Thanks!!!
And then, just four days later, this arrived in my inbox:
Friend: Um, could you please call me ASAP. I am at XXXXXX and just got word that my daughter has a mass in her brain. I could really use your support and knowledge.
Fuck you, cancer. Seriously. Fuck you.
Before I called my friend, I wept some tears. I wept for her daughter, I wept for my friend, I wept for Donna, and I wept for the loss of innocence and naivete this family had just experienced without even knowing it. When cancer strikes your child, you are changed, forever, regardless of outcome.
You learn, on a deep and cellular level, that life is not guaranteed. Control and safety and normalcy are illusions that parents hold close to get through their days. We need to. I get it. But my family, and now my friend’s family, has been robbed of the unconscious security of “this doesn’t happen to me.” Because it does, and it just did.
Again, I say, fuck you, cancer.
St. Baldrick’s informs us that a child will be diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. On that cold night in January, that child was my friend’s daughter.
Most of you who are reading this right now will not have a child with cancer, but some of you will. And those of you whose children are healthy, the truth is that they might not be tomorrow or the next day. That sounds like fear mongering, but it’s not. It is truth and that is why I work so hard to support the important work of St. Baldrick’s, the number one private funder of pediatric cancer research in America.
I started this post with my sense that Donna Day is less about Donna every year. That is a tough pill for this grieving mother to swallow, another harsh truth, but as time passes, it is harder and harder for me to ignore. My beautiful Donna died of cancer, but just in the time that I wrote these words, 20 children around the world were diagnosed themselves. Most of them (in America) will survive, yes, but they will be marked in a thousand different ways and live a life where cancer’s shadow will hang over them indefinitely.
Time moves forward, change is constant. This year I know, I feel it in my gut, that Donna Day is now and needs to be Edgar Day and Mia Day and Sophia Day and Rosie Day and Drew Day and Gregory Day and Jeremy Day and Lucy Day Nick Day and Sam Day and Brendan Day and Daniella Day and Kyler Day and Jenna Day and Abby Day and Insert Child’s Name With Cancer Here Day.
Please consider honoring Donna, the seed for this important cause, and all that she has done to inspire Good Things by making a donation to our St. Baldrick’s event. We need you and we need your generosity and we need your caring and we need your compassion, and yes, to put it as basely as possible, we need your dollars. $5, $10, $20, $100 — we are not picky, we like all the dollars! You can donate HERE.
Please consider subscribing to my blog because I think it is pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.