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There’s more, more, more from yesterday.

St. Baldrick’s has hit the $15 million mark and our kids are there to help celebrate. Check out their picture and a sweet little tribute to our sweet little Leah here. It’s impossible to expand the size of photos on their website, so here it is for you:

I forgot to thank the incredible crowd of supporters and cheerleaders who came out on Sunday, sacrificing the glorious weather outside to sit and cheer and laugh and cry for our shavees inside instead. You really helped make it feel special for everyone involved and gave the nervous kids (and adults!) a little boost.  I love these shots:

And people were indeed nervous. The images I posted yesterday showed mostly happy, eager faces, but there were some looks of hesitation, “What have I gotten myself into?” and downright terror. Which should remind us all that courage is not defined by the absence of fear, but by being afraid and still doing what’s right.

But no matter the butterflies in stomachs or hair in eyes, they all got up there and they all followed through.And they were all smiles afterwards:

I’m fairy certain there was not one person in that room, especially not one girl or woman, who didn’t wonder to themselves, “Do I have what it takes? Could I actually do that?”

But fifty people had what it takes and here’s what they accomplished: Our event has raised more than $31,500 as posted online right now.  We have about $2,000 in checks that will be mailed in later this week. And, because it’s not too late to donate, I do believe we will end up breaking $35,000. Which, considering my initial event goal of $10,000, is pretty remarkable.

Some of you have apologized for not raising “enough.” Perhaps this is my fault because I spent considerable time on Sunday congratulating those shavees who had raised really significant amounts, like the first grader who brought in more than $1,300 in all of eight days. But I really and truly mean it when I say that every dollar counts. I’m going to steal something I read recently on St Baldrick’s Facebook page, credited to a shavee in Greensboro, NC: “I know my small contribution may buy the petri dish that holds the cure.” Somebody needs to pay for the little vials and droppers, the gloves and the swabs, heck even the coffee that keeps the researchers awake. So whether you donated $10 or $1,000 and whether you raised $50, $695 or $3,217, you have put us one step closer, one petri dish closer, to a cure for childhood cancer.

And that is what it’s all about.

Sometimes it’s hard to get back into that old mindset . . . that old cancer mindset. I had two other, completely disease-free topics I was going to write about today, and then I doubled checked my calendar and was reminded that Austin has his 20-month scans tomorrow.

Twenty months . . . now that’s a significant chunk of time in the life of this small boy, who has battled cancer two and a half times in the past four-plus years. Twenty really really good months, of health and happiness and growth and energy and normalcy. But tomorrow we’ll go back to the hospital, after Austin makes a brief appearance for his first day back at school (which should give me just enough time to run and shower). He’ll have his regular bloodwork to check his kidney function, followed by a chest CT to look for possible metastasis to the lungs and then an abdominal ultrasound to look at the kidney, pelvis and liver (another favorite site for Wilms tumors when they decide to move around and, of course, the current home of that mostly unidentified “fatty tissue” we’ve been watching for the past year). Then a follow-up with his oncologist to go over the results.

The whole thing should last about four hours, with a break for picnic lunch thrown in and quite a bit of exercise moving from the sixth floor of the cancer clinic to the basement of another building and back again. If all goes well — which we certainly expect (not that our expectations mean anything in this game) — he’ll be free again until the end of April, when we have his eagerly awaited two-year scans. Those are the gold standard, although we are well aware that they will give no guarantee that his cancer will never return.  Nothing will give that guarantee. But they will mean that he has reached a critical milestone and that the chances of his Wilms tumor recurring are extremely small. The two-year mark will also mean that, should his kidney fail, he can then be eligible for transplant without dialysis (or without too much dialysis; sometimes the time between failure and actual transplant can take some months due to many many factors, not the least of which is identifying the actual kidney that will go into his body). But those are discussions for another time.

For now we have this to buoy us onward: A neighbor of my mother’s attended an event at the hospital recently in which the Chief of Pediatric Oncology was talking about the importance of research and how it directly impacts patient outcomes.  He presented three case studies as evidence, one of them about a boy named Austin with bilateral Wilms tumor (say, that reminds me. . . ) who he described as “cured.” I asked my mother several times if she was sure that was the exact word that was used and she was very very sure. “He said ‘cured,’ Krissy. That’s the whole reason Ann stopped to tell me about it.”

Cured. Well, that’s not a word we allow ourselves to use too often. Never, in fact, have I referred to Austin as “cured.” But after tomorrow, and after April, maybe we’ll just have to change our vocabulary. And our mindset.

What a week. Braedan has his last day of first grade tomorrow, complete with a picnic and field day at the park (complete with Mom and Austin of course). He has requested dinner at the Colony, true to form, so it’ll be grilled cheeses and chicken tenders out on the patio for the Gallagher boys. And then there’s the big Kick It kickball game on Friday.

