Brooke’s Story

Be humble in the presence of God's mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes.  God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.   
1 Peter 5: 6-7

Welcome to Brooke's CaringBridge page! Please visit often to read entries, view photos or write a guestbook note!  (or send a note: Want to send Brooke a note? Her home address is: P.O. Box 154, Chapman Ranch, TX 78347

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, your life stops, changes course, and begins instead toward a path to do anything & everything to help your baby.

Brooke is our baby; this is her story... Brooke is 6 years old and loves pink, ponies, cats and dogs, and dinosaurs. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. Brooke was always a healthy child with ear infections as her biggest hurdle. She had a great summer in 2010 and even learned how to swim! By August, a few, sporadic things began to occur. First she had a couple of strange, unexplained fevers. We thought perhaps it was her ears, or a bladder infection, but those tests came back negative. Then she had a couple of intermittent times she made a "volcano" (what she calls getting sick to her stomach)...again with no real pattern or explanation. In late September, she started having a strange limp and her right knee was becoming swollen, and it was getting harder for her to walk. By the time she had stopped walking completely, and not even crawling because of the pain, the pediatrician's initial diagnosis was Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and he immediately wanted her to stay home and wait to see a pediatric rheumatologist. Meanwhile, Brooke had begun rapidly losing weight with less appetite, and at 3, she was barely crawling, or pulling up and holding her back, but she only complained of knee and tummy pain. A sonogram, nuclear scans, MRI/MRU and later tests revealed a large mass in her abdomen pressing on her left kidney, spine, and internal organs. They told us it may be a kidney stone...

On November 18, 2010, our lives forever changed. Brooke was diagnosed with stage 4, high risk Neuroblastoma, which is a form of nervous system cancer that had spread to her bone marrow.

We have faced this battle armed with prayer warriors, friends and family ready to help pull her through. Financially it has been incredibly challenging as we have gone from a two income, one home family to a family separated by thousands of miles trying to maintain two places to live and receive health care for Brooke on one salary.  We spent an entire year living at the Ronald McDonald House in New York for the surgery of the mass and to battle the bone marrow cancer through clinical trials.  While daddy has been home most of the time working and maintaining insurance coverage, Brooke and her mom have been home for only a few weeks in the past two years as we now have Brooke at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Michigan seeking new hope in a ground breaking NMTRC genomics trial and personalized medicine against her aggressive type of recurrent stage IV cancer.  We are still praying for remission daily!!

Although now she is 6 and a half, Brooke continues to bravely fight this battle and our family has set up a special charitable account, the "Brooke Hester Donation Fund" at any Wells Fargo branch. 

Our faith is strong and we BELIEVE in the power of prayer!

Thank you for supporting our Brooke through her journey!

http://www.BrookeFightsBack.org


To learn more about Brooke's foundation, please visit 

http://www.BrookesBlossoms.org

or find her on facebook at 

http://www.facebook.com/BrookesBlossoms

pinterest page

http://www.pinterest.com/BrookesBlossoms

or Twitter

@BrookesBlossoms

Latest Journal Update

ruFFLeD FeatHeRs

Well, apparently I did it. I have officially ruffled a few feathers yesterday and today and well, to be quite honest.... oh well.


So tonight I was sitting at the computer closing out some emails and when I clicked on Brooke's Blossoming Hope page on facebook someone else in Texas had liked her page. I always appreciate new likes and her name was Jennifer, the same name shared by a few friends and even a close cousin, so I clicked on her profile. I try to do that every so often and no, I haven't snooped on all profiles of the 15,072 likes on the page, but I do try to peek at who is following my daughter's nonprofit efforts once in a while when I have a moment in time that allows it.


She was a beautiful woman.. About my age or maybe a bit younger. Her cover photo revealed a precious family of four with a happy husband or significant other, a daughter that looked like she was about Brooke's age and a sweet baby not much younger than Benjamin. They looked like a perfect picture of love and joy.


I was just about to click off of the woman's page when something caught my eye. It was something that made my heart sink and break almost immediately. This sweet spunky and fun looking mother must have majored in college in marketing or communications. I imagined for a moment her life. Maybe she was top of her class, maybe not. She apparently was from the midwest before living in Texas as an Iowan, so I wondered if she went to that school that raises millions of dollars each year doing marathon dances to raise money for kids cancer... maybe... maybe not. I thought of her out seeking a job one day in her field of expertise and being someone with a big heart who found a place in a society where she felt she could make a positive difference in the world.


This woman is a senior consultant for media relations of the Houston, Austin and San Antonio and likely wider areas of Texas for the American Cancer Society.


My heart broke for her.


Not because she doesn't look perfectly happy, but because I remembered what my own life was like. I was a driven, tenacious student who had a passion for children and that led me to dedicate my life to their betterment through education. At one point I was balancing a doctoral degree, teaching adjunct at the local university to future teachers at night while teaching elementary kids in the morning and going home to lavish in time spent with my baby girl and sweet husband after work and school. I did what I did because I was passionate. That is how I became an education consultant for my region in Texas which could broaden my passion and hopefully impact more sweet kids. And here I sat looking at this same picture of this woman and her family in a whole new light simply knowing she not only works for a society that she likely believes in, but is a senior consultant for them. A society that our society for the most part accepts as a society that does good for our society.


