This is an article that I have been submitting to various organizations to help raise awareness for all those who have battled or are battling childhood cancer. Let’s all take a moment to say a prayer for all those families who are on the frontlines or are facing the after affects of this horrible disease. Please feel free to copy and paste this story where ever you think it might make a difference!
Our Youngest Warriors
Is today the day? Is today the last day I will have with my child, our dreams shattered and lives forever changed? In a perverse reversal of anticipation from the day of their birth, these unimaginable questions are circling the minds of some unfortunate parents all over the world. In a scene too hard to comprehend for many, these parents are living a reality worse than any nightmare they have ever dreamed. It goes against nature, against all of our expectations, to watch a child die. And yet it continues to happen over and over again – at least 2,500 times a year in the US – seven times a day! Maybe that doesn’t seem like many, but believe me when I tell you ONE is too many. These parents are from every race, creed, geographic region and socioeconomic class – their child has been picked in a very unpredictable and random manner. You may wonder who they are and how you can avoid becoming one of them. If only there were an answer! I write this knowing all too well the horror of this situation because I am one of them. My husband and I have experienced the unimaginable and were counted among one of those seven on May 9, 2006. Our son was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eight and every day after that diagnosis, I lived with those unimaginable questions in my head. Our answer came ten months after his diagnosis when he took his last breath on this earth.
Childhood cancer is a war going on all around you. Not in some far away place, but right in front of you. If you have no one close to you in the battle, you may be unaware of this war’s impact. Until you are intimately affected when someone you know is suddenly drafted without warning, you do not realize the intensity of this battle. I know I did not. The opponent uses many disguises and sneak attacks, usually striking when those selected to join the battle least expect it. Cancer rips these kids from their normal existence in an instant and throws them onto an unfamiliar battlefield filled with suffering and pain. Turning their innocent lives into a nightmare of needles, pills, MRI’s, chemo and radiation…things no child should ever have to face. There are some victories in the battle, but unfortunately, the war is far from over.
Since July of 2005, when my son was diagnosed, I have lurked near the frontlines of this war watching its devastating effects. He joined the 12,500 other young warriors that were diagnosed that year on a well worn battlefield filled with land mines and barbed wire. We were woefully unprepared for this battle and found there was little ammunition, in the form of new types of treatments, available to provide to our young warrior. But he, just like all his fellow warriors, did not let that affect his courage in the battle. He faced his opponent with a strong determination and optimism, unmatched in many of the adult battles being fought all around him. He was too busy fighting to see that the adult battles seemed to have many more weapons to choose from, but we did. It is an injustice we like many other parents of these young warriors discover with disbelief and disgust…very little money has been devoted to building up the weapons for many forms of childhood cancer. It seems there is not enough “economic incentive” for the research to be done. It is true, there have been wonderful and amazing advances for some types of childhood cancer, but not enough. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease of children under the age of 15! In the United States, the incidence of cancer among adolescents and young adults is increasing at a greater rate than any other age group except those over 65. And yet childhood cancer research is vastly and consistently underfunded every year!
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. September 12, is a day of special recognition for these young warriors. Take the time to recognize these very brave children all around you by joining the fight. There are many ways to help through local and national organizations dedicated to helping these kids and their families. They need your time, money, prayers and toys. Most of all they need your voice. Write Congress to demand full funding of the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. The current proposed funding is $10 million ($20 million short of Public Law 110-285). Surely after spending BILLIONS on used cars our government can spare a little change to SAVE OUR KIDS!
Sherry Tucker, author of Unfinished Love – Walking by Faith through Pediatric Cancer and founder of Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation, lost her son Zach to a cancerous brain tumor in 2006. See www.sherrytucker.net for more information.
For His Glory,
I feel so bad for not posting this sooner. We arrived back to our home sweet home last Saturday! After we left Indiana it felt like the wind was gone from our “traveling” sails and we all were ready to get out of the RV and back home. It was a wonderful trip with many ups and downs, but we are so thankful to have had the opportunity to do this. Thanks to everyone for following along!!
Love to all,
We are sitting in Sevierville, TN tonight…sorry for my lack of posts! When I get around family and start having fun with them, I don’t seem to find the time to sit down and type a post. We also have been lacking wifi access with Lexi’s computer and Dirk’s just doesn’t seem to be able to give me access. Enough with the excuses!
