Month: February 2014

Meet My New Friend Aria

Every child deserves to be healthy. They don’t smoke, they don’t drink, and they certainly do not welcome cancer into their lives… It just happens.

Hearing the words, “You have cancer” is horrifying. But hearing “Your child has cancer” is even worse. The parents of cancer patients carry heavy hearts.

Today I had the honor of meeting Aria, a 7-year-old cancer survivor, and her mother.
ImageAria woke up with a twisted tongue when she was just 5-years-old. Her parents, both physical therapists, knew that something must have been extremely wrong. They rushed her to the closest hospital. After doing an X-ray, her doctors found a tumor in her brain. Her parents had the option of either taking her to a local Syracuse hospital or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. They chose St. Jude and never regretted the decision to do so – not for a hot second.

Aria’s first trip to St. Jude was heartbreaking for her parents. When they boarded the plane, her mother saw a boy Aria’s age with scars covering his bald head. She instantly broke down in tears, “I kept thinking, ‘That’s going to be Aria.'”

After the plane landed in Memphis, they travelled the St. Jude in the hospital’s complimentary shuttle. The young, bald boy and his mother ended up sitting next to Aria and her family in the bus. The boy’s mother started to cry and told Aria’s mother, “When I saw you crying on the plane, I hoped… I really prayed that you weren’t going to get on the shuttle… I really did.” They both found comfort in each other, shared their stories and became great friends. (Unfortunately, the young boy passed away three months later.)

As soon as she reached the hospital, Aria had a few tests done and went to bed. That night, life-changing decisions were made. “The doctors never want to put a child’s life at risk. It’s always about what’s best for the child at St. Jude. And if anything could harm them, it just isn’t done,” her mom said. The medical professionals at St. Jude had never seen a case like Aria’s. They wouldn’t touch the tumor until it grew larger. They sent Aria’s family home and told them to return in 3 months.

On her second visit to St. Jude, Aria was told that she only had a few months to live. They found that the tumor was surrounded by liquid and had been growing in her neural stem. This is rare. 

Luckily, her doctors removed her tumor with fewer difficulties than expected. But, the nerves on the right side of Aria’s body were damaged. She also had to change the hand she wrote with and she fell behind in her education after missing 90 days of school. But, who can complain when she’s alive, right? Now, her parents do physical therapy sessions with her and with each passing day, they see improvement.

Her case was special, and she too is a very special girl. She’s a survivor, a fighter and an inspiring young woman. After two surgeries and endless support from St. Jude, Aria was able to be visit my sorority Delta Delta Delta today. The Philanthropy Chair Chloe Font threw Aria a perfect princess-themed tea party. When I asked her what she loved most about coming to TriDelt, she smirked and mumbled, “The cookies!” SHE’S ADORABLE.

None of this would have been possible without St. Jude and the help of Delta Delta Delta’s fundraising over the past couple of years. In November 1999, TriDelta made St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital it’s national philanthropy. In 2005, TriDelta raised $1 million to build the hospital’s Teen Room, a room filled with board games, video games and other fun things (Fun fact: No one over the age of 18 is allowed in the room). In 2006, St. Jude asked TriDelta to raise $10 million in 10 years. We blew their expectations out the water by meeting the $10 million fundraising goal in 2010. IT ONLY TOOK FOUR YEARS. In 2010, we were asked to raise another $15 million in 5 years. Guess what?! It only took TriDelta 3 years and a half to meet that goal.

That’s amazing.
Image
We’re not only saving lives at St. Jude but we’re also saving lives everywhere else by funding breakthrough research. We’re essentially helping doctors find a cure for cancer.

St. Jude gives Aria’s family and many others ENDLESS support. They pay for everything so families are able to focus on the most important thing: providing love and support for their child without having financial stress. It costs $1.9 million per day to run St. Jude and no family ever sees a bill. Aria’s parents have tried to pay St. Jude back and the hospital will not accept their money by any means. St. Jude pays for their housing, food and air fare. They even pay for extra baggage fees in the airport.

St. Jude is a place where everyone fits in. Aria was given a home – a place where she has friends who are going through a similar experience to her. Being a part of this is indescribable.

Image

Help Dani Help Others

I know how scary it is to have something wrong with your body without actually understanding what it is. Knowing that someone else in the world shares the same or a similar experience as you is extremely comforting, but very rare in some cases.

