ASK Fun Walk and 5K 2016

We're back! Team Callen is on board for the upcoming ASK Fun Walk & 5K on Saturday, April 30 at 9:00 a.m. We have our team all set up and we hope you'll join us!

The ASK Fun Walk & 5K celebrates the strength and courage of local children who are battling cancer. Every dollar raised will provide children and their families with assistance, support and kindness through the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation.

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A Call for Arms

One might even say we're Callen' for Arms, but I digress. If you are reading this journal, you may have taken the time to save a life in honor of my six year-old son, Callen. You may even have been the one who saved his life on any number of occasions since his diagnosis of blood cancer. There are no words great enough to express my gratitude. For every parent I meet in clinic whose child has similarly received the life-saving or sustaining gift of your blood, there are simply no words.

And now, TeamCallen needs you again.

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Bucket List

“You all are so deserving. Lucky. Blessed.”

These are just some of the many responses that have followed the news of our impending Make-A-Wish trip. So impending, in fact, that I should be sorting through laundry and packing instead of staring at my computer screen. Because the big surfing adventure that Callen dreamed up one chilly afternoon in the Fall of 2014 is now fewer than 12 hours away from beginning.

Arriving at this moment has been incredibly difficult. And so I cannot yet conceive of what it will be like to actually arrive at our destination. Because we’ve been thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close before and experienced crushing disappointment. For that very reason, preparations have been on hold until the final remaining hours.

This time, though, it feels different. I cannot quite put my finger on it. But my gut is telling me that we are a “go” for tomorrow. And more than that, that we will be a “stay”. And every item that is on Callen’s list will be fulfilled. Experienced to the fullest and loudest. And treasured for the lifetimes that we have left within us.

To arrive at this point, Callen has endured thousands of hours in clinic. Spent hundreds of consecutive days at home. Spent more than those hundred in exam rooms, most often alone. Slept collective months in the hospital. Been put through scores of invasive procedures. Had little say in what he could do or would be done to him. And spent fewer hours than he should have as a typical kid. Under that crop of new hair and his now perpetually rosy cheeks, is a little boy who still fights hard every single day with - and for - every inch of his being.

To the many of you who continue to call, text, message on this site, and put positive energy and prayers out into the universe for Callen and the rest of us, I extend my deepest gratitude. Every day you pull us out from the dark corners of our minds and back into the light where we want so desperately to stay.

However, I must now admit that Jim and I do not feel particularly “deserving” or “blessed”, per se. And certainly not lucky: the lottery Callen won was not one he willingly entered. I say this respectfully but with a heavy heart as I think about the precious children in our clinic - some of whom share Callen's diagnosis - who have been buried since Christmas. Or been given news of relapse. Or whose last options have been exhausted and now must prepare for a journey of a very different kind. Children who will be forever loved and mourned and missed. Whose families would give anything to complain about the tedious waits in clinic or the long hours at home. Who will never again plan trips as whole families, or in any way feel whole again. It is these children who were deserving of more and better and longer, and their families who now require blessing. And while it is wonderful to see our own children so unbelievably excited about this adventure, we’d give anything – anything – if no child were ever again in a position to need respite from the rigors of cancer treatment.

But our situation is what it is. And we are what we are – which is, all other things notwithstanding, unquestionably excited. Exhausted. Emotional. Uncertain where exactly to land in the spectrum of feelings in such duplicitous circumstances. So along with flip flops and sunscreen and a week’s worth of chemo, we pack up our hopes and dreams and move forward to stand in the sun for a very few, very precious days.

Blind Spot

The dark hilly roads of our neighborhood have long been exercising my body and exorcising my mind. Always at my trademark 0-dark hundred hours, and often at the expense of rest, personal safety, nagging joints or common sense, I head outside eager for the moment when I’ll hit my stride: my feet strike the macadam in a soothing rhythm that eventually lulls my brain into a restorative place akin to the REM sleep I’m missing.

My goal is to be back just as or before the first sliver of dawn lights the horizon. The only companions I desire are the moon and stars. I relish the darkness and solitude of the predawn hours: the run itself is illuminating, often shedding light onto problems or difficulties at hand. Light from any other source – most often a passing car – is not only an intrusion, but often a hazard. Drivers whose headlights glint off of my reflective gear frequently flip on their high beams – perhaps to better see me, perhaps in a misguided effort to light my path. Whatever their intention, the presence of light temporarily obscures the adjustment my eyes have made to the dark. Blinded until they pass, kinesthetic senses must carry me safely over ruts and around obstacles no longer visible in the light, and deliver me safely back into the envelop of darkness.

One recent morning – the first of the holiday season and the last for Callen as a 5-year old – was poised for an excess of calories and emotion. A preemptive run was an especially good idea. And so I laced up my running shoes and readied myself for a pavement pounding. As I placed a gloved hand on the doorknob and silently petitioned the door and the dog to remain quiet, I heard it:


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