by Tony Stoddard
I was watching the Boston Marathon in 1981 when I witnessed an amazing scene. A man named Dick Hoyt was pushing his son Rick in a wheelchair along the difficult 26+ mile course. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. They crossed the finish line together. I have always been inspired by this act of fatherly love.
Many years later, as a father myself, I was thrown into a similar situation when my son Cole was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer. Towards the end of my son’s life I often had to push my son in a wheelchair or carry him up stairs in my arms. One of the most heartbreaking moments in my little boy’s battle with cancer was the time he said to me, “I’m never going to grow up to do anything.” By this time Cole was paralyzed from the waist down, in horrific pain, and he knew he was losing his valiant battle with cancer.
I cried when I heard him speak those words, but I also promised him that he was going to do “something big” someday. Cole passed away from cancer at five years old on January 20, 2012, leaving me with a burning desire to fulfill my promise to make sure Cole did do “something big.”
This past September I was angered by the lack of recognition given to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I expected to see people wearing gold — the designated tribute color — on ribbons, t-shirts, baseball caps and the like. But there was scant mention of our young heroes and angels in the media, and gold was nowhere to be seen. I was determined to change that. I wanted to see as much gold in September as there is pink in October; our children need and deserve this. Greater awareness is the first step in our battle to get more funding and research to help end the monster that is childhood cancer.
Helping turn September gold was the “something big” Cole was going to do by will of the strength, love and determination he left in our hearts. Rick Hoyt’s father did the legwork in the marathons and triathlons he and his son finished together, but Dick was driven by a desire to allow his son to experience “something big.” I may be doing the legwork on this mission to achieve greater childhood-cancer awareness, but this is Cole’s effort, this is his job, his purpose in life.
Rick Hoyt was once asked, if he could give his father one thing, what would it be? Rick responded, “The thing I’d most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once.” On this mission I am in the wheelchair and Cole is pushing me, I am in Cole’s arms and he is moving me; I am being thrust by my son towards the finish line. Cole is carrying me.
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Help increase Childhood Cancer Awareness at:
“A Day of Yellow and Gold to Fight Childhood Cancer”