Monday, October 10, 2016

Another Day with Abby

Today's post is dedicated to the Greene family, and their sweet baby girl, Abigail.

I remember the first time I met Adam Greene. I was nervous, shy, and even a little embarrassed. You see, I was carrying his friend's baby. Hi, nice to meet you, you don't know me, but your buddy knocked me up so guess what? I'm a part of your life now. So....how 'bout them Bears? I remember the knots in my stomach like it was yesterday. 

Truth be told I'd crossed paths with Adam long, long ago. His sister was one of my very first friends when I moved to a new school district. She and I and a strange Texan named Chad would hang out all the time on the playground. I'd seen Adam before, but never spoke to him. Nope, I didn't speak to him until I was swollen and achy and nervous and anxious. 

I was worried for nothing, it turns out. He was incredibly friendly, the epitome of a big-brother kind-of-guy, and he smiled a lot. He didn't talk too much but when he did it was typically something funny, video game-related, or genuine. He greeted me with kindness and that kindness has carried over through the years, into my wedding day, at birthday parties, and even more recently, through my divorce. He looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was ok the last time I saw him. He is one of only three guys that's done that during this insane time in my life. You remember those moments. Direct, caring, friendly. 

I remember meeting Rachel, too. Where Adam carries more subtle conversations, Rachel delivers a whirlwind of words, typically fast-paced, on any subject in the book. I remember struggling to keep up and wondering if she was going to eventually realize I'm not nearly as intelligent as I must've looked because I had no idea what we were talking about. 

Rachel has the most beautiful face I've ever seen. Huge green-gray eyes. Dark, incredibly shiny hair. Perfect skin. She also smiled a lot the night I met her. And she was crazy in love with Adam, I picked up on that immediately. She shared funny stories from the past and I remember laughing and trying to picture my soon-to-be-husband as a young high schooler, acting like an idiot and wearing stupid hats. I found myself feeling so much more comfortable. A girl I can talk to who isn't judging me and is smart and nice and doesn't seem to mind that I was kinda just tossed in this little group of tightly-knit friends. 

She and her sister did our hair for my wedding day. She made me beautiful and told me I was beautiful and helped hold my huge white dress in a teeny-tiny stall so I could pee. She sent me messages while I was in Germany and hosted my second baby sprinkle and went out of her way to be nice, understanding, and inviting. She didn't have to do that. These were her friends that she'd had for years and years, I was a newcomer. But she did it anyways.

These two wonderful people decided to make more wonderful people. They were blessed with two little girls. Abigail and Emma. I had two girls, they had two girls, another couple had a boy and a girl, another had two girls, one couple had four boys (#bossstatus), another had two girls - as the years passed we added kids to the group faster than I could keep their names straight. We shared birthday parties and holidays and beach days and I still look forward to the one party every year when I am pretty much guaranteed to see everyone and I can try and pick out which leggy, sweaty kids were the little tiny babies I felt like I held just days ago. 

Abigail, the Greene's oldest, loves to talk. When she comes over she wants to know everything about the chickens. Names. What they eat. Why they are colored that way. Where the eggs are. Could she have some eggs? How many chickens. Could she hold them? Why couldn't she hold them? What liked to eat chickens. What scared chickens. But really please, could she hold them? She reminds me of my oldest.

Emma, her younger sister, is a girl of action. Much like my youngest, she knows what she wants and there's no doubt she is going to get it. At our last party I watched as she partnered with my youngest and together they dominated the mud pie kitchen and defended their riches from every other child in the yard. These women will run the world one day. 

Our kiddos play together. Not all the time, not very often, but they play together. We didn't feel pressed for time. We could always make a playdate some day down the line. When Rachel's mother passed away unexpectedly this year, my heart ached for her. I saw Rachel a few weeks later and hugged her, handed her more beer, let her know I was thinking of her. That's the same day Adam truly saw me and despite his own hardships, asked me how I was doing. We don't see each other much, but it's in these moments that we are there for each other.

And it absolutely shatters me to say now is another one of those moments.

Rachel and Adam just found out their beautiful Abby, only 7 years old, has a brain tumor. And before your broken heart rushes you into a slew of defensive thoughts about innovative medical treatments, various award-winning cancer centers, and how we've come so far technologically, please let me stop you. 

Abigail was diagnosed with DIPG. 

I want you to read these next few paragraphs. Please read them in their entirety - there's something you need to understand. 

"What is the prognosis for a child diagnosed with DIPG?

Medical advances in the past 40 years have greatly improved the survival rates for children diagnosed with most types of cancer. For some cancers, the medical advances have been extraordinary. For example, the survival rate for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia has increased from less than 10 percent in the 1960s to nearly 90 percent today. Overall, the survival rate for children with cancer is around 83 percent.

But these medical advances have done nothing for children DIPG.

Brain tumors remain the most common cause of cancer-related death in children, and DIPG is the leading cause of death from pediatric brain tumors. A child diagnosed with DIPG today faces the same prognosis as a child diagnosed 40 years ago. There is still no effective treatment and no chance of survival. Only 10% of children with DIPG survive for 2 years following their diagnosis, and less than 1% survive for 5 years. The median survival is 9 months from diagnosis." 
(Taken from DefeatDIPG.org)

The Greene's, the lovely, wonderful family I described above, were handed that prognosis for their little girl. There is no rationalizing this away. There is no, "But what about?" This is, quite literally, every parent's worst nightmare. And it's happening, real-time, to two incredibly good people, one strong little sister, and one beautiful, brilliant ray of light with lots of chicken questions, sweet Abigail. 

So what can we do? As tears fall and hands shake, I wrack my brain trying to think about what I would want to hear. What would I want? Who would I want to see? Do they want food? How much is too much? How much is not enough? How can I even begin to understand?

And the bottom line, the real truth, is that I can't possibly understand. I do not understand what they are going through. I can't empathize my way into their world. And nothing I can do can shelter this family from the pain they are experiencing. This is their new normal and this new normal is unacceptable. And I can do nothing to change it.

But I can offer to hold the umbrella over their head for a little bit. The rain will still fall, the wind, still blow, but if I can keep the storm from hitting their faces for only a moment, it's damn well worth trying. 

Abigail Greene's website is called Another Day with Abby. There's a link where you can donate, even as little as $1, toward Abby's life. Your donation allows Rachel to stay with her daughters instead of working her full time job. Your donation allows Adam to travel back and forth from work into the city to hold his daughter's hand during treatments. Your donation helps pay for the smiling nurses and pediatricians who provide Abby's medical care. Your donation allows Abby to live life to the absolute fullest.

We can't take her cancer away, dear readers. But we can take a minute out of our lives to show love and support to a family that's continually shown love and support to others. This is our chance to show them that they're not alone. This is our chance to look them in the eye when they're not ok and say, "I am here. And I can help."

Please consider visiting Another Day with Abby and showing the Greene's that love and light can be found in even the darkest of places. You can also follow along with Abby's journey on her Facebook page, Abigail's Fight with DIPG.  

As always, thank you for reading. 


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Jen

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. In a world gone crazy and with hopes and dreams dashed we need these tales of remembrance, of moments that matter about people that matter. I am the very proud father of Adam.

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    1. It's an honor to have you reading. You raised some wonderful kids.

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