That, my friends, is a badly framed photo of the finish line for the Boston Marathon. It is also, not so coincidentally, the finish line for the Jimmy Fund's Boston Marathon walk, which we crossed this afternoon.
The Man, despite having started the day at 4am to go to Hopkinton, nonetheless roared across the line while pushing a double stroller (not mine) seating two small boys (one of them mine). Zina, carrying one boy in her gorgeous Beco (not mine but oooh carrier lust) and pushing another (mine), scooted across, just ahead of the Y-Chromosome With Legs (And Wheels!).
It was an easy walk, a comfortable stroll, and I felt vaguely uncomfortable about the ease of it all. I've watched cancer and the battles fought with it, and those are brutal and terrifying. It wears people to the bone, and this walk felt too tidy, too self-satisfying by comparison. The Eldest's solution? Next year, Mum, let's walk FIVE miles!
You got it, kiddo.
Later that night, he ambushed me. The Man had collapsed in bed with aching muscles and the Toddles. I'd taken an antihistamine for a persistent cold, and was relaxing with tea. The Eldest, curled up next to me, had questions. Is Amelia all better now, Mum?
I looked at him. His logic was inescapable. Amelia was sick, we raised money for her, we walked for her, we made things better. Right? Oh, my little love. No. Not right. We started with the money. We talked about who it was for, and what it could do. And I told him about Isabella, again.
Five years ago, when Isabella had leukemia, the doctors didn't know how to do things they know how to do today. Scientists learn about the body, and they teach doctors, and doctors get better at fighting things like cancer.
Oh. (long pause) How old was Isabella?
She was almost 1 year old.
How old is Amelia?
She is two - she's a bit older than the Toddles.
(pause, in which the Eldest considers this and winds up for a knuckleball)
Can anyone get cancer? Can I get cancer?
So. We talked about cancer, who can get it and what happens. We talked about a near relative who had cancer, and who beat it. She stood up for herself, Mum, and she made people listen when she needed help. Hm. Yes, I believe she did.
We talked about kids with hemophilia, and how two generations ago many did not survive. How, a generation before the Eldest, many got sick from their medicine. How they didn't have recess at school, for fear of bleeds. Science knows a lot about hemophilia now, so the medicine is good. You are strong, your body is strong, and you can do sports like almost any other boy. He thought this over. Yes, and I love sports!
We talked about food allergy, and about how science is only starting to learn about allergy. Does it bother you that science is just getting going with understanding allergies? He considered this. No. I'm okay with that.
I begin to understand why so many kids with hemophilia talk about going into the sciences, into health care, into grass roots advocacy and support for folks with chronic conditions. It's what they see around them, the science, the care, the support is real and valuable to them. Experience is powerful - and it's exactly that which drives events like the Jimmy Fund walk.
Current estimates say that cancer will affect 1 in 3 people in their lifetime. If everyone affected walks, if they brought their brother, their cousin, their co-workers, then you end up with a huge affair like this one, full of people striving to find a way to do something real, to respond to the overwhelming medical reality - the human reality - of cancer.
Sometimes it has to be real for us to invest in it. Sometimes it has to be personal.
Well, then: meet Amelia. Meet Amelia's binky, and the foot that kept poking into her brother's space. She's ordinary, she's sweet, she's annoying her brother and testing her parents' patience. She is, to quote the after-school director at the Eldest's school, a normal kid who deserves a shot. How ordinary, how extraordinary. And the Eldest is right - she's definitely worth five miles.
See ya next year, kiddo.
And on a completely different note, for all you nursing, post-lactating and occasionally embarrassed mamas, try this: http://mamamojo.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/breastfeeding-in-public-warning-offensive-content/