Monday, October 27, 2008

The Finish Line and PAC2

Running a marathon takes a while, at least for me. At mile 17 I saw a guy with a bike and offered him $500 for it, but he declined. So I keep running. My mind went all over the place. About mile 24, for some reason I recalled being 10 years old and having to memorize and recite a Bible verse in front of the church. I picked the shortest one I could find. The other kids recited important Bible passages, then I stood up. John 11:35, "Jesus wept." Then I sat down. I got a free pencil.

I don't know why I thought of that while running. I don't even know why Jesus wept, but I have a pretty good idea it was because he had just run the Jerusalem Marathon.

While I was thinking about that, I got to one of the highlights of the race...Jana Slonecker and her mom cheering me on. Jana had Burkitt's last year, and is now healthy and strong. Then my dad joined me, and then some friends. We ran together to the finish line, to a strong, healthy, and cancer-free Tyler.

I hung out at the finish for about an hour, then then made my way to a victory party at the Lodge Bar. As I walked, I saw more runners still working their way to the finish.

We have seen a lot of miracles over the past year, with Tyler and many others. I thought about Stef, Ryan, Cameron, and Sinjin, all still fighting. They are all at very difficult places in their race, but they are all focused on the finish. What a celebration it will be when they all cross the finish line -- cancer free!. The day they yell "Cancer: Been There. Done That. Kicked It's Butt!"

Yesterday I thought again about the "Jesus wept" verse, and decided to look it up. Turns out a friend had just died of a long illness, and Jesus cried while talking with the family. I really found that amazing. He wept just in understanding of the pain on the family. These heart aches are very real.

As the story goes, Jesus raised his friend from the dead. There's not a lot of that going on any more, but some incredible things can be done with medicine. Unfortunately those things are not being done with childhood cancer. So much is unknown, and necessary resources are not being used. Progress is just too slow. The average cost to develop a new cancer drug is $1.3 billion, but the total budget for childhood cancer research is only $30 million. Do the math, and you will understand why only one new childhood cancer drug has been developed in the past 15 years.

I hear people praying for miracles. But I wonder if God's response is that he has given us the resources, and wants to know why we don't use them. Why so many choices take priority over childhood cancer. Why presidential candidates will spent more on their personal campaigns than they approved for childhood cancer research. I believe Jesus sees this. And I believe He continues to weep.

AJ's dad has created PAC2, a grass roots organization to pull people together to find the needed solutions to funding for childhood cancer.
If you see the need, you can check it out here. The only cost to join is that, after understanding the world of childhood cancer, you will be changed forever.

There is no time to lose. In the days around the marathon we continued to lose friends. This stuff is real, and a cure must be found. Here is the truth.

17 year old Brendan Kizar was diagnosed with Burkitt's early this year after a car accident. He passed away 2 weeks ago.
Ron Phillips was diagnosed with Burkitt's in February, after an injury from a backyard football game. He passed away last week.
8 year old Gunner Gillespie passed away 4 days ago, after a long battle with cancer.
In July our long time friend Amie Vertucci gave birth to her daughter Bianca, after a 5 month pregnancy. Bianca did not survive. The same day, Amie learned she had stomach cancer. Amie passed away 2 weeks ago.

We only have two options. Do something. Or do nothing.

For one blissful split second when I first wake up, I don't know who or where or what I am. The only thing I'm aware of is the tail end of my dreams. Soon the dreams will fragment and vanish. It all dawns on me very quickly. Oh yeah, I'm Miles. Oh right, this is not my bed--this is the Ronald McDonald House. I'm here because I've relapsed with my cancer and I'm nearly out of treatment options. Every morning, I learn anew that I have cancer. I regain my bearings. It's like when a dog on a leash sees a squirrel and takes off after it: the dog bounds forward uninhibitedly for a stride before the slack of the leash becomes taught. For a brief instant, there is no leash.

--Mile Levin. 18 year old Miles passed away last August.

Today I got out of bed, and like always had tears in my eyes. I had slept with Puppy, AJs stuffed animal he had since he was about 2 or so. He took it with him everywhere. Puppy, really a teddy bear, came for Christmas. He had a Christmas sweater on him. We soon got him a Buffalo Bills outfit. And Puppy and Buff Bankie, a blanket from Grandma who just died from cancer, went everywhere with AJ. Now we have them. But we don't have our boy.
--AJ's dad. 14 year old AJ passed away from Burkitt's on January 4th this year.

"And Jesus wept."


Gunner Ronald




Lisa Slonecker said...


You are such a talented writer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You never fail to make me laugh and cry.

Seeing YOU at the marathon was the highlight of OUR day...truly. We are so pleased that you accomplished your goal and were met at the finish line with a healthy Tyler...that's the best prize of all.

Hope to see you soon.


Debbie said...

Please know that we are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

God bless you.