Today, we made brunch at the Ronald McDonald House in Winfield for families with children who are being treated at Central DuPage Hospital. The Ronald McDonald House provides a ‘home away from home’ for families staying as guests for extended periods of time.
The house was truly a magnificent place with high ceilings, hardwood floors, game rooms, shelves of books and a fireplace. It was a grand building located next to Central Du Page Hospital, where the kids of families are being treated for various illnesses.
This time, it was our turn to give back to an organization that welcomed Alyssa’s family with open arms when she was going through cancer treatments at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
During our meal prep, the kitchen was busy with volunteers cooking different types of breakfast foods. The busyness paused for a quick second when a little boy wearing a Superman beanie walked into the room. All eyes and smiles were on him.
Emmett stomped his blue light-up sneakers towards the kitchen island, eyeing the different foods we made: pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage links, hash browns, fresh fruits, and more. He reminded me of some of the kids I used to see downtown when I visited my girlfriend Alyssa.
Emmett was a shy little boy from South Dakota with a form of sarcoma near his right eye. I didn’t get to talk to him much, just a simple smile and hello. However, I was able to share a conversation with Emmett’s father Chad. He was a tall tattooed man with a friendly demeanor. We connected on the idea of getting tattooed since I am also tattooed.
In the minutes that we spent talking, I learned that Chad was a bull-rider when he was younger. Bull riding is a rodeo sport, which involves a rider attempting to stay mounted while the bull attempts to throw off the rider from its back. It is known as the most ‘dangerous eight seconds in sports’. The risk of getting trampled by the bull can result in serious injuries and even death.
I asked him, “How long do you have to stay on the bull for?”
“As long as possible,” He said.
From what I’ve experienced at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, those words summarize the attitude of what it’s like for families battling cancer. You have to hang on to dear life for “as long as possible”. You have to face your fears. Most importantly, you must have the courage to ride the bull. It’s an extremely challenging ride for the kids and their families, but it is possible to conquer 'the bull' that is cancer.
Never give up and ride on, Emmett! You’ve got a rodeo man’s blood in your veins!
Hang on to Hope.