Remember a couple of months ago when I asked you all to help raise money for a family who lost most of their possessions in Superstorm Sandy? Well, you all showed you awesomeness and we raised over $9000 and they were able to settle into their new normal and focus on rebuilding. Chrissie, the mom in the family, sent me this lovely note expressing their gratitude and asked me to share it with all of you.
This has been such a long time coming but whenever I’m awake at night when the kids are asleep (which is WAY too many hours, by the way! lol) I hesitate to open the gate and come downstairs to the computer for fear of waking anyone.
I was going to mail you a thank you note but I didn’t want you to have to re-type anything into your blog. I do hope that you post at least some of my note. I want to thank so many people but most of all you.
Thank you doesn’t really seem to be enough to say to you. You’ve never met us, you don’t know us, yet you did this HUGE thing. You reached out to us when Matt and I were both so overwhelmed by Sandy and made things so much easier for us.
It’s a humbling moment when you realize that you’re ‘that family’. You know the one you read an article about in a magazine or newspaper or a blog. As you read it, you sit there and wonder how this could happen and you feel awful for ‘that family’. You make a donation because it’s the least you can do but it makes you stop and be so grateful for your family that’s ok. We used to be that family that was ok. That changed 4 years ago when Mikey was 2 and diagnosed with cancer.
We adjusted and did what we had to do, Matt took on a second full time job, we moved in with my mom and we just did it. We administered chemo, spent hours every day with therapists and fought with the insurance companies. We measured out meds, changed diapers, took care of our 2 other kids and spent too many hours on a hospital floor that no one should have to be on. Through all of that we were with family and with my oldest and best friends and we made some amazing new friends so we were tired, cranky and stressed but we were ok.
This year was especially crazy on the medical front. We went from Mikey ending a chemo protocol this past February to starting seizures in March. Physical Therapy issues, speech issues, crazy brain tumor effect issues were crazy and throwing us all for a loop but still, we were ok.
That state of being OK changed so drastically in October. See, Mikey’s comfort, his little blue blanket for lack of a better term, has been Sesame Street since the day of his very first ER visit. My little blue blanket is Rockaway. I grew up in Rockaway in the house we lived in until Sunday, October 28th. The same house that we took Mikey home to after our first 16 night inpatient stay when he was diagnosed. My best friends both live in Rockaway with their families. Katie goes to the same elementary school that I went to, that my mom has worked in for the past 20 years… in fact 2 of her 5th grade teachers were MY 5th and 6th grade teachers. Parents of kids in her grade and in the school are men and women I went to elementary school there with. Moms of kids in her class have become very good friends of mine. Whenever I would cross the Marine Park Bridge from Brooklyn or the Cross Bay Bridge from Broad Channel I would take a deep breath and know I was home. It wasn’t just the ocean air or the smell of our home… it was the community. When the doctors at All Children’s Hospital in Florida first said brain tumor I said I wanted to go home. I just wanted to go home. It wasn’t necessarily just that house, though that was a HUGE part of where I wanted to go, but I wanted to go home… to Rockaway. Something about that place just gets to you… the saying is so true… I’ll always have sand in my shoes!
It’s amazing to me, we have a kid with cancer. We are the St. Jude commercial family but we didn’t feel like we were ‘that family’ from the magazines or newspapers for so long. We were just another family whose child was diagnosed with cancer because, let’s face it… when you’re in the childhood cancer world you realize childhood cancer is not all that uncommon… it’s just not talked about as much! So really, for lack of better wording, it sucked, but we did what we had to do. We had amazing support from our family and friends and we lived in Rockaway, where there was no shortage of support.
Then Sandy hit, We left home on the Sunday before Sandy came. Each kid was able to leave with a backpack of their stuff while I packed the essential clothes and comfort blankets. By the time we were able to get back to the house, not only was the basement and everything on the first floor not salvageable but the thicker, non-washable material items upstairs (mattresses, etc…) couldn’t be salvaged either.
Matt and I, on our first car ride back to Rockaway together, had that lightbulb moment… ‘We can’t go home. Our home is a disaster, our neighborhood is a mess but we can’t go far because we need to make sure Mikey’s trips to Sloan aren’t too far away. Holy crap… We are THAT family.’
Then you came into our lives! You know that Katherine had to talk me into letting you put us out there. We were hesitant, we weren’t the only ones who lost so much, and really, in the grand scheme of things, we’re lucky… our house was still standing and we were able to get clothes out. So many people need help and I didn’t want to be singled out. Katherine was right though, we needed help to get on our feet and because of you and everyone who read your amazing blog and donated, we were able to find an apartment, furnish our new apartment, get dishes, toys, bookcases, small kitchen appliances and even get decorated for Christmas when the season rolled around… we were able to make a ‘home away from home’ for our kids. In a time of upheaval and craziness, that was a HUGE relief for us. I don’t think I could ever put into words how much it meant for us to be able to find an apartment, rent it, furnish it and replace so much that the kids lost in such a short amount of time.
Mikey still cries when he sees pictures of Rockaway. He tells me it’s broken and it needs to be fixed. Katie’s birthday is coming up in January and all she wants for her birthday is to see her ‘Rockaway friends’. I cried like a baby when I saw one of my oldest friends for the first time after the storm. I haven’t seen him or any of my other friends since. We’re scattered all over the place! My family came up here to Cornwall for Christmas. It was the first Christmas we have ever spent NOT in that house in Rockaway. We were together and that’s what mattered most but it was so hard. We are rebuilding like so many of our friends and neighbors but it’s going to take time. We miss our family and friends but we’re all ok and I am so grateful for that.
Speaking of grateful… how do you thank someone for helping to make your kids feel secure in such an unsecure time? How do you thank someone for helping to make sure your family is ok when you can’t even think past the next minute? You helped us in a way that you can’t even imagine and I can’t thank you enough.
Thank you Rebekah, for taking us in. For sharing our story, for being a voice for us and for organizing the fundraiser that brought a sense of security to our family when our security was so shaken. You’re a wonderful person and we are so honored to ‘know’ you!
Thank you to all who donated. Your kindness and generosity will never be forgotten and we will be paying it forward on your behalf for years to come. We have clung to hope for so long and you are the embodiment of that hope that we have. You are a blessing to us.
Rebekah and all who donated… you will all be in our daily prayers and thoughts. We are forever grateful for your love, support and generosity.
All our love,
Chrissie, Matt, Katie, Mikey and Timmy