May is upon us, and for me, an old timer with memories of fields of Virginia buttercups blooming and dancing around Maypoles with ribbons and friends, this month always feels fresh and sunny and rejuvenating.
Of course, time marches on, and I no longer wrap satin ribbons around Maypoles anymore--Does anyone? And life has thrown me a lot of curve balls since elementary school. One of the most significant, profound, life changing, view altering experiences in my life was my son, Nick Swafford's, battle with brain cancer, medulloblastoma.
Nick was diagnosed as an 8 year old second grader on 3/9/11 when he was diagnosed in the Rady Children's Hospital emergency room. A lot of people ask me what his symptoms were. His symptoms were little tricky and did not necessarily point to a brain tumor. We spent 6 weeks having exams, ultrasounds, and blood tests for abdominal pain and vomiting. Nick passed every neurological exam, even the one administered in the emergency room the day of diagnosis. I know that sometimes people with brain tumors experience problems with vision, coordination, headaches, swallowing. Nick didn't. But the take away lesson should be that if you know that something isn't "right" with you or your child, persist with the medical community until you get a diagnosis.
Nick endured brain surgery, 6 weeks of daily radiation, and 55 weeks of chemo. He goes for mri's every 3 months, and thankfully, has remained cancer free for 3 years since his original surgery on 3/10/14. He has a scan this month on May 17th, and for the rest of his life, he will face a risk of secondary cancers, relapse, and physical consequences from his treatments. But we are, so far, the "lucky ones."
As a family and as a business, we are dedicated to supporting Rady Children's Hospital, the Children's Oncology Group, Support The Kid, The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and other foundations and organizations that support the children and families affected by cancer, particularly brain cancer.
May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. May for me as an adult now means sharing our story. It means raising funds for the foundations that can help find a cure and support patients and their families. It is still a month of hope and life and new beginnings for me...But for far different reasons than for my childhood self.
So if you see photos and banners about "Go Grey For May" in our e-mails or on our Facebook page this month, and it seems incongruent with babies and fashion and gift stores...Know it is our story, about our baby, and brain cancer, and it defines us and our store and our staff.