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I guess people really needed to hear those words: Your work is not in vain, because that post was by far the most viewed and most shared one I’ve ever written. It’s not the best I’ve ever written, but the message undoubtedly resonated with people. We are hungry to know we are not alone in this fight (any fight) and that our advocacy does matter.

In a nice segue to that other cause that keeps me busy, I received a message last week from one of Austin’s old nurses at Rainbow. This is a woman I haven’t seen or heard from in years and I have to admit it took me a second to recognize her name since I knew her best before she was married. But she drew the parallel between that post and my work on behalf of St. Baldrick’s and said that I had long given a voice to children with cancer and their families and that what I attempt to accomplish with my event is, . . . you guessed it, “not in vain.”

Sometimes my success on that front feels small in light of such an enormous problem. The ten or twenty dollar donations I beg for, that one extra shavee I somehow convince to join us . . . how could any of this make a difference when we’re talking about thousands upon thousands of sick children and millions upon billions of dollars needed for research?

But it’s not small. It’s actually quite big.

Here’s what’s big: We have 133 people signed up to shave their heads next weekend. And more signing on every day. And a fair number of them are women and girls. That’s no small feat. Here’s what else is big: They’ve raised almost $50,000 for childhood cancer research. And by “almost,” I mean that by the time I post this, we’ll probably be there.

Here’s another thing that’s big: A grandmother who has signed up to shave her head not because any of her children or grandchildren have ever had cancer. But precisely because they haven’t. She feels just thankful enough and just lucky enough to be willing to do this on behalf of someone else. Someone she doesn’t even know.

Here’s what else is big: Rebecca has been gone for nine months but she looms large in the minds of many. She is so, so far from forgotten. Next Sunday, a cadre of her friends, from her earliest babyhood playmates to the classmates she never had enough time with, are either shaving their heads or cutting their hair in her memory. And she was never even bald. She held on to that crazy mass of curls until her last day on this earth. But still, they will sit up there, these little six-year olds who should never have to fathom such big and scary things, and they will shave their own heads for her.

And yet, it’s not really for her and they all know that. No amount of heads shaved, no amount of money raised, will ever bring her back, will ever make her well. But they will do this anyway. And that is big.

Rebecca’s best friend, the frick to her frack, is a six-year old first grader at Fairfax. She loves princesses, much as Rebecca did, and usually wears her long light brown hair in a braid down her back. I don’t know her all that well, but I feel pretty safe in calling her a girly girl. And my assumption about girly girls is that they like their hair. Or they at least like to have hair. But nine days from now, Ruthie will be bald. Bald. And not only that, but her father, her mother and her four-year old brother will be bald alongside her.

None of that will bring Rebecca back. None of it will make them miss her any less than they do today. But they will do it anyway. So that no other six-year old has to lose her best friend.

And THAT is big.

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There is so much sadness in this journey. It’s not always at the forefront, simply because you have to keep going and behave normally throughout the day, but it’s there, right under the surface and when that surface gets scratched, it comes quickly to the top.

I went to a wake last night (something I try to avoid; and funerals feel out of the question for me these days). This was no ordinary wake. It was for a child born almost four months too soon who lived a mere eight weeks, every minute of those weeks spent in a NICU.

Let me just say that there should be no industry in this world that makes coffins so small.

It was crushing, heartbreaking, devastating. And yet there was a strong connection between me and the parents, people I honestly don’t know very well. But the mom had told me several times throughout her son’s short life that reading my story, Austin’s story, gave her hope and strength in her darkest moments. I was drawn there, like I couldn’t not drive an hour through the snow to be there and hug her and cry with her. I felt like I could relate, even though I absolutley can’t relate. I feel similar and yet a thousand times removed. What each of us has been through, what each of our children has been through, is so drastically different and yet the suffering and the fear is shared, the hope and the heartbreak we feel each day is the same.

I feel that way about military mothers (and fathers) too, not a group of people I had ever related to in the past. But there is a silent thread binding together the parents of children in grave danger, tying us to one another in our moments of triumph and in our moments of loss. Because even when we think we have nothing left, we find a tiny bit of strength to share with someone else. I’ve noticed this on the oncology floor time and again: we are all pulling for someone else; wishing only the best for that other parent and that other child.

I was told many times last night, by the parents themselves, by the parents of the parents, that they were praying for Austin. They were wishing and hoping the best for my child at the very moment when they lost theirs.

The capacity of the human heart to love and to give sometimes takes my breath away.

For Collin . . .

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