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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hurt and the Rain

Every year about this time, for as long as I can remember, the rain returns from its summer vacation and settles back into the pacific northwest. This year has been no different, even with an Indian summer giving us two weeks of extra dry weather through half of October. The early morning daylight if finally getting a chance to sleep in as I go to work in the dark, and soon I will be coming home to my newly installed motion lights shortly after 5pm. Now with the average rainfall already more than double and the rain across the country causing chaos of another kind, the recent loss of my wife's father and my sons battle with leukemia keep us searching for a brighter day.

I just read this story from a friend who lost his son to cancer this year. The pain of losing a child is greater than a Super storm of rain, wind, flooding and snow, but when you read this, remember

"The Best Way To Heal...Is To Heal Someone Else"

Just about nine months ago I thought my life had ended. When my five year old son Cole took his last breath and the doctor said "He's gone" I thought I too would soon follow. I could not imagine where I would find the strength to carry on without my "little buddy." The pain of losing him was so terribly deep. I tried my best to put on a brave face for his twin brother Troy and big sister Tara because I knew they needed me. I was afraid to console my wife Michelle, because she was in the same dark place I was. I feared if I felt her pain on top of mine it would push me over the edge. For months I walked in a dense fog, not caring very much for a world that would let children suffer and die from cancer without doing more to prevent it. I truly believed the misery and grief that filled my heart would be fatal. I was holding on by a thin thread. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I could not let my children and wife feel the hurt of more loss on top of the despair they were already suffering. Also keeping me alive was remembering how hard my son Cole fought during his journey through the hell that is Childhood Cancer; and his final words to us, "Smile, Be Happy"

I would go down in the basement to hide from Troy and Tara when the crying spells would hit. I would dissolve in tears and tell Cole how much I loved him, missed him, and was so very sorry that I didn't always appreciate how precious each moment of his life was before he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer. I promised Cole I would try to "Smile, Be Happy" someday, but for now I needed time to weep.

In September, I was still struggling each day to just barely function. My daughter Tara approached her mother and said she wanted to do something to honor her brother for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. They sat down and came up with an idea they called, "Coins For Cole" They decided they would make up canisters and ask local businesses if they could leave them on their counters to try to raise funds for Childhood Cancer Research. This small idea soon became overwhelming, many businesses and friends began requesting the canisters. Friends and family began to offer to stand in front of stores and collect donations. My wife who had gone back to teaching was becoming stressed, she was working so hard to prepare for the school year, organizing the "Coins For Cole" effort, and most of all, mourning the loss of our beautiful young boy. I decided I needed to snap out of my darkness, man up, and help her. I began to work with her on delivering the containers, calling businesses to schedule collection times, and creating ways to get the word out on our efforts to help children with cancer. I began to feel alive again, helping others was pulling me out of the depths of sorrow.

Mid-way through September, while going over the schedule to determine where I would be dropping off the containers the next day, one of Michelles co-workers sent her a message asking if she would mind if the teachers at her school could pick a day to wear something yellow or gold to honor Cole and other children for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Immediately it struck me! Where was all the Gold during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? Where were the commercials talking about the need for increased awareness? Where was the Gold on the football and baseball fields? Where were the Gold ribbons on the lapels of the politicians? Why was there so little talk about how children were dying and suffering every day from this monster? WHAT GOOD WAS CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS MONTH IF NOT ENOUGH WAS BEING DONE TO RAISE AWARENESS? I started to call my friends and ask them if they would be willing to wear something Gold on September 28th to show support for our young Heroes and Angels. Many said they would but that they had nothing Gold, they asked if Yellow would be OK? From this idea I created the Facebook page, "A Day of Yellow and Gold to Fight Childhood Cancer" My original thought was that this page would just be a way to get my friends and family to help spread the word that we would like people to wear something Yellow or Gold on the 28th of September to at least see some semblance of support for Childhood Cancer Awareness. Little did I know that this would also be the beginning of my Healing!

I started to find people "Liking" my page and sharing stories familiar to my own family as they described their children's battle with cancer. I was meeting many other parents who were similarly discouraged with the lack of attention given to our Heroes and Angels during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. People began thanking me for speaking up for the need for more awareness. People began telling me my stories of Cole's life (a life filled with love, joy, and courage) were helping them heal from their grief. I went from someone desperate for help, to helping others. I learned that the "The Best Way To Heal...Is To Heal Someone Else"

In the past it had always been difficult for me to accept help from others, I let my pride get in the way of allowing people to do something that would make them feel good. I have now learned that life is more about what you give than what you get and that you must allow people the opportunity to give. Giving is what makes us good. Too everyone who has given so generously to my family; in time and gifts, during our most difficult times, Thank You, we are eternally grateful! And to those who are hurting, I pray you will gain what I have discovered, "The Best Way To Heal...Is To Heal Someone Else"

Let's all commit to work together to Heal the children and families who have been afflicted with Childhood Cancer by doing all we can to increase Childhood Cancer Awareness!
Please Share, let's build our mission!

God Bless,
Tony Stoddard (Cole's Dad)
CLICK AND LIKE http://www.facebook.com/yellowandgoldforcole

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