I can’t believe 2021 is already coming to a close! It feels like this year has flown by.
This year has been a special one for all of us at the Olivia Caldwell Foundation! In this incredible year we gave a record gift of $120,000 to pediatric cancer research, added a new specialty to the Pediatric Clinic, saw the Patient Advocacy Program take off and help an incredible amount of families, and grew tremendously as a team. I am truly humbled and thankful for all that God has blessed us with throughout this year!
With our most recent gift to support pediatric cancer research, we’ve now donated an incredible $645,000 to research since we were founded in late 2013! And our partners at Stella Strong also gave a record gift of $20,000 this year to support DIPG brain cancer research! We were honored to match their gift, with $100,000 of our funding going to support general pediatric neuro-oncology research and the other $20,000 going straight to support Dr. Adam Green’s DIPG research! I am truly thankful for our partnership and our ability to do so much more because we do it together.
We also had an exciting year with our Pediatric Specialty Outreach Clinic & Patient Advocacy Programs! The Clinic now has three active specialty clinics with doctors seeing patients locally for cardiology, endocrinology and pulmonology. We expect that number to rise to five active clinics in 2022.
Our Patient Advocate helped an absolutely amazing 133 families during this inaugural year of our program! She was able to help families with everything from a simple one-time need to working with families long-term to ensure they got all the support they needed throughout their child’s illness. We are so excited to see how this program will be able to help even more families going forward!
And finally, 2021 also brought new people to the Olivia Caldwell Foundation Team! We added two new staff members this year, plus two new board members. We are so thankful for the additions of Allison, Christy, Brad and Phil to the OCF Family!
Thank you SO MUCH for all of your continued support of the Olivia Caldwell Foundation! Your belief in our mission and incredible generosity has made a world of difference in the lives of children battling cancer and other serious diseases in Wyoming and beyond! Thanks to your support our research team has found effective treatment options for 8 different types of pediatric cancers! And more children than ever are able to get the care and support they need locally. YOU made that possible! And in our books, YOU are a hero!
Wishing you a very Happy New Year from all of us at the Olivia Caldwell Foundation!
We’ve all been stressed out trying to purchase the perfect gift for our children to make sure the holidays are truly magical. But there’s one thing I think we can all agree on: in 20 years our kids aren’t going to remember what they got for Christmas this year but what they will remember is the time you spent with them and how that made them feel. Time together is the most important gift we can give our loved ones.
So what about the families of children battling cancer? Time is a precious resource and there’s a constant fear that it is limited.
According to A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2021, It was estimated that in 2021, 15,590 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 would be diagnosed with cancer and 1,780 would die of the disease in the United States.
Could you imagine being one of those 15,000 families that just want the gift of more time with their children?
It may seem like an impossible task for you or I to imagine what that must feel like and how helpless we feel in our ability to change that. However, this holiday season you have the ability to give the most meaningful gift that has the power to truly change someone’s life: the gift of time.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is dedicated to funding life-saving pediatric cancer research. Since our inception in November 2013 we have given $645,000 in general neuro-oncology grants allowing startup research projects to begin. This type of funding enables our research team to work off of a hunch to pursue innovation that leads to cures and better, less toxic treatment options for a variety of pediatric cancers.
Thanks to OCF's funding, our research team has made several tremendous breakthroughs in the fight to find a cure for pediatric cancer. In fact, they have now developed effective treatment options for 8 different types of pediatric cancers! You can read about the primary breakthroughs in the treatment of pediatric cancer by clicking here.
So maybe you will give this holiday season because you want to make a difference, because you want to do your small part to ensure families have more time with their children or simply because you want the end of year tax write-off. Whatever motivates you to give this holiday season, please know it is making a huge impact on giving families of children battling cancer the gift of time.
To be honest with you, I had no idea what I was going to write my first blog for the foundation about. But then it dawned on me that my due date for my post was the 20th Anniversary of my grandmother's passing. It was like the light came through the clouds and smacked me right in the face.
Most people know what grief is. Right? I mean there is a dictionary definition and EVERY single person will be textbook perfect when grieving. But the reality is each and every person grieves differently. And I am not just talking about grief for loved ones we have lost. Sometimes it is possible to grieve for those still living. Grief includes a variety of feelings that go along with the process of moving on from a significant change or loss.
Who are we to judge how someone grieves? I get it, no one wants to see someone sitting in their room crying for months with no interaction because they can’t get over the loss of their loved one. However, our courtesy to those we love is to be patient and understanding. And what about the grief of a breakup or no longer being friends with a longtime pal? We shouldn't disregard it just because no actual “loss” has been had .
I have a dear lifelong friend that lost her mother a couple years ago to her battle with cancer. I can't even imagine the pain that feels like. My friend got a tattoo in memory, kept some of her mothers things and merely has had to go on with “normal” life. She loves hearing stories of her mom. It doesn't make her mad to bring her wonderful mother up. In fact, she would prefer to hear all the things. She is handling the “new normal” quite well. Sure she is still sad or mad about it from time to time, but she has learned to live with the grief in other ways.