We had a great visit in Indiana with family and friends. Dirk and I shared our testimony with a church in Bloomington and then again with a small group that is lead by our dear friends, Kurt and Annette Buehler. We have had some time to reflect and some time to really communicate as a family so far on this trip and it feels like it is crossroads of sorts. We continue to be humbled and touched by sharing Zach’s story, but we are also seeing that sharing this story is not the easiest thing to accomplish. It is something that we will always do with those we meet…just maybe not in a large group format. God’s timing is perfect and we know that He has a plan for this story that is already underway. No matter what format comes our way, we are open to His leading.
Our fourth of July was rather wet, it rained all day long!! That did not “damper” Lexi and Hogan from giving us a wonderful firework display. I also had another one of those lovely days where we count how many years we have been around. It seems the more that pass the less I really want to “celebrate” them! The thing that was really nice about having a birthday was it was a chance to get everyone together to spend some time together. Lexi made TWO lovely cakes (she has been watching Cake Boss a lot lately!) one for my family celebration and one for the Tucker’s celebration. It was really fun to spend time together and I am thankful we had the opportunity.
As is true with every visit to Indiana, I spent time at Zach’s grave. It is a reality check every time to go there and stare at Zach’s name on a headstone. How can this be reality??? But it is and I know it may seem strange that I still have these feelings after three years have gone by…I just don’t think it will ever seem right. We changed the flowers and always seem to end up walking around to the other graves, looking at other dates and wondering about the story behind each one. It is a quiet time to reflect and remember and to be thankful we have a hope to hold on to that one day none of this will matter. It will only be a distant memory and forgotten pain.
We left Indiana yesterday and headed to Ohio to visit King’s Island - an amusement park Dirk and I went to when we lived in Indiana. Unfortunately, after the first ride on a roller coaster, Dirk was done. He has been battling a sore back and the ride did him in. He could hardly walk back to Harvi, but thankfully he made it and relaxed as Lexi and I went back to the park to play! We had lots of fun - but did feel guilty that Dirk could not join us. When we came back we were happy to find Dirk feeling much better (I was really glad because I did not feel equipped to drive Harvi and thought I might have to!). We stayed at a really nice campground in Cincinnati called Winton Woods.
We took off this morning and headed south (Lexi is so excited we are now headed back in the direction of Florida!). We arrived in Sevierville, Tennessee this evening and are camping next to a river. We are headed to Asheville tomorrow and will keep going south. It has been a little hard to get back into the swing of being on the road…I think we are all a little tired of this routine. It is clear we are not ready to trade in the house for Harvi just yet!!
Until next time…love to all,
So…you haven’t heard from me for a while because we have been in remote - wifi cannot be found for miles - places this past week! Not been the best week to say the least. We left Colorado last Tuesday after meeting with my cousin Nic Dial. Great to catch up with him and have one final goodbye to CO. From there we headed east on I-70 through FLAT FLAT eastern Colorado and western Kansas. Not a real exciting drive, but it was OK because driving through the mountains in Harvi to get back to Denver was enough excitement for one day for all of us!!
We stopped in Russell, Kansas late in the evening at a place just off the interstate that looked like it had seen better days. The big attraction surrounding it was an “oil well museum” which in reality looked like a bunch of old rusty oil rig pieces strewn about with tall grass all around - ha! Needless to say we did not do any exploring of the “museum.” The mosquitos (does that word have an “e”??) were quite thick and the reality of the US heatwave really hit us. The cool Colorado mornings and evenings suddenly were like a special paradise we missed desperately…
Wednesday we headed out of Kansas to Missouri. We had schedule a couple of nights at some campgrounds there hoping to see some nice trails and maybe do a river float. Well we found out very quickly the Missouri State Park system does not believe in keeping their trails maintained and that ticks should be their state “insect” (if that is what ticks are considered). Dirk and I ventured off on a two mile hike (Lexi being much wiser than us opted out) with Binx when we reached our first destination (Knob Noster state park…we should have known from the name what we were getting into!) and found ourselves on a muddy overgrown trail that seemed to be seven miles instead of two. The heat was overwhelming to all us - especially Binx with his thick fur coat. Never was I so happy to see the end of the trail when we finally made our way to the end. But that was only the beginning of the fun. I soon found out that the woods had given us all a gift…a nice covering of all types of TICKS - YUCKKKK! As I was lying on the vinyl floor in our RV recovering from the sauna walk I began to pick some of the mud from my legs and realized all those dark specs were not mud but instead disgusting blood sucking ticks that had already dived suckers first into my legs…seems these ticks were very thirsty and did not wait to find their way to my head! Mortified, Lexi was beside herself as she pictured herself being covered by these blood thirsty pests as she slept that night since both Binx and I were lying near her pullout bed. About and hour later and what seemed like a million ticks later, we felt like we had picked ourselves clean from the attack. Needless to say, I did not wander off of the roads the next morning when I walked Binx.
