A few days after the Personal Journeys article I wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, titled Fear and Gratitude, was published on Sunday 7/10/16, the Executive Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Mary Moore, reached out to me.
I’m sad to say that until then, I didn’t know the PBTF existed. We met at a Starbucks near her office, just a few miles from my home. Mary greeted me with a hug and we sat down with our coffee to get acquainted. She told me she was touched by the article, and she wanted to know all about Jack and the book I wrote about his journey, All the Above: My Son’s Battle with Brain Cancer. Then she shared with me the story of the PBTF and how she came to be involved.
Not long after our meeting, Mary invited Jack and me to visit her office. We came in together one afternoon, and Mary introduced us to Tammy Bates, who is taking over Mary’s role this summer when Mary moves out to the lake (Mary will stay involved in the chapter, working from home). We also met employees Katie Sheridan and Heather Heid. All were delighted to meet Jack and to hear his story, and they told us much more about the PBTF. We shared ideas about how to publicize the PBTF and what they do, and how to raise awareness (and funds) in creative ways, à la the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Before Jack and I left that day, Mary bought a signed copy of my book. 😀
Did you know that brain cancer is the deadliest childhood cancer? That means more children die from it, than from any other cancer. Jack was exactly 19 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Once we absorbed the shock of his diagnosis, we faced the strong possibility that he could die. Nothing else mattered but getting him to live.
Even though, at over 18, Jack was considered an adult (and had to sign all necessary consent forms for MRIs, surgeries, and treatment), he was considered pediatric by hospitals, because he was under 21. For a lot of reasons, that helped Jack and me as he battled the disease. As one of the reviewers of my book put it, “Cancer, like a cruel master, forces you to stand up and keep walking when all you want to do is to stay down and hide.” Because Jack was pediatric, he got some much appreciated help when he was suddenly forced to stand up and keep walking. Many times, that help made all the difference.
Jack, in the summer of 2010
Jack is 5 and a half years cancer free now and is doing well. As he said when we met with the staff at the PBTF, he was one of the “lucky” ones who is diagnosed with brain cancer: he survived. Our family was also lucky, because we have good healthcare insurance, and could afford to travel for his medical treatment. Some other kids aren’t so lucky. The PBTF raises money not just for brain tumor research, but to help some families of pediatric brain tumor patients with emergency financial assistance.
Jack and I are passionate about finding a cure for cancer, and he strives to inspire others with hope and courage. I never worried that he or any of my other three kids would get cancer, but on Jack’s 19th birthday, instead of going out to celebrate, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was admitted to Northside Hospital in Atlanta for emergency surgery to save his vision.
And that was just the beginning of his journey.
Read the rest in my book, a Finalist for the 2016 Georgia Author of the Year, All the Above: My Son’s Battle with Brain Cancer. Support the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. And if you want to help us publicize the organization in any way (especially one that will catch the attention of many), please let us know.