This book is dedicated to the precious memory of my daughter Ashley, who lived more in her fourteen years than most people live in seventy or eighty. It still does not seem real that you are not with us, Ashley. My heart aches beyond belief because of all you had to endure in your short life, but mostly it aches because I cannot hug you and kiss your beautiful little bald head anymore. You are my inspiration for writing this book. Your untimely death has made grief and heartache an inescapable part of my daily life.
But grief and heartache are not the whole story—not even close! You have inspired countless people, including me, with your unwavering courage, your tenacious spirit, and your persistent optimism. You have stolen innumerable hearts, including mine, with your incredibly infectious smile. You have taught me much and inspired me immensely to live every day and to look for all the beauty and all the fun that life has to offer—to live with a broken heart. I love you, Ashley, more than you could have possibly imagined while you were confined to an earthly body. I cannot wait to see you again someday, and share together all the incomprehensible beauty that I know you are now experiencing. Until then…
This book is also dedicated to the sweet memory of my daddy, Larry O’Rear, who taught me what it means to be a man, to be a husband, to be a daddy. You are my hero, Dad, and you always will be. Save a place for me in heaven, because I am coming up to see you one of these days.
And finally, this book is dedicated to the pediatric oncology doctors, nurses, and support staff at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas—and at medical centers and hospitals across the world—who give so much of themselves to bring a little bit of sunshine into the lives of families faced with the darkness of children’s cancer.
To those of you who put your heart into your job, who truly care about your patients and their families, who live by the ideal that “we don’t treat cancer, we treat children”—thank you! You are a blessing to those of us who must watch our children suffer, as we face the frustration of knowing that we are powerless to make that suffering stop.
You are brave warriors as you battle the cancer monster every day in the children whose lives you touch so profoundly. Sometimes the cancer monster wins, and you go home at night and cry in your pillow. Your heart aches because you know that one more child will not grow up. One more family will walk away from the hospital with broken hearts and empty arms, and it makes you angry that life can be so unfair. Thank you for caring so deeply.
Often the battle is won! The monster is defeated! And one more child will grow up to become a mommy or daddy, a teacher or lawyer, a minister or social worker, a business executive or bank president, maybe even a doctor or nurse in a pediatric oncology ward, perhaps even the president of the United States.
With every child whose laughter you restore, this world becomes a better and brighter place. God has entrusted you with the gift of healing through your knowledge and skills and through the wonders of modern medicine, and our lives are greatly enriched by your careful stewardship of that precious gift.
Please do not ever get so discouraged that you quit using your gift, for then the cancer monster will have gained one more step toward victory. Please understand the importance of what you do. You are our bridge to hope. May God bless you abundantly, as you give so much and bless so many.