From there we headed to Meramac State Park hoping for a better experience only to find a pretty similar situation. We did try to take a river float but found after riding (really mostly pushing) our bikes up a very large hill that we missed the last launch time by 30 minutes. By this time we decided rolling into Indiana a day early looked pretty darn good so we loaded up and headed east…glad to leave the State of Missouri goodbye!!
We arrived at the Tucker’s last night around 10:30 pm glad to be in familiar territory and surrounded by smiling family faces. Even Binx seemed to sense he was “home” once we arrived! We will be hanging out here for a week. Dirk and I will be sharing our story briefly tomorrow at a church nearby. We look forward to seeing family and celebrating our Nation’s birthday with a big firework show next weekend.
In the middle of all this crazy heat insect ridden week, I reread the book “The Shack”…if you haven’t had a chance to read this book I would recommend it. So many interesting and deep lessons to learn. God certainly used it again to speak to my heart in many ways.
Will update again soon…until then love to all!
Sorry for the delay in updates. This altitude has been wearing me out! I have not had the energy to sit down at the end of the day to prepare an update. First off, hope everyone is having a wonderful Father’s Day. We celebrated the day with Dirk by taking him to church and then out to lunch in Estes Park. After lunch we all raced go karts and Lexi crossed the finish line in first place! Later in the day he and I took a beautiful hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. All in all, I think Dirk has enjoyed his day.
To catch up from the last update. We enjoyed our time at the Garden of the Gods…each in our own way. At first Dirk was very disappointed to find out he could not play spiderman and climb the big red rocks in the main park of the park, but being Dirk he found a way to get some rock climbing in and had Lexi climb with him. Once we hiked away from the monitored section of the park, he and Lexi started scrambling up any rocks that looked interesting to them. It was very hot the longer we hiked which was not to Lexi’s liking much! Over all it was a good day.
We headed out of Colorado Springs on Friday and drove north to Estes Park. The campground we are in here is more commercialized (few trees and close sites) but very clean and very close to Rocky Mountain National Park. The first day we arrived, Dirk noticed there was a book store nearby so he and I went to explore. The owners were kind enough to let us set a book signing for the next day from 3-5 pm. When we got back to the campground we started to grill our dinner and soon a lady stopped who was riding by on her bike. She saw the sign on the side of Harvi and wanted ask about it. She shared her son passed away 17 years ago from neuroblastoma when he was six. Dirk and I talked with them (her husband joined her) about their experience and they bought a book. I have found it is the same any time we meet another parent that has walked through this journey - and instant connection and understanding occurs. After they left I could not help to think about the length of time they have faced without their son and their comments of how you can never know when a trigger will happen or a bad day will arrive…it just happens and it NEVER goes away.
We decided to drive through RMNP the next morning before the book signing. Lexi was not happy with us when she found we were going to be driving up a mountain again - at least it was not in Harvi…we rented a car so we could explore the park in an easier mode of transportion.
We did not make it all the way through the park because our time was short, but what we saw was certainly amazing. We could not believe how many bike riders there were riding the same road. We even saw one bike rider get pulled over for illegal passing of a car!! Never have I seen a bicyclist get a ticket!
The book signing was a lot of fun. The book store was small, but business was brisk. I found that roaming around and asking people that were browsing what type of books they read was a good way to start a conversation and tell them about my book. I could usually tell by the scared wide-eyed look on some of the faces that these were not people who were going to buy the book, but there were nine that were interested and most of those I had a really nice conversation with. The last group Dirk and I shared our story with was a family from Boca Raton, FL and were Messianic Jews. We had a great time sharing our faith with them and them with us and in the end the lady said a beautiful prayer with me. It was such a great time! I truly believe each and every person I had the opportunity to meet was sent into that bookstore for a specific purpose. God’s presence was everywhere…I certainly could feel it surrounding me.
