When you ask most parents if it ever crossed their minds that one of their children might be diagnosed with a serious illness or have to undergo major surgery or, I am sure they will tell you ‘no.’
In my case, that’s all I’ve been able to think about since the day my son Alonso was born. My beautiful little boy had three major surgeries before his second birthday. After that, he seemed to be getting better, and slowly I let myself feel less afraid. But when he was 6 years old, the world came crashing down again as we rushed him to the hospital with stomach pains. Doctors knew immediately from the way my son was breathing that something was very wrong. The team of doctors who were called in discovered a tumor the size of a volleyball in the middle of Alonso’s chest. It was weighing on his lungs and pushing his heart so far out of place it was under his arm. When I heard the word “cancer,” the world stood still.
Immediately, we had to prepare for the scariest surgery ever. Our doctors were very honest with us -- they did not want to do the surgery. Before they took Alonso into the operating room, one doctor cried with us. Here I was with a doctor who does this type of surgery every day of his life, and he was crying. That’s when it really hit me -- this surgery was dangerous. We were terrified.
Starlight’s programs have made Alonso’s hospital stays bearable and have reminded my entire family that we are not alone in our struggle. Starlight makes it possible to leave the scary world of cancer behind, even if only for a little while, and allow us to laugh again and enjoy time together as a family.
I don’t know what we would have done without Starlight’s Great Escapes family activities. When Starlight invites us to an event, we get excited talking about it. And then after it’s over, we talk about how much fun we had. …and trust me, it’s a much needed break!
At the Great Escape Holiday Karaoke Party, Alonso did not feel well and didn’t want to eat or do anything at all. But when some of the kids and parents started singing and dancing, he leaned over and whispered in my ear that he wanted to sing. The Starlight volunteers put a big Mexican hat on his head and he sang Feliz Navidad and then did Ricky Martin’s Shake Your Bon-Bon as an encore. In no time, he was eating and dancing with the rest of the kids. We had so much fun!!!
Most of the time in the hospital, Alonso doesn’t feel very well, and just wants to lie in bed and sleep. But he loves to play video games. Starlight’s Fun Center mobile entertainment unit with its Nintendo gaming system and DVD player can roll right up to his bedside. But I like to put it in the playroom and make him get up. The chance to play on the Fun Center gets him out of bed and moving which keeps his energy level high. He will play for hours and think he has only been playing for five minutes! The Fun Centers make the time fly by at the hospital and keep his mind off of his sickness.
When a parent first learns of a child’s illness, the family feels like life will never be normal again. And that’s true. Eventually, cancer, chemo, fevers, hospitals and medicines are what’s normal. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
As a mother, I am grateful to Starlight for helping not only Alonso, but my entire family too as we struggle through this ordeal. I hope that Starlight is always there to shine a light into families’ worlds just as they have brightened ours, a little each day.