Last month, our lives changed forever just a few days before my son Chad's fourth birthday. Chad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma or DIPG. There are very few treatment options and an extremely low survival rate.
That night after we got the news, I couldn't sleep. I was up all night thinking of Chad and our family, and praying for the best. By the time the sun came up, God had put it on my heart to spread Chad's story. The more people we had praying for Chad, the better. And on top of that, we needed to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, specifically brain tumors, and the pathetic lack of funding for this kind of research.
So early that morning, I went on Facebook and asked my friends to pray for a miracle and to share Chad's story. That simple action has had a greater impact than I ever could have imagined.
We received an outpouring of support from friends, even those I hadn't heard from in 25 years. People started to post about Chad to their own networks, and soon I was getting messages and friend requests from strangers who wanted to help our family. My friend Mandy started a public Facebook Page, Pray for Chad Carr, so that people could show their support and make Chad's story go viral.
Hundreds and then thousands of people liked the Page, and every day more people wrote that they were praying for us. We heard from Christians -- including nuns at a convent in France, people in Switzerland, Australia and St. Croix just to name a few -- as well as people who are Jewish, those who are Muslim and even people who told us they were praying for the first time. This has meant so much to our family.
The world has gotten smaller in other ways, too. As we hear from people all over the world, we've been able to discover many connections and friends in common that we didn't realize before. These amazing moments help me stay strong.
I am not someone who can sit still for very long. Especially with everything going on now, having something to channel my energy toward is so important. I spend the majority of my days with Chad, my husband and our other two sons, CJ and Tommy. But when I'm sleepless at 3 a.m. or waiting for Chad to wake up after radiation treatments, I visit Facebook to share updates and read what people have written us. Having friends and people I don't even know praying for us makes me feel less alone in those moments.
Seeing what has happened since my first post has been incredible. That week Chad's preschool posted on Facebook asking everyone to wear Chad's favorite color on his birthday, and now orange has become an important symbol for our movement to raise money for pediatric cancer research and show support for our son.
Around the same time, our friend Michael started the hashtag #ChadTough and took it upon himself to create a graphic with the term. It took off and now many of us have also changed our Facebook photos to Chad's picture with the hashtag on it. It's also been added to t-shirts and wristbands. The University of Michigan football team and coaching staff have been wearing orange #ChadTough bracelets, and Chad was named honorary captain for the Michigan game against Minnesota.
Chad's grandpa Lloyd Carr was a great U-M football coach, so it's been amazing to see the Michigan family support us like this. Former Wolverine Charles Woodson, who plays for the Oakland Raiders now, has been one of many people who have raised awareness about Chad's cause through social media.
So far, donations and t-shirt and wristband sales have raised nearly $100,000 for the Chad Tough Fund to support pediatric brain cancer research at Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan.
We hope that number is just a start. We don't want this to just be a flash in the pan. We need attention and prayers not just for Chad, but for all people and all kids who are fighting cancer.
Brain cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in children under 20. Although many doctors believe understanding childhood cancer will lead to a cure for cancer overall, only 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute's funding goes toward pediatric cancer research. We have to raise awareness about this disparity.
We don't know what God's plan is for Chad and our family, but we know there is one, and we're going to keep praying and doing everything medically possible to get through this. Please join us.
Like Pray for Chad Carr on Facebook and contribute to the Chad Tough Fund for pediatric brain cancer research at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
Tammi Carr lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., with her husband and three sons.