Monday, August 15, 2011

Make a Difference

Mark and I are running the marathon and fundraising in honor of a sweet, spunky little girl named Tanner. I fell in love with her right away. I asked her mom Beth to share with everyone a letter of what your gift means to families like hers...

I thank God every day for the people who have come before us who raised the money that funded research that got my eight-year-old daughter, Tanner, where she is today -- exactly four days into our new life without chemo.

How cute is Tanner!?
On June 1, 2009, a nervous young resident at Vanderbilt Children's fumbled through an explanation of abnormal white cells that led me to finally ask the question, "Are you trying to tell me she has leukemia?" Tanner was a normal, healthy five-year-old who had just finished her kindergarten year and was looking forward to a summer of swimming, ballet camp and vacation bible school. In one awful day, everything changed for the worse.

Tanner endured two years and three months of grueling, constant chemo treatments -- not because she had any complications, but because that is the normal treatment protocol for a girl with ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia). Boys, sadly, endure an extra year of treatment.

In the first month of treatment, Tanner had a port surgically implanted, two bone marrow biopsies, four doses of IV chemo and 30 days of high dose steroids. My feisty daughter could no longer walk up the stairs, couldn't get herself up off the floor without help, and needed a cane most of the time. She lay for long hours staring at the ceiling, completely robbed of her personality by the steroids.

She eventually watched as all her friends returned to school, held a virtual prisoner by her compromised immune system. She missed birthday parties, playdates, trips to the skating rink, and simple pleasures like eating out in a restaurant. She lost her hair not once, but twice. She gained fifteen pounds from steroids, only to lose it all, and then some, two months later. At some points, she became so overwhelmed by anxiety, that she needed anti-depressants to just help her function.

I'm so inspired by her!

But, through it all, Tanner fought... and Mark and Emily ran. Because we all believe there is a better way; that no child should have to give up two or three years of their childhood to a disease we could potentially cure. We met Emily and Mark when Emily chaired the 2011 Man and Woman of the Year campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Tanner was honored to serve as Girl of the Year. Tanner and Emily immediately hit it off -- kindred silly spirits -- two people with boundless energy and hearts of gold who have a great desire to help others.

I'm so proud of my daughter for what she has accomplished, and am eternally grateful to people like Emily and Mark for all that they do to help families like ours. I'm ever mindful of my obligation to "pay it forward" and be sure that we are paving the way for more humane treatments for blood cancers, or, better yet, a cure! Please know that should you decide to support Emily and Mark by donating to their Team in Training run in Dublin, you will not only be supporting two wonderful and selfless people, but will also be helping to assure no family ever has to endure this nightmare again.

Thank you,
Beth Page

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