Fly High, Baby Girl.

This is Jessica Whelan. I didn’t know her. I’ve never met her. In fact, it wasn’t until I read an article about her today that showed up in my Facebook news feed that I knew she even existed. But that didn’t stop my tears or this feeling of utter disbelief and absolute sadness that has my stomach and emotions tied in knots even now—hours later.

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(You Can Read Jessica’s Story  –>  HERE !!)

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I didn’t know her, it’s true. Something I do know, however, is that she was a beautiful, brave, and strong little girl—right up until the very end. The fact that I never met or knew her is irrelevant. What matters is her story. Her strength. Her long-fought—albeit unsuccessful—battle and her will to live.

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She was only four. Still a baby. A beautiful little girl who still had her entire life ahead of her. She’ll never have her first day of school. She’ll never go to her junior prom, or kiss a boy or fall in love. She’ll never have a chance to advocate for what she believes in. To fulfill her dreams. She’ll never get married, her Daddy will never have the chance to walk her down the aisle and give her away, dance with her at her wedding. She’ll never have children or a family of her own. Cancer stole all of that from her. Stage 4 Neuroblastoma—a well-known cancer that accounts for about 6% of all childhood cancers—with more than 700 new cases reported every year. The worst part of the disease is that it’s often diagnosed too late, its symptoms often undetectable. It angers me that there’s a way to test for it even before a child is born…and yet it’s not a standard after-delivery test. That it could be avoided—and possibly save hundreds of lives and children—and it’s not offered—is beyond me. It seems so inconsequential. It’s hard for me to accept that with all the technology we have these days, all the medical advancements and research we have…there’s still no cue. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the cure to cancer has already been found—and Big Pharma is keeping a lid on it so that they can continue to profit off of sales of medications and chemo. I hate to say it, but money is truly the root of all evil. Big Pharma would rather people suffer and die than to do the right—the MORAL—thing. That doesn’t sit well with me, or ya’ll, no doubt.

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These kids are so strong—so much so that it’s inspiring. It’s also so tragic and horrific—whether you know the child or not. When it involves a child—everyone (or most everyone) grieves alongside that child’s parents and his/her family. We’re human. So it’s only understandable that we care. And one of our most basic human instincts is to protect our young. Because of that, it’s hard to accept when we fail. But as humans, we can only control so much. The rest is up to fate and the universe. Some are lucky. Some live. Some don’t. It’s the ones that don’t, to some degree, that stay with you forever. That leave scars. That make you doubt yourself and the world and all the good that you hope and want so badly to believe still exists out there.

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This isn’t just another sad story. Not for me. It’s personal. I’ve seen first-hand what Neuroblastoma can do to a child when Lena, the niece of my cousin’s wife, who was diagnosed with Stage Four Neuroblastoma when she was only 4 years old herself. She fought so hard—went through so much—and nearly died. At one point, the doctors told her parents to prepare for the worst. She wasn’t expected to live. However, by some miracle, she proved them all wrong. She fought. And despite the ups-and-downs and the horribly painful tests, surgeries and aggressive treatments, she survived. Incredibly, she went into remission. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Just a little over a year later, she relapsed. The news wasn’t as uplifting as we all hoped. Honestly, it was hard to imagine her going through all of that all over again…to imagine that she was strong enough to fight a second time. She was so little and vulnerable and fragile and weak—and no one would have judged her for giving up. But she didn’t. Not then. And she hasn’t, not even now. She’s by far, one of the bravest little kids I’ve ever known. She went through and survived more hell than most adults could even think to imagine, let alone go through.

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Cancer. I fucking hate it. It’s taken so much from us, from me. It nearly took my mother’s life. She’s in remission now, but it’s like walking around on egg shells, fearful that it might have come back. I watched my grandfather struggle and ultimately fail to win his battle with blood cancer. I saw what it did to him. How it ravaged his body. How it took his strength. How it diminished his will to live. He suffered so much, for so long. It’s a small comfort that he’s no longer in pain or suffering…but it also hurts like hell still, even now – 17 years next month later. I think about him now and then, wishing he was here. I sometime wonder what he would think of the woman I’ve become…if he’d be proud of me. I think of how my nieces and nephews never had the chance to know him—and how he would have spoiled and loved them more than anything, just as he did with me and my siblings. I miss him. So much. I miss sitting on his lap, driving in that old classic car of his and playing/singing along to Merle and Johnny Cash on his cassette tapes (cassette tapes—gosh I feel old). I miss that serious, stern look of his that he was never quite good at—he never could keep a straight face. My family is crazy religious and always saying that he’s in a better place, that he’s in Heaven…and I’m just not able to imagine, let alone accept that. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a dozen times on here, I don’t believe in that hype – that heaven/hell bandwagon they’ve so easily jumped upon. I’m more about the science. And proof. I can’t blindly believe in something that I can’t see, or that can’t be scientifically proven. I just can’t. As wonderful as that scenario they paint seems and sounds—I have doubts. I don’t think they’re right. I don’t believe that our actions in life determine where we spend eternity—or that eternity exists—not in that sense, anyhow. Personally, I don’t believe there is more. I think that we live and we did and then that’s it. We get put in the ground, our bodies decay until there’s nothing left but our bones, and that’s it. No pearly gates, no second lives, no burning flames…nothing. Just the ground. The dirt. Just the marks we left on the world – if we made anything. Nothing more, nothing less. And until I’m proven otherwise, I can’t accept it.

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My heartfelt condolences and thoughts go out to Jessica Whelan’s family during this difficult, unimaginably horrific time. I didn’t know her or them, but my heart breaks for them nevertheless. Loss is loss…loss is universal.

 Xo MESSIE

 

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