I haven't written a blog post for Kyle's Kamp in awhile. When I first joined this cause I agreed to write a monthly blog for the site. Sometimes it's hard. And honestly, despite the subject matter, sometimes it's easy. Being in the presence of the children, families, doctors, nurses and advocates I have met in the pediatric cancer community is awe-inspiring. It's brutal and beautiful all at the same time. There are so many lessons to be learned and perspectives to be explored. There is no doubt that these experiences have informed and inspired my writing and, in many cases, made it better. Still, there are moments when I sit at this keyboard and the words will not come. There are times when I wonder if there is anything left to say. There are times I worry that my words have become not encouraging, but empty. Not hopeful, but burdensome.
The last time I wrote here was six months ago. As I sat shocked and numb by the news of the sudden death of a four year old girl who had seemingly beaten leukemia, I tapped out words and wondered how the Kyle's Kamp community could move forward after becoming so attached to a sunny-faced beauty like Kate. I wondered if we wouldn't just want to throw up our hands in defeat. I wondered if anyone would ever tell me something good around here.
In the months following Kate's death, there has been more loss. There has been more pain. Grief and mourning continue and no one has "gotten over" these losses. We have gathered for funerals and wondered how many more services we will have to attend for children. How many slideshows containing images that break our hearts will we have watch? How many prayers that God be close to the broken hearted will we have to plead?
But, to be sure, in the midst of the bad news, there has been some good news. There have been some clear scans. There have been some declarations of "NED"(no evidence of disease). There have been some families who have cleared the dust from their eyes and have found that the world looks bright again. Often these triumphs for families can be tinged with guilt especially for those who have gained life-long friendships with other families in this journey - families whose outlooks aren't as bright. But the fact is that these moments must and should be celebrated. They must be faced with gratitude and hope. Because otherwise, frankly, what are we doing here?
The thing with this life, as we have definitely seen in the news this week, is that it is full of all kinds of heartbreak, all kinds of evil and all kinds of brokenness. But that cannot and will not be the final word. I believe that more than all of that, there is goodness and there is beauty. There is celebration and there is joy. There are new beginnings and there is hope. There is a chance to tell you somethin' good.
Kyle Hahne was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2010 at the age of six. Kyle went through numerous treatments over the course of 3 and 1/2 years. He missed out on being in the classroom with his buddies. He lost his hair. He was very, very sick. During his treatment, Kyle became stronger at times and learned from his family what it was to walk alongside and support other kids who faced the same diagnosis as he faced. Kyle, even at his young age, has helped and continues to help numerous children he has met during his time in treatment. He was an encourager and a friend to more than one fellow patient. Indeed, for one young boy, Kyle was hope.
Last December, I was volunteering at the clinic at the Kyle's Kamp Holiday Store chatting with the mother of a patient as he shopped for gifts for his family. She leaned up against the wall and sighed. I could tell she was tired and her face was drawn and serious. Suddenly, when she noticed that the store was sponsored by Kyle's Kamp, her face lit up.
"Oh! We just love Kyle. I am so grateful to him. My son has leukemia, too. He has been really tired and really frustrated with not feeling like doing all the things he used to love to do. Kyle was chatting with him one day and he made him feel so much better. He told him that he knew he felt tired and he knew he felt sad, but that one day, he really would feel okay again. He told him he would feel like playing again and even running again. I'm so grateful for that. Are you his mom?" she asked.
(Time out. Listen. I don't mind telling you that I thought for a second - only a second - about lying through my teeth and claiming Kyle as my own. That's how special the kid is.)
Instead, I shook my head "no" and told her that definitely sounded like the Kyle I knew and that I would pass the story along to his parents.
I'm guessing that probably one of the most difficult things for Kyle during those 40 plus months was exactly what that mom had relayed to me. Kyle loves baseball and he missed a lot of time playing the sport he loves. He had to take time off. He had to watch from the bleachers or even just on tv. I'm pretty sure he missed the heck out of being on that baseball diamond. In February of 2014, Kyle had his last treatment and he started working his way back to his favorite game.
Last summer, Kyle made the Little League All Star team which is pretty awesome all by itself. But, then he did it again this summer. Little League is big stuff around these parts and practicing for All Stars every single day in the summer heat and facing pitchers and hitters from across the area is no easy task.
On June 18, 2016, Kyle Hahne came up to hit with the bases loaded. Don't you know that at that moment, his parents and friends and family were just happy to see him healthy and strong and could have been simply content to see him have the chance to swing that bat?
Well, just swinging that bat wasn't quite enough for Kyle.
A twelve year old boy who had endured spinal taps and blood draws and chemo and nausea and more than I can even wrap my head around stepped into the batter's box with a bigger dream. He knocked that baseball over the fence. A boy who had suffered one of the most horrific diseases that anyone can face, much less a child, hit a grand slam, scoring four runs with one shot for his team.
So, yes. In this community there is sadness and grief and pain. And we spend a lot of time praying big prayers and dreaming big dreams. And sometimes those prayers are answered and sometimes those dreams come true.
PS Kyle's All Star team won the District Championship and goes on to the Virginia State Tournament this weekend to play for the state title. That's a little extra somethin' good for a kid that absolutely deserves it.
Jenn Skinner is a Christian and a Texan(Texas Longhorn to be specific!) living in beautiful Virginia with her very patient and funny husband and her 3 very impatient and funny little boys/ball players, She joined the fight against Pediatric Cancer with Kyle's Kamp in 2013. She also writes about just about everything and nothing and the ridiculously abundant life God has gifted her at her blog, The View From Behind Home Plate