Our teams are slowly filling up and if I combine them into one (which will probably be wise for the under-6 set who hasn’t had much experience with kickball), I should have the requisite fifteen players. It’s supposed to be a really fun evening, with food for sale and a bounce house obstacle course and a community-wide game of musical chairs. CNN was there last year to do a national feel-good news story so who knows what kind of media coverage it might get this year.

And … it’s not too late to sign up! (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?) A few people have had trouble with the website, so here’s the best instruction I can give you: Click here, then scroll down to find either of the two Team Austins. Click “Sign Up”and after you kindly decline to create an individual fundraising page (unless you really want to), it looks like nothing’s happened, but you just need to scroll down to your team again and fill in the boxes. And if you are coming, wear a red shirt.

Some friends of Austin and Braedan had a lemonade stand yesterday to raise money for Kick It. When I told them, they naturally wanted to have one too. So we’re gonna have a Kick It, Drink It, Cure It Lemonade Stand early on Friday afternoon (I could have used one today on my run in this 90 degree heat!). Braedan, ever the negotiator, asked if they make $100, could he keep $50 and I said no, if they make a hundred dollars, then they’re one hundred dollars closer to a cure. Not to be discouraged, he asked if they make $1000, could he keep $50. “Sure!” I replied and he said, “Great … except we probably won’t make $1000.”

Probably not, honey, probably not.

The death of your child follows you everywhere you go, hovering in your blindspot. That’s how Lorrie Moore describes parenting a child with cancer in People Like That Are The Only People Here. In your blindspot: just out of reach, never in focus, but there.

So you move along, heading for that sacred destination (cure, survival) and on good days, you get into a groove, lulled into a feeling of comfort, of certainty even (certain that this child will be okay, this child will escape the worst fate). But then, for whatever reason, you reposition yourself and glance over your shoulder and there it is.

Just lingering, hovering. If you try to really look it in the face, try to grab it and shake it and tell it to leave you the hell alone, it would disappear. It’s unreachable, ungrabbable. But there.

Wilms’ tumor is one of the big success stories of pediatric cancer. But that’s because it’s relatively easy to beat the first time around. Once it makes it past that first round, once it survives the initial onslaught . . . well, then it’s not so easy to beat.

We don’t put much weight in survival statistics these days. Of course, there are no accurate numbers for a kid like Austin; he doesn’t fall neatly into any pre-existing category. When we pore over the research with his doctors, we inevitably say, “Well, he’s a little bit like this and a little bit like that,” and “Oh, this case looks like his except for (insert major event here).” So we really have no guidepost, no reliable map to follow.

But if we were forced to give a number, if we had to choose some random survival statistic, it would surely fall below the 50% mark. Which is partly why we don’t put much weight in survival statistics these days. Austin has always fallen outside of the range of normal. Since Day One, nothing about his cancer has been textbook. So we buck up and figure this won’t be textbook either; he’ll just continue beating the odds because that’s how he does it.

The treatment plan we’re following is a full-court press. We’re going whole hog, guns blazing, no holds barred, enter whatever metaphor you’d like to say we’re doing every damn thing we can. When I said in an earlier post that this plan “just might work,” I was wrong. It must work, it has to work.

It’s all we’ve got.

Just got word today that Cure magazine will include an essay I wrote in its Fall issue. I had submitted this piece to them back in February and after the requisite six weeks of waiting, I rechecked their guidelines and read those dreaded words, “Due to the large number of submissions we receive, we only reply to those we are interested in publishing.” Ah, silence is the new rejection. How dissatisfying to not even get a “We regret to inform you . . .” letter. So I wrote it off, assuming they weren’t interested, thinking, “Darn, that was a good one, too.”

And then a call came in today from Dallas and it was the editor-at-large saying she wanted to use my “wonderful” piece in their next issue. And actually pay me for it. (Not exactly a windfall, mind you, but it still feels good.) Not sure this magazine actually “hits the stands” as it’s focused entirely on cancer and I’ve only ever seen it in the hospital waiting rooms, but I’ll let you know when it appears.

Speaking of, another essay I told you about a few months ago was supposed to be published in the Summer issue of Caring Today magazine, but their website hasn’t been updated in ages and I haven’t heard anything from them. Funny because I already got paid for that one. Oh well.

And of course, there’s that pesky little issue of securing a literary agent. As you know, my first 16 pages are sitting with Kelly Corrigan’s agent in Los Angeles, who said four weeks ago that I was a “strong writer” and she would request more pages in up to four weeks. Now I realize that she does not have my name and contact info highlighted in her datebook, (**Don’t forget to contact Krissy by June 10!!**) so I’m just sitting tight on this one. She has lots of clients who obviously take precedence over me and I think I’ll wait a few more weeks before contacting Kelly to see what to do next. I have definitely placed all my eggs in one basket with this one and have not bothered to submit to anyone else since this opportunity arose. I am instead adding the latest round to the book so it’s ready when asked for.  Here’s a great story about how The Middle Place came to be, which makes me smile, gives me hope, and keeps me sitting on my hands.

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