What does taking a single step mean to you? Did you walk to work this morning, or simply walk to the car to drive to work? Did you walk to the kitchen to grab coffee or take the dog for a walk around the block? You probably take thousands of steps each day without realizing it because these steps are insignificant to you. What you may not realize is that for many children who battle childhood cancer, the ability to take a single step can be an insurmountable obstacle. For some, they will be diagnosed with cancer before they learn to walk; for others their disease will take one of their limbs, making it difficult to acclimate; and for even more, the side effects of treatment and a long-fought battle will catch up to them, limiting their movement, but never taking away their motivation.
It is in honor of these children, and what they must overcome to take a single step, that we at Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation are asking people everywhere to help us make these seemingly insignificant steps matter this September during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month as part of Alex's Million Mile - Run. Walk. Ride. We will count each and every step as we work toward collectively logging one million miles throughout the month. Why one million? Because who wouldn't go that distance, and more, to find cures for all kids with cancer?
My daughter, Alexandra "Alex" Scott fought cancer for nearly her entire life. Diagnosed before her first birthday, she would face many challenges along the way, including something many of us take for granted - the ability to walk. At diagnosis, she had a tumor wrapped around her spine. Surgery was the most prudent option, and the doctors told us that if she survived, she would almost certainly never walk. As Alex did many times over, she would surprise everyone by working through excruciating pain to teach herself how to walk, without ever being able to feel her legs.
I think this said a lot about Alex's character, and it was also an influential moment in shaping who she would become. We were told that she would never be able to walk, but with each step she took, she would gain confidence in herself, and in her ability to overcome adversity. Had Alex not been presented with such an obstacle -- would she have ever voiced the idea to host a lemonade stand to find cures for others?
Following in Alex's footsteps, literally, childhood cancer survivor 12-year-old Kaela Cruz lives a very active and athletic life each and every day. At the age of 5, Kaela was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and in May of 2007 had an above the knee amputation on her left leg. She loves swimming, tae kwon do, and has completed multiple triathlons. In Kaela's own words, she calls the completion of her first triathlon the big picture moment of her life -- she completed it with a walker, taking her time to finish.
This moment proved that she could inspire others through her actions, and made her the person that she is now -- an outgoing, positive, athletic 12-year-old who wants to show people what she is capable of, and that we are all capable of overcoming obstacles in life. Kaela and her family will be logging their miles in September, and with her competitive spirit, I have no doubt that they will be among the top teams! Watch Kaela's inspiring story in the video below, and if you are inspired, join Alex's Million Mile too!
As part of last year's very first Alex's Million Mile (then known as the Million Mile Run), childhood cancer fighter Jordan Vincent decided that she wanted to participate. Jordan began battling a rare form of brain cancer in January 2003 at the age of 4. She has spent more than half her life in treatment, including undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and more surgeries than her family cares to remember. With a nickname "the cancer slayer," Jordan has shown remarkable resilience, never letting cancer get her down or stop her from achieving her goals.
At the launch of Alex's Million Mile in 2013, we had many competitive people who set goals of running or walking 100 miles on their own. Jordan's goal was a bit more humble, she wanted to walk one mile over the course of the month -- something that would be a true challenge for her. With the assistance of her family, Jordan was able to complete the mile, walking hand in hand with her dad as he supported her through her gait belt. Jordan proved something that elicited memories of my daughter Alex when she decided not to set a price on her lemonade. Alex and Jordan understand that it isn't always about the amount of money (or miles) that you donate -- after all, who knows which dollar will find the cure, or which mile will spark someone's interest to help!
These stories may seem a bit disjointed, but I wanted to share them as examples of the various obstacles that childhood cancer fighters have to overcome to take a single step, or walk just one mile. Throughout the days of our lives, we will all meet with some form of adversity. It is adversity that has the ability to make or break us, to shape who we are and what we will become, and for some of us, like Alex, Kaela and Jordan, this adversity will change the lives of others too.
In closing, I challenge you to add significance to each and every step that you take this September during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Whether you are a marathoner, a cyclist, or a casual walker, why not donate the steps you take toward making a difference in the lives of children with cancer. As has been said, the journey of a thousand (or million!) miles begins with a single step. Let's take steps to move toward better treatments and cures for childhood cancers in September, it's not possible for those steps to be deemed insignificant.
To find out more about Alex's Million Mile - Run. Walk. Ride. click here, or follow the hashtag #Journey2AMillion.