We met so many different people during Jackson’s cancer treatment – other families, doctors, nurses, childlife specialists, social workers, janitors, coffee baristas and many more.
These people hold a very special place in my heart. All of them. Because they went out of their way to make a tough situation just a little better. They removed obstacles in our path and their affection was never fake or “put on.”
I know this, because my affection for them was authentic. In fact, I have to keep myself in check. To this day, when I see their faces around the hospital, randomly at the grocery store or at an event, I get SO excited. It’s like seeing your long-lost family. Even if I have no idea what to say past small talk, I just want to stay in their presence. Outside of our inner circle, they’re the only ones that KNOW what this journey was like. I kind of love them.
There, I said it.
At a Curesearch fundraiser in early 2010, we met a grown-up pediatric cancer survivor, Eric Newman, who had just founded the nonprofit group Roc Solid Foundation. We learned that Eric’s organization builds free playgrounds for children diagnosed with cancer. Pretty cool!
During Jackson’s last stay in the hospital for immunotherapy, we got the call that he was selected as a recipient for one of these playgrounds.
I can’t say enough about what March 27, 2010 meant to us as parents, but this picture says exactly what it meant to Jackson.
For the surprise reveal, Jackson walked through the gate into our backyard and paused at the 50 volunteers/family/friends there in blue t-shirts, and then broke out into a run towards the new playset. Everyone cheered.
And this was Jackson’s face.
Jackson didn’t know much about life outside of CHKD; that was his norm. Receiving this playground was a special reward just for Jackson and on a child’s level. It wasn’t money or a friend mowing our grass, it was his own playground! It was the perfect way to celebrate all he’d been through so far but also acknowledge we had a future beyond cancer.
For me, in the weeks following the build, looking outside from our kitchen window and seeing that playground made me smile every time. It gave me a glimpse into many days ahead of Jackson swinging, sliding and having fun.
Even though Jackson doesn’t remember being treated for cancer, that’s okay. He does know the story of his playground. The nice man named Eric, who went through cancer just like him, and built his special playground, just for him.