For years I have listened to Eric and Kathy's annual Radiothon to raise much needed funds for Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. I am ashamed to say that I never once made a donation. I would listen to the stories of the children treated at Children's Memorial Hospital, now Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, and I would shed some tears, and then I would turn the radio off, thinking to myself, "Wow."
Then I would go on about my day.
A lot changes when you move to Cancerville. Everything, really. When our daughter Donna was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, papillary meningioma, our world stopped while everyone else's kept going. Gratefully, because of her team at the then Children's Memorial, Donna's quality of life was excellent. As Dr. Stew said, "Donna may have a brain tumor, but she is not a sick child." You can read about Donna's Cancer Story here: http://www.chicagonow.com/mary-tyler-mom/donnas-cancer-story-2/
In 2007, during the Radiothon, I walked through the hospital lobby to get to Donna's inpatient room. There was a little thrill that I could actually see Eric and Kathy as they interviewed a family. Click. Connection made. Oh, this was that Radiothon. The funds raised go directly to this world-class institution where we have entrusted Donna's care. Oh. That 'click' was loud. LOUD.
I remember driving home later that afternoon and being introduced to some of the children treated before Donna. Kids with names like Ollie and Mark and Gus. None of them had made it. I turned the radio off, sobbing. Too close, too close, too close. Too damn close.
In 13 years of hosting the Radiothon, Eric and Kathy have raised more than $21 million for Children's Memorial. $21,000,000.00, for freaks sake. That is an astounding number of zeroes. Chicagoans open up their wallets every year, moved by the stories they hear. This year, for the second time, they will hear Donna's story.
Last year we got a call or an email from the hospital foundation, I honestly can't remember which, wondering if we might be interested in participating. Without knowing what all was involved, without consulting my husband, I heard myself say, "Yes, of course." We feel completely full of love and gratitude toward Lurie Children's Hospital. Anything we can do, anything, to help that institution, we will. This is a given in our home. It is understood that we owe a tremendous amount, the length and quality of Donna's too brief life, to the fine folks inside those walls.
It is such an honor to tell your child's story at the Radiothon. When you lose a child, when your child dies, too often, they are forgotten, their names only whispered. The good people at Lurie Children's and Eric and Kathy are not afraid of the children who have died. They know and understand that the deaths of these children do not mean that the doctors failed. I always consider Donna's treatment a success - she lived 10 times past her original prognosis. That would not have been possible without her team at Lurie's. We remain grateful and indebted.
So this year, once again, we become THAT family. We will tell Donna's story, our story, and maybe you will listen. You might be sitting in your car, your kids in the backseat, on your way to school. Or in your kitchen, packing those lunches. Or in bed, bleary eyed and tired, waking for the day. You might do what I did for years - listen to Donna's story, then click off that radio and go about your day. Maybe you will remember hearing Donna's story last year. Maybe then it will click.
But maybe, just maybe, you will be better than I was all those years, and you will make that donation, supporting the work of a place I hope you never need.
Sheila Quirke is the mom behind the popular blog, Mary Tyler Mom.