I never knew a friendship would grow from the phone call that day. It was January 2011 and my girlfriend called me and said I needed to use my magic and to make a little boy's dream come true. They needed to get a certain singer to Skype this 6-year old boy who was dying of pediatric cancer. Liam, the little boy, never made it to see him play live in concert, but his dream was to hear him sing.
I am a mother of a 4-year-old child so this hit hard, but it hit extra hard as I am a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor in my own battle. This was way too much, but I needed to find a way to make this happen. I called and e-mailed all my old music industry contacts from my days back as a publicist, begging them to get this done. I cried the entire day, as my heart was broken for this family. I had never met Liam or his mother Gretchen, but I wanted to make his dream come true.
I heard back from people in the singer's camp that they have been receiving the request all day and they were going to do their best. Every hour I sent another email, as it wasn't going to be enough until it happened.
I didn't hear anything for the next two days until our mutual friend told me the call did happen and that he actually sang songs to Liam that day. Liam couldn't speak but his music helped him and his family through the hard times and his last wish came true. Liam went to sleep that night. I was a little piece of a big puzzle and I don't know if my heckling and pushing that made the call possible, but I felt happy to give his family some sense of peace.
In January and February of this year I was hospitalized many times. My face went bells palsy, I had new tumors on my skull, the cancer was spreading, and my body did not react well to the radiation or the steroids they had me on. Out of the blue Gretchen, Liam's mom, emailed me and asked if she could visit me. She had read my blog and wanted to meet me in person. At the time she didn't even know I was part of the connection with the singer, but she felt a connection and would like to visit me. She arrived and, as out of it as I was from all the medications, we walked the halls and just talked about our battles. We discussed how one day my husband would be a widowed father, my daughter would be motherless, but for her, there is no term for losing a child. No widow, no widower. That day our friendship grew and when I was released after my second stay in ICU, we went to breakfast and realized how closely our circles were inside and outside of the world of cancer.
Gretchen started a foundation called Cookies For Kids Cancer and it was based on bakes sales. I loved the idea and the sales have picked up steam across America. The foundation has raised millions of dollars to sponsor medical trials and to raise awareness of pediatric cancer. She was also named L'Oreal's Women of Worth National Honoree in 2011 and her second cookbook is coming out this year.
On May 19, 2012, Gretchen's friends are coming together to host their 2nd Annual Bake Sale outside the iconic Flatiron Building. As I have been feeling well I told her I wanted to be involved. With all of our connections we are reaching out to some of the top restaurants to donate products, with 100% of all proceeds going to the foundation. ABC Kitchen, Maialino, Lure Fishbar/B&B Restaurant, Mondrian SoHo, Blue Smoke, The Modern, Hill Country, Simply Sweet, Baking Around & Pip's Place are among a few of the restaurants that have committed thus far, with more signing on everyday.
My battle with cancer has not been easy and my heart breaks for my daughter when I am sick or the steroids have taken over my brain, but everyday I wake up and am determined to fight this disease so I am around to watch Niomi grow up, to help my friends and new sisters that were diagnosed after me, to promote early detection and to find cures for the children. No one deserves cancer, but seeing the kids in the hospital crushes my spirit, as they don't deserve to be in this battle. When I get down mentally, I picture my Niomi and the child I saw at Sloan that day and use it to build up my strength, as cancer is a mental game and I will not give up until I truly know its time. I've told my doctors I do not want to suffer and when it's my time to go they respect my wishes. I will be surrounded by those I love and in a place that is surrounded by water. I want Niomi to know that her mommy is a warrior that fought the toughest battle and that I did great things to help raise awareness for this disease and to make her proud of her mommy. She's my miracle and my strength in this fight.
For more info on the 2nd Annual Cookies For Kids' Bake Sale, please go to http://www.facebook.com/events/373285342707650/
To follow my personal blog, please go to http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/meredithisrael. In June it will be my third birthday and my blog is my journey through this battle. It's raw and I don't hold back.