Becoming a Hero

Well, this weekend didn’t go as planned, but sometimes the best things are not planned. This is coming from a lady who prefers to plan everything!

We got to Memphis Friday morning. Due to the ice storm, we weren’t even sure if we’d make it. Worse case scenario, we planned to get to Chicago. If our flight to Memphis was cancelled, we would spend the weekend in Chicago. Realizing that you may not make it to your final destination makes you more delighted when you do.

We met our St. Jude team at the Peabody Hotel. It was so fun to match faces with names and get to know everyone. Our team was very welcoming to Billy and me…the newbies!

It was about 6pm Friday night when they announced the run was cancelled. At first I was in denial. In Iowa, a run would never have been cancelled with the same weather. After we got the lowdown, we understood why it was cancelled. The run ends in the Autozone Baseball field. The entire stadium and all cement stairways to exit were covered in tons of ice. Plus, there is a part of the course that is lined with trees. All the ice caused risk of the tree branches falling on people.

Billy and I decided we came here to run, so we did. While we only were able to do the 5K route (to avoid all the dangerous parts), we did it! The bridges were bad, so it slowed us down at times. I loved running around the hospital. We plan to come down again next year to get the full experience.

I had planned to wear a Wonder Woman costume for the run. I raised more than enough money to earn a St. Jude Hero Singlet. When I found out that the course goes all around the hospital and many St. Jude patients, along with their family would be on the route, I knew what to wear. I figured my kids love super heroes, so the St. Jude kids would too! Even though the run was cancelled, I wore the outfit after our run for the rest of the day. It made for a great conversation piece…and no one from our team tried to disown me (at least to my knowledge!).

We went to the heroes lounge that was in our hotel. It was there that a little boy named Brayden and his family stole my heart.

Brayden, who’s the same age as our boys, and Payton, who’s the same age as Josie, and their mama Misty sat at our table. The boys were so cute and well behaved. Misty was wonderful. Over the course of an hour she shared Brayden’s story.

At 7months, Brayden was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma. He had 5 tumors in his eyes, 2 in one and 3 in the other. He now has many more tumors, too many to count. The doctors say he shouldn’t be able to see, but he can! He walked to our table with no guidance, weaving in and out of tables, chairs, & people. He dropped a pop tab he was saving for the Ronald McDonald House on the floor. Brayden picked it up without hesitating.

Misty told us she doesn’t train for the half marathon because Brayden didn’t get to train for cancer. Insert goose bumps. She showed us a pair of glasses she planned to wear for a mile of the run. They had black cut outs over the bulk of them. This is how Brayden sees. He scans back and forth to get snipets of pictures and then his brain puts them all together to see the big picture. She wanted to run a mile through Brayden’s eyes. Misty quickly became a mama I admire.

When we left the lounge, Misty offered to take Jen & me to tour the hospital. I really wanted to do this. The organized tour filled up quickly and I missed the boat on signing up.

That afternoon Misty picked us up at our hotel and took us to St. Jude. Brayden asked me “you wanna hold my hand?” After awhile we skipped holding hands and I was carrying my cute little tour guide throughout the hospital. His mom said he loves girls…I think he will be quite the ladies’ man when he grows up!

At one point, Brayden told me his super hero name is “Super St. Jude Boy”. I told him we were meant to be friends because super heroes need to stick together. He said very seriously, “Yeah, we do.” My heart melted.

We learned so much about the hospital and Brayden’s fight. He has a central line and port in him. He isn’t shy to share it either…especially when he was assured he wasn’t getting medicine today. We learned that chemo burns your bottom when it goes through your system. Babies who are in diapers, like Brayden was when he first started going to St. Jude, literally have their skin peel away as parents change their dirty diapers. Doctors wear outfits similar to hazmat suits to change diapers, because they are exposed so often. Parents don’t tend to wear the suits when changing diapers so they run the risk of getting cancer later in life. Many moms have a higher risk of getting breast cancer as they hug and love on their kids so much during treatments.

I fought back tears as she shared stories of the friends they met who lost their battle. It was a very humbling experience. It made me really anxious to get home to our three babes. Hoping this snow storm slows down so we can get there yet today!

Misty shared that she raised the majority of her fundraising for St. Jude by selling bracelets that Brayden strung all by himself. Pretty impressive!

As Misty pulled up to our hotel, Brayden put his little arm around my neck and kissed me. He said, “I love you Erin. Do you love me?!” Like I do with my own kids, I said “I love you more!” They drove away with the windows down and Brayden yelling, ” I love YOU more!”

While I didn’t get to run my half marathon, I was inspired greatly. See you in a year Super St. Jude Boy, Brayden!

20131208-141047.jpg These are the glasses that demonstrate what Brayden sees. His mama planned to run a mile in them.

20131208-141057.jpg Meet Super St. Jude Boy, Brayden!

20131208-141111.jpgTeam Photo!

20131208-141119.jpgBilly and me at the Heroes Lounge

20131208-141150.jpgPayton, Brayden, and me doing selfies at St. Jude

20131208-141213.jpgThe Alphabet is on the walls at St. Jude. A letter for different aspects of cancer. If you do the full marathon each letter represents another mile.

20131208-141241.jpgBrayden trying to teach Jen hopscotch at the hospital.

20131208-141324.jpgBrayden took this picture on my phone of his beautiful mama.

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