One week ago, I met a miracle. A miracle that wasn’t made easily, and that wouldn’t have been made at all if it weren’t for you. That miracle is Vampboy, the boy on the bike in the picture above. You can read all about him on his dad’s blog.
Briefly, however, VB was 16 months old when diagnosed with ATRT, a type of brain tumor that occurs almost exclusively in children, and was almost always fatal. Both of these characteristics mean that it’s not profitable for pharmaceutical companies to research treatments for ATRT.
Fortunately for VB, he was able to get treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which counts its profits in lives saved, and he is now a happy, active five-year-old. VB is one of the main reasons I rode the Pan-Mass Challenge this year, and I was lucky to meet him at one of the rest stops on the first day.
The entire Vampfamily was a joy to meet: Vampdaddy, Vampmommy and Vamppuppy were all in attendance, waiting to thank each of the riders on the team that partnered with Vampboy this year. Having read about them for so long, it was nice to finally see them in the flesh. It never ceases to amaze me how much in common I have with people who I’ve only known through this blog over the years.
The ways that VDaddy and VMommy talk with VB were so similar to the way Mama and I talk with 3B and Jewel that it was like a slice of home hearing them all. And, of course, the way that VB responded, although he’s a year older than 3B, just made me laugh because of the similarities in their personalities: sweet, strong and self-assured.
Of course, the purple bike, much like 3B’s pink ride, was fun to hear about–how nobody thought VB would be able to ride a bike for awhile due to some lingering weakness he has, but how he pulled it right off the rack, rode it around the shop, rolled up to VD and said, “I want this one.”
As VD said, what can you say to that, but “OK”?
Having lost my father to a brain tumor, watching this pint-sized pistol of a survivor ride his bike around was like watching a miracle on wheels. But this miracle didn’t come easily. It was made through tremendously difficult work–VB’s 50 weeks of chemotherapy with 12 drugs at adult dosages, then six weeks of radiation, coupled with another six weeks of chemo, and all the attendant care that treatment requires. The work continues now, with regular scans to check for recurrence or new cancers as well as speech therapy, physical therapy and other services to help VB recover from the cancer and treatments. All of that work was made possible by people like you, all giving a little to make something greater than the sum of your gifts possible.
But watching VB ride around and laugh and hanging out with his parents, my newest old friends, made all of that fade away. My long training rides alone down empty roads, away from my children and wife, through the darkness of morning, into the dense, hot, humid tangle of Southern woods–it all faded away. Here, the sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and there was nothing to do but help Vampboy open his packet of goldfish crackers, watch his dad steal one–of course–and watch Vampmommy walk a frolicking Vamppuppy across the grass.
VB is doing better than anyone expected, but he still has a long road before him. However, he doesn’t walk alone. He carries with him, and is carried by, the hopes of everyone like you who supports Dana-Farber.
Thanks to all of you who made this miracle possible.
The more of us who work together, the more likely we are to make miracles happen, so if you haven’t already, donate today.
I’m working to make cancer history. Will you help me?