For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139: 13-14
They are the words no parent ever wants to hear: “Hey, Mom. Check it out. I’ve got this weird lump on my abdomen.”
And the diagnosis no parent ever wants to get: Cancer.
The life no parent ever wants to lead: Hospitals. Chemotherapy. Radiation treatments. Clinical trials.
But not for you—for your child.
The summer before her senior year of high school the daughter of my friend, Laura, discovered a mass on her abdomen, just below her ribcage. Very quickly, Anna was diagnosed with neuroblastoma—the most common form of cancer for infants, but extremely rare in older children like Anna. There is no known cure for this cancer.
What has followed has been seven excruciating years of clinical trial after clinical trial (traditional forms of treatment have not worked for Anna), hopes raised and hopes dashed, and a journey of trusting God no matter what the future holds.
Laura and I are Margarita Mamas—part of a group of PTA moms whose kids went to elementary school together. We used to meet once a month, after PTA meetings, but now we're lucky if we get together a couple of times a year. Life gets like that, you know. But boy, do we have fun! We’ve shared joys and sorrows, milestones and bumps along the way as our children have exited elementary school, survived middle school, enjoyed high school, and headed off to college.
Laura's news, seven years ago, affected us all. As a mother, I could only imagine many nights of crying out in fear for my child in the solace of my room or walking with shaky legs toward a hospital that will do who-knows-what to my daughter. It’s funny though, when we get together those are not the things Laura focuses on. Instead, Laura has chosen to focus on the good—the successful treatments, the shrinking tumors, the graduations and landmarks in Anna’s life.
And always with a smile and a laugh. Laura’s positive attitude is contagious and one of the reasons, I am sure, that Anna has done as well as she has over the years. In the years since her diagnosis, Anna has graduated from both high school and college, and now she has felt called to start a foundation to raise awareness and funds for neuroblastoma research.
As Anna mentions on her website, we don’t hear much about neuroblastoma because most of its victims cannot speak for themselves—they are usually under the age of two. But Anna feels that God can use her to speak for these children and to raise awareness of this incurable disease.
This Saturday, July 18, Anna is holding a fundraiser, the proceeds from which will go to support neuroblastoma research. She’s calling it Annapalooza, and it’s going to be great. If you’re in the Chicago area, I hope you’ll stop by Community Fellowship Church on the corner of North Avenue and St. Charles Road from 3-9 p.m. There will be silent auctions and raffles, bands and food. WGN radio celebrities will be there too, interviewing Anna. If there’s any way you can, please come on out.
If you can’t make it on Saturday, or if you live out of town but want to help, there are several things you can do. First, check out Anna’s two websites: annabanana.org and annashope.com. You can read all about Anna’s journey and about neuroblastoma there.
Second, donate to the cause. You can do that on her websites or by purchasing one of her uber-cute Anna’s Hope necklaces. I have one, and every time I wear it I am reminded to pray for Anna.
Which brings me to my third and most important point. Please pray for Anna and her family. She is certainly not out of the woods, and she continues to fight this beast of a disease. It’s got to be a struggle, but Anna is always smiling—you can see her warm and bubbly personality coming through on the video on her websites. I know that the millions of prayers that have been prayed on her behalf have uplifted her through this struggle.
This morning I read these words in the book of Daniel as Daniel was pouring out his heart to God for his people: “We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.” I think this applies to Anna as well as all of us. Not because she deserves help (not that any of us do!), but because of God’s mercy, we plea for her healing and for her life. He has been so merciful over these past years--I’m sure my friend Laura would agree--and we pray for His continued mercy in the future.
God bless you, Anna.
Now go to Annapalooza!