It’s Donna Day! #conquerkidscancer #DonnaDay

When it comes to the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show, the people are the heart of it–well, the people and their stories, of course–but for me it’s more than that. These people end up feeling like family members in some ways. Last year’s cast, like it or not, is stuck with me. (Most of them aren’t objecting.) Every single stinkin’ one of them is special to me in their own way and I would follow them to the moon and back.

This year’s cast, freshly announced two weeks ago, is only starting to realize the same thing. I chuckle to myself a little bit each time Tracey and I have an exchange with some of them on Facebook, because I think about how I don’t want to scare them with advanced knowledge of how much we are going to end up loving them. I just met most of them for the first time only three weeks ago, but I already know that by the time our season is over I will say that I would also follow them to the moon and back.

Sheila Quirke is one of those new cast members. She is lovely. She blogs under the name Mary Tyler Mom (which obviously won me over immediately, something you’d understand if you have ever read my “About” page), and has two children: one young son and a daughter named Donna. Donna lost her battle against cancer at the age of four, in 2009. Donna’s Cancer Story is documented in a series of thirty-two posts that Sheila wrote, and I read them all on Wednesday evening. It was hard to read (especially all in one sitting) but it was also very important to read, and not nearly as hard (by a longshot) as it would have been to experience firsthand, obviously.

So many elements of Donna’s story will stick with me, but the main takeaway for me was “choosing hope”, something that Sheila and her husband did throughout their family battle of this disease. In Sheila’s words:

“When all of this began so long ago and I first typed the words ‘choose hope,’ my guess is that most folks assumed the hope was for Donna’s cure. If I’m honest with myself, it probably was for a time, but as much as that mantra is for Donna, it was for me as well. To remind myself that hope comes in many forms and, more importantly, it is a frame of mind, a choice one makes. For so long, and to this day, it is the only way to live. Without hope, how would I wake up in the morning? Without hope, how do you continue to be with Donna, laughing and playing and so brightful, knowing that she will be gone much too damn soon?”

These days, Sheila parents Donna by telling her story and spreading awareness of pediatric cancer by doing good things in Donna’s name. Some scary stats:

~More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined

~Before the age of 20, 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will be diagnosed with cancer

~Worldwide, a child is diagnosed ever three minutes

~The cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate, e.g., brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate, and some, like DIPG, are known to be fatal with no known treatment or cure

~73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment and 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.

Pediatric cancer is ridiculously underfunded. My chin dropped to the ground when I read the facts, here.

Here’s where we all come in. This campaign, the Donna Day campaign, is to promote and raise money for the “Donna’s Good Things” team headshaving event for St. Baldrick’s–which funds Pediatric cancer research–on March 30. Last year, the fundraising goal for this team was $20K and they ended up raising $79K! This year, they have many fewer heads to shave and a higher initial goal of $30K. Any donation, no matter how small, can help them reach (and I’m hoping, surpass!) their goal. You all know that a lot of little things add up, so if you have five dollars to spare, would you please consider making a donation? All you have to do is click over to the team page and click the green “Donate” button. (I did it myself and it’s super-easy.) If you want to go the extra mile and get your head shaved as part of “Donna’s Good Things”, you can sign up there, too. I know that Sheila, her husband, their family, and the rest of “Donna’s Good Things” will appreciate any support you can offer. Even sharing this post or one of the other Donna Day posts out there today will help! (P.S. You can “like” Donna’s Good Things on Facebook here, if you want to stay posted on all of those good things!)

On behalf of my new LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER family member who I would follow to the moon and back, thank you so much for reading, for considering. I’ll end with a video from Donna’s Radiothon that benefitted Lurie Children’s Hospital, so you can put a face to Donna’s name, and more thanks: thank you.