Luckily, the Internet has encouraged breakthrough support for those suffering with rare illnesses and diseases. Let me tell you, this can make a HUGE DIFFERENCE to those whose lives are at risk.

After a gruesome ATV accident in the Middle Eastern desert, a friend of mine Danielle Cosgrove suffered an injury to her leg which called for an amputation. After many surgeries, the doctors were able to save her leg. But due to severe nerve damage, she developed CRPS/RSD (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), in which her body helplessly goes through Chronic Neuropathic Pain. In other words, for every little bit of pain we cry over, she feels it 100 times worse.

When she was first diagnosed with her disease, she had no idea what it meant. She, like everyone else, turned to Google for answers and discovered that there was little to no information on CRPS/RSD. And the information that they did have on blogs and forums was misleading and extremely negative. Dani has taken the alternative route by finding a way laugh through her pain. She has done remarkable work to positively spread awareness about her disease with the use of social media.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 7.27.15 PM

She plans to take CRPS/RSD advocacy to the next level, and has already begun to do so with her blog, TheProject3x5. She was just nominated for a scholarship to marieforleo’s B-school for modern entrepreneurs. She made a video about her experience in hopes of winning the scholarship. This will only make her dream come true by spreading awareness for those suffering with her disease–providing a helpful hand that was not available to her.

By viewing, liking and positively commenting on her YouTube video, the greater the chances are that she will win the B-school scholarship.

Sharing is caring! Spread it around on Facebook and every other social media platform (including Twitter). Please make sure that however you decide to share, you put:

1) the hashtag – #winBSCHOOL on it
2) her name (Danielle Alexis Cosgrove)
4) the video link – http://youtu.be/HdMCg7y9Hk0
3) and then this link as well – http://joinbschool.com/

Faith Is One Hell Of A Thing

There are few things I remember happening right after surgery. The drugs were kicking in and I said things that I would never be able to recall having said. There is one thing that I do remember though…

I was being pushed down a hall of white bright lights. I couldn’t see much. Fuzzy shadows surrounded me. I felt the warm comfort of someone’s hand intertwined with mine.
Ah, a mother’s touch. There’s nothing more comforting.
I had to tell her something. There was something on my mind. I couldn’t sift through my thoughts though. I wanted to cry. I tried. I couldn’t. I felt guilty. Disappointed with myself. Then the words came to me, “Mom, I haven’t been going to church. Ever since I went to university, I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been with God. This is why this happened. It’s punishment, Mom. It’s punishment.”

Looking back on it, after so much time has passed, I realize that I was wrong. If it weren’t for God’s love, I would have never made it. Ever.

Was it wrong for me to believe that God was punishing me? Probably not. It seemed rational at that point in time. This is a struggle that many people face in light of illness, death and other complications-making the decision to push God away or pull Him closer. Most of the time, people lose their faith. I almost lost mine.

My uncle spoke to me about making God a priority in life and his words changed my perspective on everything. He said, “God does not punish. He is forgiving. God protects us from all evil. He protected you from evil.”

The world fell into place. Whatever Helga was, she was evil and by God’s protection I am alive today.

I couldn’t attend Sunday mass while I was in the hospital, but mom and dad asked people from the church to bless me. They came multiple times. They all had faith and optimism-something that I not only needed, but also wanted.

I prayed every night before bed. Every single night. Dad said his prayers. Mom said her prayers. Heck, from what I heard all of Trinidad was praying for me.

My aunt was generous enough to open her house to the public and host a mass in my name. When I saw how many people showed up, I cried. So many different personalities and strangers held hands and prayed in unison. For me. It was not only my struggle, but the struggle of my loved ones as well.

I should never have to repeat this, but there is power in prayer. I don’t care if you believe in Buddhism, Zionism, Judaism, Christianity or whatever, just know that there is always a force of greater good looking out for you.

I have a guardian angel. One that clearly loves me. Being alive still shocks me everyday. I only made it through because of God’s love.

I’m living proof that prayers work. Never push God away. When things go wrong and you need guidance, pull God closer. He will protect you.

I stop everyone who says, “Oh, you’re so lucky to be alive.” They’re wrong. I am blessed.