Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. It takes us back to moments in our lives which we long for the most. It’s a feeling that reminds us that, like Alyssa used to say, “yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow only a vision…”
Visiting Lurie Children’s Hospital with George and Yoli for the first time again brought back a flood of great memories of Alyssa for me. The process of getting visitor passes and taking the elevators up while children pressed ‘fun sound buttons’ during the ride were all too familiar.
Me, George, and Yoli made our way to the 17th floor of Lurie Children’s Hospital to give professional art supplies to a 17 year old cancer patient named Lexi. Lexi was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2012. She has undergone various treatments and therapies, which included visits at Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Like most cases of childhood cancer, her journey has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. But through it all, Lexi remained strong with the support of family and friends. They even have a Facebook page dedicated to Lexi’s recovery called Luv 4 Lexi! The page also contains posts from Lexi’s Mom, Jen, to keep everyone updated with Lexi’s condition. Here’s an excerpt written by Jen from May 17, 2015:
“So far, things have been going smoothly. It's been a little crazy these past few weeks. One day we had 8 different appointments scheduled, two inpatient stays, four procedures and then chemo starting...and this was all after 12 days of radiation. The spinal fluid was clear, the bone marrow was clear and the MRI looked good. She started her in-patient stay on Thursday with the start of the chemo for the transplant. So far, she's tolerating it pretty well. They had a prom last night at the hospital and she was feeling well and able to go!”
Lexi and Jen became friends of the Alvins after meeting each other in the hospital’s family lounge. The lounge was a social place where family members, patients, and visitors can hang out and relax. I met some wonderful families in the lounge when I was visiting Alyssa during her stay. Some even shared their unique experience with me, and I too, shared my experience with them. I look back at those conversations and the pattern was simple: families wanted a normal life, and simple enough, to just be happy and free from the complications that come with being a cancer patient.
This ‘strive for normalcy’ reflected my initial reaction upon entering Lexi’s room with George and Yoli. I immediately heard Pandora radio playing the latest pop hits. The room was decorated with photobooth pictures, a homemade calendar, and other precious things. There was a poem on the glass window which overlooked Lake Michigan written by one of Lexi’s friends with dry erase markers. When we got there, two of Lexi’s friends were visiting her too. The trio were hanging out and listening to Taylor Swift, probably talking about what teenagers talk about these days.
Lexi was on a wheelchair, wearing glasses and a dark seafoam green hat that says ‘Love your Melon’ which made me smile and laugh a little inside. She was a lively girl with a likeable personality.
The look in Lexi’s eyes when she saw the wrapped gifts was priceless. She let out a huge “Wow!” and we proceeded to help her open her gifts. The mahogany colored portable easel, canvasses, paints, sketchbook, and colored pencils rested on her Cookie Monster blanket as I talked to her about what she planned to create. Lexi told me that she wanted her first painting to be an ‘under the sea’ theme, dedicated to a time when she visited the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I have no doubt in my heart that her future painting will be beautiful. The view of the ocean, the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze, the gentle landscape...all of those feelings and emotions that come from her experience in Oahu will be a part of her future work of art.
I think art is more than just the expression of feelings. It’s far more poetic and complex than that. It’s about creating something that resembles the life we see in our heads. Art is the ability to look at a blank white canvas, to imagine what it could be, and to create something that has lasting significance.
I want to emphasize my point. I want you to really think about this: imagine a child who is struggling with a potentially life threatening disease, and this child acquires tools to create something out of essentially nothing, to beautify and fill the nothingness with colors, in order to show the world something that reflects who they are and what they’re going through. What a beautiful thing.
When I joined this organization to honor Alyssa, I wanted to give cancer patients the gift of art to give them hope. But the more I think about it, the opposite is actually true. The kids we’ve helped are the ones who give me hope! They helped me realize how precious life truly is. They helped me realize the importance of love, of passion, of beauty, and of all the things that makes our little world a better place.
Alyssa’s voice resonated inside my head as I wrote this story. She said “,For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today, well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness...and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
Alyssa’s vision of hope is alive through our organization and through the countless children we plan to help in the coming years. We’re just getting started!
Together, we will become evidence that hope exists for those who need it the most. Our vision of hope is not rhetoric, but a necessary and fundamental truth. It is our mission and our guiding principle as an organization which we all hold dearly in our hearts. Let’s spread music, art, and hope!
For more information on Lexi and to view the Luv 4 Lexi Facebook page please visit the link below: