Ellianne Rivers has been my friend for more than fifteen years. We met when we were about to become wives, and motherhood was a very distant thought. When she found out she was pregnant with Jake, I was thrilled. I was secretly trying to be pregnant myself and was successful just a few months later. Because she was ahead of me in the pregnancy I looked to her for advice, for the “what happens now?” questions… we were both having boys- it was fun to share yet another aspect of a long-lasting friendship.
Childhood cancer was not something I knew anything about- was not even on my radar. And then Ellianne’s precious two year old, Jake, got leukemia. I received the news via email and sitting at my computer that day, looking at my own two-year old, I felt something change inside of me. I was angry, indignant. I knew a child having cancer was not right.
What came next, as I watched my sweet friend almost lose her child, was a desperate need to do something, anything to help her. I could do meals and I could pray. I could listen and if she stopped long enough, I could hold her…but I needed more- I needed to really make a difference for Ellianne and for other mothers like her. The more I learned about Jake’s disease and the more families I “met” through Ellianne, the more desperate my need became. And then, there was a way.
Through the Rivers’ Caringbridge site, I met Kristin Connor. Jake’s site linked to the Caringbridge site of Kristin’s son, Brandon, and I had been following their journey, too. Kristin wrote that she and Chris Glavine were trying to put together a “small little luncheon” to honor the mothers of children with cancer and the terrible burden they carry as caregivers. There was an “all call” for volunteers and I responded.
During our first meeting on that June day in 2005, my life changed. I was drawn into a new sisterhood of women just like me who desperately wanted to honor a friend’s struggle and journey into the world of childhood cancer. As we shared our stories and some tears that day, I knew I was where I needed to be.
We worked together closely for three months to put on the first annual “A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes” luncheon. That September day, watching those mothers… watching my friend, who still unbelievably was “one of those mothers,” I was filled with so many emotions, but the prevailing one was one of gratitude- gratitude that I could do something to honor Ellianne and know I was also working to raise money to cure Jake and other kids like him. There were five-hundred people in attendance at that “small little luncheon” in 2005 and over $100,000 was raised. To date, we sit at almost a million dollars raised and are preparing for our 5th annual “A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes” luncheon.
For my family, one Quiet Hero and the Quiet Heroes luncheon was a pathway to a mission. My husband and I have actively volunteered for almost five years now, and I am honored to sit on the Board of Directors of CURE Childhood Cancer. I support our mission wholly, and I see every day how we are making a difference in the world of childhood cancer and in the lives of these precious families.
The Quiet Heroes committee, at its core, is made up of women just like me… women who were desperate to do something to help. And we have, and we are.
Immediately after Jake was diagnosed he had some life-threatening complications and there was the very real chance that he might die. Incredulous, I thought, “Two year-olds don’t die”… they don’t, do they?
Unfortunately, they do. And one-year olds and ten year olds and babies. Jake was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. I use the word lucky and I shudder because really, not one child with cancer is lucky. It is better to say that Jake has survived. I am the lucky one in this story because I get to live my life with more purpose and I truly believe that in my lifetime, we will cure childhood cancer.
We are blessed as women to have friends who enrich our lives in so many ways daily. I am blessed to have one who changed mine. And I will honor her and so many others like her who I have grown to love by never giving up this fight for their children, for my children, for the future.
If you find yourself “desperate,” I encourage you to jump in. Join the Quiet Heroes committee, become a volunteer with CURE Childhood Cancer, work an Open Arms dinner, donate. You’ll get more than you give… I promise.
By Elesha Bateman, CURE Board of Directors