Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One Love for 80

"On planet Earth, we only have one real purpose: To learn how to love. And then one day when our spirit is ready, our future selves are in heaven, and all we do is fly and love. God told me that."
-- Aidan Vance Peterson
(these words were spoken by Aidan to his mother & she shared them with us at his service)

Today I attended the memorial service for Aidan Vance Peterson also known as 80.  A valiant cancer warrior who was granted his angel wings last week on August 11.  Aidan was 6 years old...just 10 days shy of his 7th birthday.  I did not personally know Aidan but he is a local Team in Training honored hero and we have a mutual friend, Andy, who became close with the family.  I've followed Aidan's journey for the past 9 months.  He has a FB page which is called One Love for 80.

A very brief history...Aidan's journey with cancer started at 18 months old when he was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia). He endured 3 years of treatment and was declared in remission; however, in January of this year he developed AML (acute myeloid leukemia). AML is a much more aggressive leukemia and requires a bone marrow transplant.  Aidan with the help of his family became a huge supporter of bone marrow donation while they were trying to find a match for him.  I've posted several times before about the importance of becoming a donor and if you haven't please consider becoming a donor. You can visit Be the Match or Delete Blood Cancer.  Both organizations feed into the same donor database but Delete Blood Cancer was a big supporter of Aidan during his search.

After numerous drives...Aidan's donor was found and he received his transplant on June 13.  The transplant was a success and the engraftment was 100%; however, he developed a bad lung infection.  I must note that because of Aidan, 6 other matches were made, and two of them have gone to collection (actual transplants). That is Aidan helping save other lives while he was fighting for his own...amazing!

I took away so much today from the memorial service.  Aidan's mother spoke about Aidan and shared some heartwarming stories.  One that touched me was that Aidan never considered himself sick - "he was well" - it was his cells that were sick...and in the end it wasn't Aidan that was sick - it was very sick lungs.

I don't know how to put into words why following Aidan's journey has touched my life so much.  I've been a part of Team in Training since 2000 and more heavily involved since 2009 and especially this past year.  I serve as Chair of the Mission Task Force for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so I work directly with trying to connect our honored heroes to our mission and raising awareness anyway we can.  I say that because I hear stories of triumph and defeat by all forms of blood cancer regularly...but Aidan's journey personally touched me. Maybe because he is the exact age of my daughter and I have son just a year younger as well.

Aidan and his mom on Mother's Day 2013
But mostly I think it was because his mother choose to share her only son with us...she shared the good and the bad.  She shared what it was like to be the mother of a child fighting for his life and she did it with faith and grace like no one I've known.  She has put so much into perspective for me in the past couple months and has made me want to be the best mom I can be.  On Mother's Day she posted and at the end she addressed moms of angel children, moms of sick kids and moms of healthy kids...I'm blessed to fall into the last category and I take to heart what advice she gave, "try not to sweat the small stuff. And don't kick yourself too hard when you do. We're all human. We're all moms. Today is a day to celebrate with gratitude the blessings that are our children."   I want to do my best to live that advice EVERY DAY.  Thank you Candice from the bottom of my heart for sharing Aidan and teaching me more about love and faith.

To all my friends that prayed for Aidan and his family and shared his story or released a virtual orange balloon meant so much to his family especially to see complete strangers painting their FB wall with an orange balloon or even going out to purchase one and release themselves.  I also wanted to share the link to CBS News - they were at the service.  And also a story by WFAA.

Balloon Release at 80's memorial service

If for any reason you'd like to make some small donation in Aidan's memory, I'd like to share Andy's Team in Training fundraising page.  He has ran several events in Aidan's memory and will be running the Rock & Roll New Orleans Marathon in his memory this coming February.

Andy & Aidan in February 2013

Last, I pray that God comforts Aidan's family in the days, weeks and months to come.  I pray that his mom receives the signs every so often that she told Aidan to send her from heaven. And I pray that we FIND A CURE so no child or family endures the heartache that cancer brings.

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