When I lost my grandmother, it was more of a denial stage for me. I knew it was coming, I knew she was no longer in pain. It was like a lie and she would be over next week. The blanket she made me when I was tiny is a source of comfort for me. I have a picture of her by my bed and talk to her when I really need to hear her thoughts or her laugh. When I see a bluebird, I know it is her. I think of her everytime I make pot roast and mashed potatoes. In the 20 years without her, this is how I cope.
Then there is the grief of someone who is still living. Someone who really, if circumstances were different, would still be in your life. Say you have been friends with someone for over 10 years! Family gatherings together, kids grow up together and pretty much when you plan something, you ALL are invited. Then one day it stops. No reason, nothing done to one another. It all just stops. I can tell you the first stage of grief I have had with this is confusion, followed by anger and then sadness of all those great memories we shared. People have said that the hardest person to grieve is one that is still living. Maybe that is true, but for me, either way is hard.
Oftentimes someone passes and we do the funeral or memorial and that is supposed to be a closure. Close that book and move on. You breakup with your long time partner, they move out and BAM things are perfect again. Seems pretty cut and dry right? If only it was that simple. There are so many emotions and steps that come after this. What is my new normal SUPPOSE to look like? More than likely the grief of losing a friendship or having a breakup is going to be healed a lot faster than having someone you know and love die. But nonetheless as an outsider looking in on someone who is going through grief, we only have one job. That is to make sure we allow them time. Validate their feelings with them. Cry with them, laugh with them or maybe sit quietly with them while they stare out the window. Each person's heart is different. They handle life differently. Not one individual is going to grieve or go through experiences the same as the next. And that is OK. Sure there are stages of grief and a textbook definition of what it SHOULD look like. But feelings and experiences can’t be forced. We can’t snap our fingers and bring people back to life. We can’t make all the pain of the past cure anything overnight. In a perfect world this would happen.
The most important thing to remember about grief is this. There is no time limit or right way. Even if it has been 2 weeks or 20 years. The pain is still very valid, the anger, the confusion. It is all still valid. The only hope is that it can get easier in time. If you know someone going through any form of grief, check on them. Even if you are just saying hi to them. That small gesture could make all the difference to them. Don’t be afraid to talk about their loved one. Helping them understand that their loss is important and you are there, can make a gloomy day seem bright enough to continue on.
“It’s hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter. But the story must go on.”- Unknown
A friend of mine reminded me of a quote that I like that is originally from an unknown poet supposedly based on a simple sign on some old English parsonage containing the phrase: “Do the next thing.”
With holidays already roaring through in their usual fashion, I was reflecting on this quote/poem again and I think it may be fitting for us all, but especially those of us who are struggling with the demands that come with a diagnosis or unexpected medical condition that has changed “our” world. Take that on any normal day of the year and it can easily become overwhelming. Add in the holidays with its stressors, emotions and extra commitments and we can feel tired just thinking about our lists and calendars.
If you or someone you know has been living this new life of appointments, medications, hospital stays, insurance battles, set backs, etc. maybe this can be one of our mantras to not just get us “through” the holidays, but perhaps even bring a little “merry” back, as well.
“Do the next thing.”
The poem, as to be expected when connected to a preacher’s house, has a Christian message to it about trusting in the One who takes each step with us without the surprise and fear that we often struggle with. Whatever your religious affiliation or non-affiliation, I think we can all sit together around the idea that when we get overwhelmed but need to keep moving in life, sometimes it helps to have a splash of common sense and wisdom to drink down.
So here it is - do the next thing. Whether that is the load of laundry or making it to the store for your grocery pick up - do the next thing. If it’s scheduling a follow up appointment at a hospital that has left you scarred because of the news you received when there last - do the next thing. If it’s setting reminders in your phone to make sure you hit all of the medication or treatment needs for your kiddo - do the next thing. If it’s calling a friend for some much needed down time or taking the dog for a walk or going to that office Christmas party - do the next thing.
Remember, though, the substance of the poem is based on doing it in the grasp of a loving God - which means we don’t have to pretend that it’s not horrible. Or hard. Or that we just plain don’t have the capacity to feel anything anymore because our feelers are shot. If doing the next thing is having a good cry - we do the next thing. If doing the next thing means taking a brisk walk to release the anger we feel about our child’s illness - we do the next thing. We don’t have to robotically go through the motions when we’re sad, scared, angry, fill in the blank. And we don’t have to get stuck spinning our wheels because it's all a bit heavy.
Whatever that next thing is for you, I hope you have the courage to do it. If you’re not even sure what that may be - reach out to those around you who may be able to see things a little more clearly from their seat and take on good advice. I find it particularly fitting that our author is unknown. That’s a big part of life, isn’t it? Not knowing what’s around the next bend, the next phone call, or sometimes even feeling like you just aren’t seen - unknown. And yet look at all of the inspiration this person has left us! If you need support - emotional, financial, or otherwise, you can always contact me and I’d be happy to help connect you to the best resources for your needs. Give me a call at 307-333-1273 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work together to do the next thing to inspire you (and most likely others) on the same path!
PS - if you’d like to read the full poem, let me know and I can send you a link.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.