In October of 2013 Teddy was a normal 2.5 year old, drop kicking soccer balls, learning his ABCs, and excited to spend time with his 1 month old little brother. An onset of vomiting prompted a trip to the pediatrician where Teddy's conditioned worsened. After being sent to the local children's hospital by ambulance, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. After 6 weeks of proton radiation at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, multiple serious infections, a year of chemotherapy, and a small stroke, Teddy is current No Evidence of Disease. With a lot of hard work and support, Teddy is relearning to use his left hand and walk. He loves to read books, play with his (almost 2 year old brother), practice walking, and playing with friends.
Teddy loves the ocean. It is his favorite place, followed fairly closely by the train station, zoo, our local farm, and his own cozy corner of the couch with a Super Why on. And while we work regularly to bring Ted to his favorite spots, the ocean is trickier, obviously. Before Teddy was born Doug and I spent a week every few summers with friends in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Three years ago we took Teddy for the first time where we stayed on a beach with no paved roads but herds of wild horses. We skipped two years ago because I was VERY pregnant with Ben and last year we were in the deadly throes of treatment.
But this year was different, for many reasons. A little over a year ago our buddy Jessica Jack (our beer drinking, book reading, vacation coordinating buddy) was diagnosed with colon cancer. Six weeks later her sister, and our friend, Erica received a cancer diagnosis too. Our families have kept in close touch through everyone's treatments (surgery and chemo for Jess, and surgery and radiation for Erica, and all of the above for Ted).
Jess and Erica are the carpe diem type. Spit fires. Doers. The, "so, you're telling me no, but I think we can work something out"-sorts. And, last year, they begged and cajoled their docs into letting them take a little time at the ocean while they were on treatment. And they did. But, while I haven't been on treatment myself, I know from having carried my toddler through its bowels, that even good and bright and happy things lose their shine when your insides are exploding from exhaustion and pain.
So, this year we thought, let's all go. Let's go together. Because we all finally feel sort of not terrible. Because we are all living MRI to MRI or Pet Scan to Pet Scan. Because we can.
Let's go together. Again. Like old times. But with more kids and less cancer.
In stepped A Week Away, an organization founded by a Caleb, a friend of Erica's, who lived a full and joyous life, until he died of brain cancer in late 2014. A Week Away provided us with an amazing beach house to allow for a joyous No Evidence of Disease reunion of family and friends. We will NEVER be able to thank A Week Away for their kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness (the house had an elevator, which allowed Teddy in his wheelchair, to be included in everything).
Our screensaver on our TV runs through a montage of pictures from three years ago of Teddy and Jess's daughter playing in the sand and jumping in the water. Every day for three years (when not in the hospital) Teddy has looked at those pictures and remembered the beach. And, it was a total and complete joy (with a touch of sadness) to bring him back there. To see the wild horses. To play in the waves. To "run" on the beach with the kids (Teddy asking to go faster in faster in the jogging stroller). To pretend to be a "splash monster" and splash and play with the other kids in the pool. Our friends and their kids treated Teddy like the sweet smart 4 year old he is, not just as a cancer patient. And, our friends did us one better. They handled coordinating transporting Teddy's special therapy supplies to the beach, cooked all the meals, and gave us the run of the third floor for our nap needing kiddos.
Caleb said, "When you get away, you feel normal." And we did. We felt gloriously normal. A Week Away and our friends gave us that. And, we will forever be grateful.
- Ambriel Renn-Scanlan