This feeling continued when last night Dirk and I attended a church service at the Rocky Mountain Church nearby. The message was all about stepping out of our comfort zones and living a life with a purpose centered on God. It felt like a direct message to our hearts. We had an opportunity to share our story with the pastor after the service and shared a book with him. He was overwhelmed because his current wife (the first passed away in 1995) had endured the death of one of her children to AML leukemia 14 years ago. He was anxious to share it with her. I could not believe that in two days, we had met two families in this small town that had been impacted by childhood cancer. Way too many…but the story is all the same. Every child was precious, courageous and very special and every child is profoundly missed no matter how long it has been.
We had a chance to meet the pastor’s wife today when we took Lexi back to the church for their morning service. It is clear we have made some connections here that are more than just the kind that will be forgotten in a few months. This area is so filled with the amazing creation that God has made, He seems to be present everywhere I look. Whether it is in the majestic mountains that surround the town, the special people that have been placed in our path, the amazing elk, deer and other wildlife we have seen or in the beautiful rainbows and flowers that seem to surround us…He is here!
We plan to hang out here one more day and then begin the journey toward Indiana. Lexi is very excited about leaving the mountains behind and spending time with family. Dirk and I will be sorry to leave the beauty behind, but we too, look forward to seeing our friends and family in Indiana. The next time I update, we will probably be on the road. Hopefully we will find locations with wifi…until then, keep your eyes open to God’s presence around you.
Hello from Colorado Springs!
We have been having some fun the last couple of days. As we were driving to our next campground on Tuesday, we came upon a white water rafting company and decided to pull in to check it out. Within 30 minutes we were in wetsuits (the water temp was 50 degrees!) climbing in a raft learning how to negotiate the rapids of the Arkansas River!! After listening to our guide’s explanation of everything that could go wrong, I was a bit intimidated, but it turned out to be great fun! We even saw some big horn sheep standing high up on the mountainous rocks that surrounded us the entire route. I took lots of pictures on a waterproof camera, but have not been able to get them developed yet. This is one the rafting company took. Toward the end of the two hour trip, the guide had Lexi climb to the front of the boat and ride it like she was riding a bucking bronco!! This impromptu trip made some great memories for all of us.
We rolled into our next campground just outside of Colorado Springs. Really pretty - covered with lots of flowers and tons of hummingbirds! Our site has my favorite flowers just at the edge - purple irises.
We decided to stay at this site for three nights and rent a car to check out the area. Yesterday we conquered Pikes Peak much to Lexi’s dismay. She has discovered she does not care for heights at all!!
It took us an hour to drive to the top of the mountain. Luckily, the road is well maintained and not hard to negotiate - in a car. Harvi would have never made it!! When we began the drive up, the temperature was 82. When we reached the top, the temperature was 45 and very windy!! There was lots of snow. Needless to say, we were not prepared to deal with the cold since we only had brought jackets to wear over our short sleeve shirts and shorts!!
Lexi was quite happy to be back to level ground when we reached the bottom again…she said something to the effect of she would never be driving up a mountain again as long as she lived! We shall see…never say never right?
Today we are off to see the Garden of the Gods. Friday we will be moving north the the Rocky Mountain National Park area north of Denver. We are not finding much opportunity to share our story except in a few individual cases. A little disheartening, but we are trusting that God will place those that He wants to hear it in our path. We are trying to take advantage of every opportunity for His Glory. I found a scripture today in my reading that spoke to this in Colossians “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Col. 4:5 This is what we will try our best to continue to do…and trust God will do the rest!
Until we meet again…hope everyone is having a great day!
Love to all,
Hello! My name is Sherry Tucker and I would like to thank you for coming to visit the Forever Free Blog! Dirk, my husband of twenty-five years and love of my life joins me in welcoming you into our thoughts. We are excited to share our hearts, the latest news and events about the foundation we work with, Giving Hope Through Faith, and my book, Unfinished Love. We would love to hear from you as well so please leave us a comment and let us know what is happening in your lives. Again thanks for taking the time to visit, please have a look around and enjoy your stay!
For more information on our foundation created to assist families facing the challenges of cancer, visit www.GivingHopeThroughFaith.org