69 Years Lost

Written by Michael Wiggins


This is Michael. Did you know that the average number of a years of productive life lost by a child with cancer is 69? Yes, a child lost to cancer misses out and is deprived of 69 years of living. Unjust.

Yesterday, I highlighted the pain of a family who experiences the loss of a child to cancer. I'll do it again today, but only because it drives home the point:  each loss is forever, and our Foundation must never quit to reach our goal to fund more research so that children aren't buried because the parents were told that "nothing more can be done" and to "take them home and enjoy whatever time is left". Enjoy? Enjoy watching one's child die? Consider this from a cancer parent I have highlighted previously:

"...As I sit here to type out my feelings – to get them out – an empty wheelchair sits beside me. It's hard to sit here.

People ask me how I am. “How are you?” It’s such a simple, well intentioned question. But I want to scream and cry and answer “I’M NOT OK!!!!” But I smile and say it’s OK, even though it’s really not. It’s a living hell.

No one knows what to say to me, nor do I have an answer. I don’t know why this happened but I’ll never know why. My job now is to honor Christopher and to tell Gillian and Daniel stories so they don’t forget him. Rather, their first memories will be of him if I do it right.

I’m having a hard time with memories right now, though. All I can see is Christopher unable to walk. I think of the last time I carried him to his bed. I think about how he was paralyzed at the end, but we saw how he tried to lift his head up to give us a hug. This happened a few times during the 17 hours straight when I sat there watching him die. I’m glad he got his hugs and that CJ and I were by his side at every moment.

But now Christopher is gone.
He is dead.
My son is dead.

This is so wrong on so many levels. All I can remember are the bad times over the last few months. The things I saw that no parent should ever see. I saw it, and now I’m scarred.

I look through the photos on my phone to remember the happy times because I don’t see them when I close my eyes so I have to be reminded. Will the happy memories return without me willing them to come?

So now I am left to wonder who Christopher would have been without four years of harsh chemo treatments. I wonder what he would look like if he wasn't skin and bones. I wonder if he would still be the jokester. I wonder what he would look like if he hadn't lost his hair, then grew it back, lost it again, and again… Would his change in appearance have changed his personality? Would he still be the boy I knew?

I’m sure I would have loved whoever he turned out to be.bHow can you not love this innocent boy with big blue eyes and just want to embrace him in some way? So that’s what we’ll do, but the “what if’s” will never be answered.

We are sad. We feel empty.bWe wonder what the future holds.

Christopher’s funeral was on September 9. It was beautiful from what I can remember. The only vivid memory I have is when Megan got Gillian and Daniel at the end of the Mass so they could walk out with us behind the casket holding Christopher. CJ scooped up the kids with each arm as he has done so many times before, but there was a vacant spot. Christopher always rode at the top sitting on CJ’s shoulders. I just walked behind them and wondered “Where is Christopher? He should be up top!”

I knew that wasn't possible anymore, but it just wasn't right. Nothing about this is right....."

Tears... I often read that post and the Caringbridge page of this family and the posts that were written by this mom during the darkest days in order to continually remind myself that Cannonball Kids' cancer Foundation must never stop our efforts. We have a mission and we intend to fulfill and meet it, no matter who says a cure for cancer can't be found, or that cancer is too complex and/or that cancer in children will never be a priority in the cancer research world. How many more families must bury a child before therapies are developed specifically for children? How many more trips to Washington DC and our state houses must occur before we fund enough research to determine why our children are being diagnosed with cancers earlier and at a 30% higher rate than in the 1970s, '80s and '90s??

Go Gold in September. Wear a gold ribbon on your lapel, a gold scarf, a gold ribbon. Make a goal to tell one person a day about childrens' cancer, and the devastation to families worldwide that unjustly lose a child to a form of pediatric cancer. I have now met and know far too many that have buried a child... how wrong. Join Melissa and me, Ashley, Rich and Debra from Cannonball Kids' cancer Foundation, and all those worldwide in our effort to raise awareness to these issues and raise funding for research to rid our world of cancers being diagnosed in infants, toddlers, children and teenagers.