Delaney just got to have four days of non-stop fun. Family flew in from California and Missouri to help celebrate her being the honored hero for the Light the Night Walk and everyone stayed for a fun-filled weekend (just a quick note on the walk, we got an updated number that there were over 5000 people and that it took over 15 minutes just for everyone to get through the starting line— So Awesome!).
Because we don’t see the family all the time, we took the opportunity to celebrate all four October birthdays. Delaney and her cousin Brody are technically five days apart, but they have so much fun and are so goofy when they are together, that they may as well have been separated at birth. We had a joint party for them at a place where opposing teams shoot each other with Nerf guns while trying to hide behind cardboard obstacles. Because they are just soft darts, you can’t really get hurt so everyone from her five year old cousin to her 60 something grandparents played and had a blast. That night we conveniently forgot our bedtimes and stayed up late playing a couple of Delaney’s favorite games: Catchphrase and Scattergories. It was one of those nights where our stomachs literally started hurting from laughing so much. Great times!
And now… unfortunately, back to reality. Her oldest sister is back at college and everyone else is back in California. As I write this, Delaney is sleeping, but it won’t be long until her Mom has to go wake her up so she can eat something before tomorrow’s procedure. Once again, she’ll be put under so they give her chemo in her spine, more chemo in the port in her chest, and start her on the next steroid cycle. And just like that… the fun is over. That’s okay though, as we realize that we are very blessed.
God willing, Delaney will be done with her treatment in another eight months. As a current fighter, Delaney got to carry the white “Survivor” lantern at the Light the Night Walk. As supporters, we got to carry red lanterns. But there were also gold lanterns. Too many gold lanterns to be exact. Gold lanterns were carried by those in memory for the loss of a loved one. We have friends that were carrying gold lanterns who lost their baby to the exact same kind of leukemia that Delaney has. We have another friend who shows up for treatment and literally prays that she is well enough to receive chemo. Sometimes she is, but oftentimes they have to send her home without treatment because her body wouldn’t be able to handle it. So as much as I absolutely hate that our daughter has to go through this, we realize that in the big scheme of things, we are very blessed and we are very grateful.
My heart overflows with joy. I’m going to be honest and just let you know that whatever I write here cannot do tonight justice. We just got back from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. And… IT WAS AMAZING!
We arrived at the beautiful Wash Park early. If you aren’t in Denver, I should probably tell you that three days ago we had a fierce hail storm and it has rained cats and dogs the past two nights. In perfect contrast, tonight was a beautiful Fall night that was just cool enough to let you know that Summer is officially over. It was perfect and made me once again grateful to be living in beautiful Colorado.
We decided to grab some food before everything really got going. As we finished eating, more and more friends and supporters kept showing up. The crazy part is that we probably only saw half the people that made it to show their support. Between brief greetings and thank you’s, somehow it was already 6:45 which was the time we were to go to the stage. We got a brief line-up for the night, and then it was on!
The speakers included one of the top cancer doctors who shared some of the exciting advancements that are being made in medicine today. The message was clear: When we say, “Someday we’ll find a cure,” someday is today.
Before we knew it, the crowd was directed to watch the large screen where a video was to be shown. The video began with a shot of my wife, Delaney, and I saying, “Cancer Can Kiss My Stache!” and then being silly. Delaney’s story was told beautifully and was weaved in with another woman’s story and the advancements being made as a result of the supporters of the Leukemia and Society. When the video was over, we were called up on stage where they told the crowd of probably more than 2500 that Delaney wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up. Then they presented her with a firefighter helmet complete with a mustache on it. Delaney was in heaven.
The top fundraisers were recognized and then we literally proceeded to light the night. Almost everyone in the crowd had a lantern that was either gold, red, or white and they were all turned off. Starting with gold in honor of people who were walking in memory of somebody who lost their battle with a blood cancer, then all the folks who were carrying a red lantern to designate their support of somebody affected by a blood cancer, lit their lantern. Then Delaney was called up to lead the lighting of the white lanterns which designated the survivors. It was really cute as Delaney did the countdown with the morning anchor from channel 9 news, Corey Rose. (I know the video isn’t the best quality, but it kind of shows the magnitude of tonight’s event as you can see just how many people are lighting their gold, red and white lanterns.)
After leading the countdown, we rushed from the stage to the golf cart that was decorated in Bronco’s colors. They did another countdown to begin the walk, and we rode off to lead the crowds. Due to my phone dying, my favorite photo will have to remain a mental snapshot. It was of us being one one side of the lake and looking all the way across to the other side and seeing thousands of people showing their support while lighting up a trail that stretched over a mile all the way to the other side of the lake. Simply awesome!
Thank you again to all that donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and to all of you amazing folks that showed up to walk with us tonight. We love you!!!
Life is good for Delaney and I am smiling just because I get to say that. Last Saturday she got to join her soccer team and even got to play goalie. She did great, but Mom and Dad probably lost a year of life for every ball that was kicked in her direction. More importantly, she had fun and the other parents and coaches were so gracious with their kind words afterwards that it made me realize how much I have missed her soccer games.
On Tuesday night, Delaney, her Mom, and one of her sisters got to go to her first concert. They saw Katy Perry and had a blast. Mom was worried that Delaney wouldn’t be able to stay up for the show, but the combination of her taking a nap after school and her pure exhilaration got her through to the very last song. Speaking of songs, I know it isn’t Katy Perry, but this video of Delaney singing Sara Bareille’s Brave is too good to be wasted. She made it with two of her sisters (and some goofy dude that will remain unnamed) about a year ago when another of our cancer friends (Joshua of #BeBrave) was creating a video compilation of kids who were fighting cancer singing and dancing to the song. Enjoy!
Speaking of friends, I’ve got to at least introduce you to a sweet little girl we met at the Paul Newman camp last month. Now is probably as good as time as any to remind you that not only am I not a doctor, I am a borderline idiot. With that said, I believe little Natalie’s brain tumor is affecting half of her body to the point of paralysis. That didn’t stop the five year old little cutie from scaling the 40 foot climbing wall with no problem. Then, as she and her twin brother and father were standing on the top of a plank waiting to zipline, the volunteer asked the three of them who was going to go first. Little Natalie quickly stepped forward and announced, “I am!” And then like the fearless little warrior she is, she went for it.
Well last Friday Natalie had a scan that nobody of any age should have to get. Her parents were prepared to get one of two results: the cancer has spread from her brain to her spine (which would definitely not be good news) OR that the tumor came back for the third time (which they were informed meant that treatment wasn’t working for Natalie). I forgot to mention Natalie’s parents are very faithful people and her Mom was so bold to request that people pray for a miracle for their little angel. Apparently God is still in the healing business because this week they got the results that showed no evidence of disease. Little Natalie is cancer free!
As for Delaney, today is her big day as the honored hero for tonight’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night walk. Her big sister at college, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins all flew in to help her celebrate. We have been floored by the generosity so many people have already shown to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you are anywhere near Denver, we would love for you to come join us at Wash Park tonight. The festivities begin at 5:30 and the walk begins at 7:30. If you can’t make it out tonight, but are so moved to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can use this link: http://pages.lightthenight.org/rm/DenverL14/dstafford. THANK YOU!!!