I closed my eyes and said a prayer right then. I prayed for her children, her precious babies that they would never ever be suddenly stricken with cancer like my baby girl was. I prayed for their little lives to be filled with happy healthy days and smiles. I prayed this also for their mother.


This all may seem strange to someone who has not walked in my shoes but as someone who lived and worked and thrived in my area of passion - advocating for and working in overdrive all the time to improve the lives of - young children... pediatric cancer hit hard and it hit fast no less than a freight train hitting me square in the chest. My child, my happy healthy perfect little girl, had cancer consuming and killing her. Over four years later she still has cancer trying to kill her. Without the answered prayers of one pediatric cancer research trial to the next she might not be here with us fighting still. Her pain might not be being kept at bay this very minute.


When Brooke was diagnosed all of our lives changed instantly. Brooke's obviously the most. But my life, career, everything outside of Brooke and her immediate medical needs, everything stopped. It was painful. It was horrible. I have cried so many nights knowing how childhood cancer permanently changed our lives.


And I was just a teacher who became a professor of teachers and later a consultant of teachers. A teacher of teachers on behalf of young children.


I looked at the sparkling smile of this mother with her two sweet babies at her side and begged God that she would never know what it was like to have one of them suddenly ripped apart by cancer. You see I think it would be worse for her. She would not only be dealing with the pain of her child's diagnosis and suffering but with the absolutely awful realization that the society she has dedicated her life to would not care enough to try to save her own child.


That no matter how awesome of a benefit she had been to them as an asset to their mission, they would not change for her or her baby. They would not suddenly give more than the meager one cent of every dollar raised to help fund a cure to save her daughter's life. They would not welcome her child in an American Cancer Society house if she had to travel to a doctor away from home. They would not have a summer camp or even a program to benefit her daughter. They would not even offer a penny for gas to help drive her daughter to and from one medical appointment after the next. The society she is dedicating her life to would turn a cold shoulder to her and her child and it would shatter her soul. I prayed so so very hard that she might never know such awful pain because all 12 major types and all of the rare types of childhood cancer know no boundaries, no racial limits, no age limits, and can suddenly strike any child at any given time. The fact remains that cancer is the #1 disease killer of our children and yet remains grossly underfunded while kids are fighting for their lives and dying. I prayed so hard that this was something this mother would never have to face.


I think I know, however, why Jennifer, the senior consultant of media relations across south and central Texas liked Brooke's Blossoming Hope for Childhood Cancer Foundation's page. She liked it because somebody with the ACS (or perhaps several somebodies) doesn't like what I posted there.


They are watching it with ruffled feathers and irritated grimaces wondering why I am bothering to even point out the specific facts. Facts like that around $475,000 was raised at last year's South Texas Cattle Baron's Ball in my daughter's name and that despite the fact that our family was told directly on many occasions that all of the proceeds of the entire event would go toward the pediatric cancer research project ("restricted research" their lovely term) of our choosing (based on their short list of 4-5 projects they later allowed us to choose from) and instead only $45,240 of the whole event was actually donated to pediatric cancer research. They used personal details which WE disclosed in good faith of Brooke's desperate fight for her life along with her intimate story of her illness and perfect pictures of her smiling eyes full of hope and light on all promotional materials for the event dubbed "Boots and Blossoms" in perfect Brooke fashion.


I imagined that Jennifer's daughter with such kind eyes and a contagious looking smile could easily be one of Brooke's friends. I imagined what if she had already heard about Brooke before my post and had been like so many other young kids helping out with our volunteer efforts and service project efforts and had already become a blossom making creativity or distribution volunteer... I wondered if that would change her mom's perspective on her end of the computer screen as she reviewed Brooke's page.


So after staring at her family photo one last long lingering moment, I clicked and closed the page. I found my cell phone, curled up in bed under my favorite soft blanket and started this post as the thumb writer that I am. I am not sorry for my earlier post that has now clearly ruffled feathers and if you are on Facebook feel free to take a look at it and maybe even become an addition to the 117 others who have already shared it circling it nationwide and globally. I just cannot sit back and watch another 30 years go by in my own home community without opening up about how exploited we felt - how dirty and used we felt - after the dust of the pig races of the 2014 Cattle Baron's Ball had settled and we realized that not even a single penny from that crazy fun part of the event with pigs running around went to support pediatric cancer.


Nothing from the poker tables at the event did either.


Nothing from the big silent auction.


Nothing from the table sales.


None of that money went toward pediatric cancer research.... Oh what Brooke's doctor could DO with nearly $475,000!!!!!


Here are the facts:


One foundation gave their annual $10K to kick start the "restricted research" auction.


One compassionate couple from Las Vegas gave $30K of their own money to the "restricted research" auction.


