I received an email in September from two sisters, Sandful and Sandless. They had gone to high school with JD and knew about my cancer journeys. Sandless’ son, Alex, was approaching his two-year cancer-free anniversary of Wilms’ tumor, a childhood cancer of the kidneys. The Sand sisters invited me to participate in their special event, “Alex's 3rd Annual Walk Toward Wellness 2011.”
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in October, I joined the large close-knit Sand family and friends at Burke Lake Park in celebration of Alex. If I hadn’t been told that Alex’s mother was Sandless and his aunt Sandful, I would not have known who shared more genes with him. Their joyous tears and elation revealed a similar love for 7-year-old Alex.
I met the anniversary boy. Through a likely combination of not remembering his cancer, not understanding, and not wanting it to define him, he was reserved. I approached him as a football fan instead of a fellow cancer survivor, admiring the child that he was.
I spoke about Alex’s achievement, signed some books, hiked around the lake, and then departed. I would look forward to “Alex’s 4th Annual Walk Toward Wellness 2012.”
Bright blue-eyed Alex loves the Steelers and playing basketball. He is shy, competitive and determined. He likes Nintendo Wii, pizza, and cookies. He is also no longer well: his 27-month restaging showed a mass in his abdomen. While resecting the majority of that, other small tumors were found in his bowel and spleen. Alex’s surgery left him unable to move his legs, and it is his competitive spirit that drives him now as he rehabs at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in DC while receiving new rounds of chemotherapy.
The latest news is the mass in Alex’s spleen has remained unchanged, and his parents (and aunt and so many others) are awaiting results of his PET scan. While reading Sandless’ update blog, her anxiety is piercing. I am reminded of the life of a family at war with cancer: isolated, purposeful, scheduled, fearful, hopeful.
I am hopeful that I receive an email from the Sand sisters inviting me to participate in Alex’s next “Walk Toward Wellness.” Whenever that may be, count me in.