Nothing makes me feel more helpless than a sick child. Nothing hurts my heart or moves me to tears more than a child who is in pain.
I sit at an anchor desk and tell these kinds of stories to you all the time - a lot of times about young children fighting disease. It is hard to remain unscathed. Tears come easy, and I guess that is just in my makeup, so I won't try to hide it.
Recently though, two such stories have moved me in more ways than I can verbalize.
The first didn't make our airwaves. A childhood friend of mine, Cara Serber, found out last month that her healthy 1st grader had a form of cancer called Wilms. She had tumors removed, then open heart surgery and is now doing chemo and radiation. Her daughter Libby is one of those kids whose soul you can see into in every picture. She had curly red hair, a big smile and wild, beautiful eyes.
Cara has journaled their family's journey carefully for the thousands of friends and family rallying behind Libby. When she left the hospital after her open heart surgery, there was a parade complete with riding on a fire truck to her school where the street was lined with kids and parents holding get well signs. The Dallas area television stations covered the event. I openly wept as I watched the outpouring of support.
But it didn't end there. One family friend started making "Team Libby" bracelets and sending them out to anyone who wants one. Another made a "Team Libby" Facebook page and we all share the photos of the bracelets that arrive in the mail across the U.S.
Libby lost her gorgeous red locks, something her mother worried would really affect her. But the child has embraced "bald is beautiful" and leaves her hats and wigs at home. Still, people are shaving their heads in her honor. Actors from Broadway shows are sending her tapes with encouraging words. Disney characters are holding up signs that read "Team Libby" in pictures.
That little girl is brave. The Serber family is loved. Those are two things I know.
The other little fighter is a family friend who I introduced you to on ABC 13 News at 5 in May, Edie Gilger. Edie has neuroblastoma. She was first diagnosed with cancer when she was 6 months old.
Edie is about 4 months older than my son, so I feel this unexplained connection to her fight. Online her parents also journaled about her prognosis, her chemo, her surgery and ,painfully, when the cancer came back.
For goodness sake, can't this kid get a break?
She's spent 3/4 of her life in a hospital. That crushes me, but her parents Nick and Emily make the best of it all. They are optimistic and open about what's going on from day to day. They are courageous, and I think Edie has learned well from their united front.
Edie will celebrate her third birthday cancer free (6 months now, the longest time she's been cancer free since she was diagnosed). She is currently taking a drug in the testing phase through Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
I did the story in May on this turn of events. Like so many, I was so thankful that Edie's story, at least for now, turned in the direction so many people wanted it to go. Thank God. You responded too – with prayers and praise for this little girl who has been through so much.
That little girl is brave. The Gilger family is loved. Those are two more things I know.
So we have two little girls at two stages in their fight against cancer. Both have these amazing parents who are brave, loving and full of grace. Their communities are such a big part of their support. They've rallied around two special children.
I have been thinking about both of these families a lot in the last month. I don't know why one child gets cancer and the other doesn't. But I am in awe of their tremendous strength – as tiny little girls – and the circle of love them have surrounding them.