That means $40,000 of the $45,240 raised in the "restricted reaearch" auction came from TWO donors.


Thank goodness at least those two generous donors were there to help kids with cancer along with the others who helped raise the other $5,240. Everyone else who came to help support kids with cancer that fed the grand total of the whole event at $464,464 (not the amount disclosed to the newspaper for some odd reason), certainly did not know it wouldn't ALL go to pediatric cancer research as was promised to our family over and over again after we said, "NO... and NO again and then, well... if you are making change at the local level and giving it all toward kids cancer research as you say you are, then, well... we guess so.... so, YES."


This year, on March 28th you will not find our family at the Cattle Baron's Ball of South Texas (no matter how much I love Dwight Yoakum's songs and twang). Not when they are likely paying him more than they even bothered to give to childhood cancer research in our daughter's name.


NO thank you.


We won't make that mistake with our little girl ever, ever, EVER again. She'd probably rather hold Miranda Lambert's hand again anyhow with a wink and a smile for free.


If you want to know more about Brooke's Blossoming Hope nonprofit foundation and our efforts to both directly impact thousands of kids worldwide through our care package headwear program or our strong efforts to give over half of all we raise toward finding and funding cures through promising pediatric cancer research efforts, or to become one of our amazing volunteers, please feel free to join the thousands of others who have already caught on to our cause by visiting our website at:


www.BrookesBlossoms.org


Thanks for the positivity and support folks!!
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Comments

31 Comments

Linda Beimers
By Linda Beimers — last edited
What a very bad/sad thing to happen with all that money. I too would be VERY ANGRY with being told one thing, and thinking it was all going to child cancer research, and then finding out that it didn't.
It's a very sad thing when people can't be trusted with something as serious and needy as trying to help child cancer research. Some people today can't be trusted at all, because it's all about them gaining money or power.......I will keep Brooke in my prayers
Jennifer Green
By Jennifer Green
Continuing to pray for Brooke and family. Have a blessed and beautiful weekend.
Jennifer Green
C.o.l.e's prayer team
www.colesfoundation.org/
Nick Harrel
By Joni Harrel
After hearing what you reported from last year's Cattle Barons, Nick and I are not going this year. I want to know where all that money went. Since I read you post last year, I have told everyone who let us know they were going what we knew. Nick was asked to put one of the Flyers for Cattle Barons up in his store, he didn't. I'm so sorry they have to misrepresent themselves to the public!
Morgan Amanda F.
By Morgan Amanda F.
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Jeffrey Stanton
By Jeffrey Stanton
I wanted to know who the little girl in the Miranda Lambert video was because I was so moved by what I saw in the video. That brought me here. The video brought tears to my eyes and so does Brooke's story. She is an amazing little girl and you are an amazing mother. I will continue to pray for the both of you.
Do not apologize for what you said about the American Cancer Association. I read your posting several times and appreciate now knowing the truth about them. All these large charities seem to pay high salaries to their staff and give very little to the actual cause. They should be ashamed of themselves. How can they live with themselves? They collect big paychecks and take money away from the research that will save children's lives. If there is a hell, it must be full of people like them.
Brooke and Jennifer, keep fighting. There are many people like me, whom you will never know, but rest assured we are praying for you and your daughter and will do whatever we can to help. God Bless you both.
mary zimmerman
By Mary Zimmerman
I also contacted the Texas Cattle Barons Ball and have gotten two nasty messages back from them blaming the ACS. But I believe what Jessica posted and not them. Life seems to be all about the money these days and not the honesty that this country once experienced. I think Jessica you did right by sharing that information with us on behalf of your beautiful daughter. I will never donate to that society again and I will fell good about my decision. Praying for sweet Miss Brooke.
Barbara Whipple
By Barbara Whipple
That to me is blatant lying false advertising and all sorts of other things too bad if they don't like it I live in Texas too and in our area we are more inclined to do thing s the right way that is out and out disgusting keep up the work with the right people !
I am forever telling people please don't give to the American Cancer Society for the same reason I specifically encourage donations to Cure Search.
Nothing makes me madder than people who "Use " some one for a cause then don't do what they say they are doing so will spread the word if I hear this event mentioned in my circles.
Well put Mom proud of you
God Bless
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Misty Beckwith
By Misty Beckwith
Keep on Ruffling! Too much money wasted on big salaries. But what's worse is how they used Brooke and misled big name donors to believe they were supporting childhood cancer research. It was deceitful and the story must be told so that eyes and hearts can be opened. There are so many good options out there if people want to help kids, ACS is not one of them.
marilyn bergagnini
By marilyn bergagnini
Jessica, I used to volunteer for over 13 years for the American cancer society and finally realized over 5yrs ago ,that the money is not spent on childhood cancer and does not give travel expenses to anyone .......NOTHING!!!! Also way too much money goes to office personal and Dinners!!!! This is ridiculous and I could no longer volunteer my time.......God bless you and ty for standing up....
Pam Shrauger
By Pam Shrauger
We stand behind you, Jessica! You have every right to ruffle the feathers.