Donna Quirke Hornik's Journal
Written Jul 16, 2012 9:20amIt's that time of year again where Donna's would be, should be birthday is upon us. On Friday, July 20, Donna would be, should be 7. She will not be 7, of course, but this time of year still cuts me, even more than the October 19 anniversary of her death.October 19 marks an ending, but July 20 marks a beginning. I wish more than anything that there had not been an ending to Donna's beginning that came so soon. It still shocks me, punches me in the gut, that Donna was here and now is gone. It is surreal even now.Donna's brother, Jay, continues to be the glorious salve he has always been to us. He, like Donna, is a brightful kid. Smart, verbal, funny, silly, dancing, reserved, shy, He has crazy encyclopedic knowledge about dinosaurs and mammals. He is obstinate about sleeping in his own bed most nights, and I often wake to him saying, "You love me, Mom, but even better, is I love you!," right next to me, as at some unknown point in the night he has crawled into bed between Jeremy and I.At three and a half, Jay is preparing to enter pre-school next month. There is a collision that is happening in Jay's development. He is approaching the age Donna was when she died. Next spring, he will have lived longer than his sister. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing, but I know that in his growth, we will lose another connection to Donna. When you think about it, we have been parenting a toddler/young child since 2007. There is a Groundhog Day quality to this that is not lost on us. It is a wonderful phase of life for a child, and we have been blessed to enjoy it with two kids, back-to-back. But soon, we will be through this phase with Jay, and with that, another connection to our girl.Since I last wrote in May, another change has been the closing of the hospital where Donna was treated, Children's Memorial Hospital. In early June, Children's Memorial morphed and moved, being renamed Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. It is a magnificent skyscraper of pediatric health right off of Michigan Avenue, but still, it was a loss. I wrote about it here:Being published by The Huffington Post is a new thing for me. It feels great, honestly, and helps me continue on the writing path that has helped me tremendously in my grief. I am grateful that this came out of Donna's cancer and my grief -- something tangible and productive.And that is what we do to deal with our grief. Try to find things, tangible and productive things, that both keep Donna's memory and story relevant and with us while helping others. This afternoon I will be meeting with some folks at Jeremy's company to initiate a St. Baldrick's shaving event. In May, at a fundraiser for St. Jude's 50th anniversary, I approached the CEO of Jeremy's company and told him about St. Baldrick's and all the good things they do. Then, I asked the man if his company would ever consider sponsoring an event. Not only did that great guy say YES, but that he wanted to commit to shaving his own head.Being a Cancer Mom taught me that there is so little I have more to lose and that asking is the only way Good Things will happen. In that vein, I will ask two more things:
Thank you, all, for still keeping us company, five years after this page was started. For the few or the many that remain, we are grateful to you. Cancer sucks, but it does not prevent us from choosing hope ever day. It is how we honor Donna.All my love, Sheila, Donna's and Jay's Mama.
- Please consider wearing black, Donna's favorite color, on her birthday, this Friday, July 20. We did this last year, and encouraged supporters to post photos of themselves wearing their black on the Donna's Good Things' facebook page. It was enormously helpful in allowing us to feel less alone and isolated in our sadness. You can post photos here on Friday: https://www.facebook.com/donnasgoodthings
- If you have a few extra dollars in your wallet, please consider sponsoring Jeremy or I as we participate in the Run for Gus 5K that raises $ for the pediatric brain tumor program at Donna's hospital on Thursday, July 26. Donna participated in this race, wearing a pink tutu in 2009. Helping raise funds for Dr. Stew and his crew is another of the things we do to make sense of what happened to our family. You can donate to either Jeremy or I at: http://www.heroesforlife.org/site/TR/Events/YoungAssociatesBoard?px=1448909&pg=personal&fr_id=1350 for me; or Jeremy at http://www.heroesforlife.org/site/TR/Events/YoungAssociatesBoard?px=1448909&pg=personal&fr_id=1350.
Written May 8, 2012 4:38pm
Last week we were honored to travel to Springfield, Illinois, our state capital, and testify on behalf of the Illinois Childhood Cancer Research Fund. I held a set of Donna's photos in my hand the whole time and they brought me much strength.
If you are interested in the event, how it happened, and the testimony (including photos), please visit my Mary Tyler Mom blog and read all about it. Hot off the presses, as they say. Here is the link:
Lots more has happened. Jay continues to grow and thrive. Thank goodness for his presence in our lives.
Mother's Day is around the corner, and that is never an easy day for me. Hasn't been since my Mom was diagnosed with her tumor just before Mother's Day in 2004. We will be together, and that is better than anything.
Still choosing hope and now working to create some, too. All my love, Sheila.
Written Mar 6, 2012 10:03am
Well time keeps passing, doesn't it?
Life without Donna continues. We are busy. Like crazy busy. So much to do and so little that needs to get done actually gets done. Life does that. After our last post, Jay celebrated his third birthday. He is growing, thinning out, very much a Daddy's Boy. It's hard to believe, but we are preparing his pre-school paperwork and application for the fall. Fingers crossed, he will attend the same school Donna did.
That is all good news, and yet there is sadness. Yesterday we were driving home from the grocery store and Jay asked what made Donna sick. I used the word "cancer" with him -- something I never did with Donna. It feels like there is no need to shelter Jay from cancer the way we sheltered Donna. Many days it feels like a kick in the gut that we had a daughter who died of cancer. Oddly, it still feels surprising, unreal.
Donna's Good Things is in the midst of our first major fundraising effort and it will benefit St. Baldrick's, the leading private funder of pediatric cancer research in the world. After Donna's Cancer Story was published in September, a reader of my alter ego, Mary Tyler Mom, was moved to do something, a Good Thing, in Donna's name. She suggested a St. Baldrick's head shaving event. We loved the idea and fully supported it, though I worked to contain expectations.
There is nothing worse than setting a high bar where Donna is concerned and not meeting it. For safety and sanity's sake, I suggested a goal of $20K. "$20K in a Day," I started calling it. It felt good to actually be doing a Good Thing in Donna's name inspired by another. Well, turns out my expectations were for naught. Eighteen days before the event, we are just shy of raising $40K. Our new goal is $50K. $50K in a Day for pediatric cancer research.
What a wonderful thing.
And yet, it still is without Donna. That's the rub, you see. All these Good Things move forward, but without Donna. She inspires all of it, but is there for none of it. I'm still struggling trying to figure that one out. Full disclosure, it never feels like it will be enough. Is it possible to do enough good in this world to honor her? And I have that thought and express that thought and just feel like a jerk because of it. I never want to diminish or discourage the Good Things that others do in Donna's name.
So, obviously, this is written from a place of deep sadness. It ebbs and flows, my friends, and right now that sadness is flowing pretty freely. Writing about it will help, if memory serves me correctly, and someday, maybe someday soon, the heavy sadness will ebb again. I think about the words of another Cancer Parent, a writer, who detailed his child's cancer treatment and death at Children's Memorial in a New Yorker piece last year. He likened losing a child to gaining an organ whose sole function is to produce a constant flow of sorrow within the body. Mine is on overdrive right now.
Thank you for reading, for remembering our girl, for doing Good Things in Donna's name, for keeping us company all these days later. Oh, and I'm not shaving, but Jeremy is. If you would like to sponsor him, here is a link -- he is working to raise $3K, and is about two-thirds there.
Much love and still choosing hope. Sheila, Donna's Mama.