Thursday, 4 November 2021
Thursday, 23 September 2021
It's definitely just my anxiety, but it feels today like everything is coming undone.
The annual online auction, having raised more than $50,000 since it began, takes place again this weekend. We've got more than 100 items including some truly unexpected, spectacular pieces. You can access it all here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.411614883661291. Bidding starts Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. MST and ends Sunday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m.
Word art on mugs? Check. Word art on incredible wood clock? Yes. Everything from gift cards to full birthday parties and one-of-a-kind memorabilia? Of course.
But it's easy to sink into the negatives. Are enough people aware of the auction? The last blog post I wrote here, about the city of Medicine Hat proclaiming September as childhood cancer month, has been read by fewer than 100 people.
I'm afraid that I'm not doing a good enough job for Dominic, having focused on all the massive changes in my life these past two years instead. On one hand I know that interest in him is bound to diminish over time as people's memories of his life fade. But a big part of me refuses to accept it.
We resist change. Ask someone to do their job differently tomorrow and you'll be met with a range of emotions from anger to confusion and back again. And yet, when you're a hospital parent, you roll with it. You have no other choice.
Kids in children's hospitals right now are facing significant changes over which they have no control. They're being told they can't get surgeries and procedures done. We need to do better for these kids. The #Dominicstrong auction is a small way towards that. We're not going to change the world with another $8,100 (the total we raised last year). But every penny helps.
You were going to spend the $50 at Wal Mart anyhow. So buy one of the three gift cards in the auction and add $5 out of goodwill.
You were going to have your kids' birthday party at the local gymnastics club anyhow. So spend that money in the auction, not looking for a discount, because it goes to a good cause and the club donated it.
See an item with few bids? Think of someone you know who might want it, then contact them, tell them about the auction, and get them to bid it up.
It's not complicated. Charity isn't about you saving a buck. It's about you doing good.
Please, come together and let's do some good.
Wednesday, 1 September 2021
"Death doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I'm willing to wait for it (Wait for it)
I'm willing to wait for it"
Cancer takes, and takes, and takes.
And we keep living anyway.
We control what we can, and in ways large and small we fight back.
Whether it's by persisting, or sharing our stories; pushing science forward, advocating, or giving a smile to a bald stranger in line at the supermarket.
Two months ago, Tara Brown from Kid's Cancer Care Alberta reached out to ask if I could do her a favour: Request that the City of Medicine Hat officially proclaim September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Every little bit of awareness helps, so I sent in the form and, lo and behold, it was signed and made official a mere four days later.
The statistics are stark: every year, an average of 190 kids in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer. Thirty die from it, and three-quarters of the survivors live with permanent side effects ranging from cognitive to fertility problems.
Numbers don't tell the whole story, of course. For every child affected, so too are their siblings, parents, extended family and friends. From financial hardships to relationship trauma, cancer does more damage to more people than you'd first expect.
What happens when your child suddenly needs to spend months on end in a hospital receiving treatment? One parent has to stay with them, so if they had a job, poof... it's gone.
One parent taking care of a child means any other kids often feel jealousy because they're not getting the same attention. Even if they do understand why, it's a massive, upsetting change.
Parents of kids with cancer have higher rates of divorce because of the stresses involved. Extended families can come together, but the opposite can also happen.
I remember one time in hospital where a patient in the room next to us was not doing well. They'd scream and yell and hit their parents and hospital staff, wishing they were dead instead of having to endure the chemotherapy. It was horrifying; we felt lucky that Dominic didn't truly know how bad his situation was. When you're older and know what cancer is, it's a lot scarier to then have it.
It's a little thing the city can do to recognize the many children in our community who have and continue to fight cancer. But it means something to those kids and those families to know that they are seen, that they are noticed and honoured.
There are other things we can do this month. Maybe you could wear something coloured gold, the colour representing childhood cancer. The Terry Fox Run happens in September (Sept. 19 is the main run; Sept. 29 they have a school run as well). And of course we're holding our annual #Dominicstrong online auction Sept. 24-26 via our Facebook page.
Because it's the month Dominic died, September is particularly tough for us. But we hope this proclamation gives a little boost to childhood cancer awareness.
Monday, 30 August 2021
Six years ago we were getting on the plane to Florida for what would become his final trip. Had a miracle occurred and he'd somehow beat leukemia for good, he'd have still faced so many challenges: a stroke had left half his body debilitated, chemotherapy has devastating long-term effects, and that's to say nothing of what mental consequences there are to someone who's been put through so much.
We always thought it would be a blessing that he was so young when it happened, thinking he wouldn't remember the worst parts and that his resiliency would be incredible.
Dom would be eight years old were he alive today and headed into Grade 3. I imagine he'd be involved with the local adaptive sport association, or maybe Special Olympics, and loving the chance to meet new friends.
How would COVID affect his situation? Hard to say, but kids with cancer tend to have long-term autoimmune problems. We'd have to be extra careful.
With those what-if scenarios in our head, it isn't easy sending his sister to school. We're lucky her day home shares our perspective on safety, but with COVID cases in our city at an all-time high our anxiety is peaking as well.
We are trying to forge ahead. Day home has been great for her and so should school.
The push forward includes our charity efforts. We haven't done much this year but owe it to Dominic and the children's hospital, and so the #Dominicstrong online auction will take place Sept. 24-26 via the Facebook group of the same name.
Last year we debated not doing it at all but somehow raised $8,001. This year's auction will be even smaller and that's fine - every penny helps. We've reached out to all 73 donors from last year's auction and the majority have stepped up again. We've got gift certificates, board games, artwork and so much more!
If you see this post and might be interested in donating something, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you just want to help, please join the Facebook group and share the heck out of posts like this one so that we get as many bidders as possible for the auction.
It hasn't been easy, but then again it never was for Dominic once leukemia entered our lexicon. Every little step is still a step forward for him.
Saturday, 24 April 2021
Extra Life United is a gaming tournament in which US$250,000 will be doled out to various Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across North America. I'm playing in two games - Among Us and Rocket League - in hopes of winning a bit for the Alberta Children's Hospital where many kids from the Medicine Hat area go for a variety of reasons.
Monday, 2 November 2020
Normal is whatever you make of it, and this year has certainly seen a lot of people inventing new normals for themselves.
When it comes to our annual charity gaming event, however, things are pretty much status quo compared to recent years.
We've been busy behind the scenes planning our Extra Life 24-hour game day, the culmination of our annual efforts towards helping the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.
Thanks to low COVID-19 case numbers in Medicine Hat (eight active cases as of Monday in a city of 65,000), we've made the decision to have our closest friends over starting at 8 a.m. (Mountain time) on Saturday, Nov. 7. It's a list of 14 people, and they've been our social cohorts since the pandemic began in March so we're confident we're being safe. If any one of us becomes symptomatic this week they'll need a negative COVID test in order to be here.
Fundraising is serious business, but it's also a lot of fun! Back in August we earned a 20-sided die from Extra Life and we are putting it to use for our game day.
Here's how it works: You go to one of our team member's fundraising pages during game day, choose an incentive and we'll roll the die. What happens then? Depends what's rolled. See the document here for the wide array of possibilities! I actually made my own hot sauce this year for No. 6.
For US$5 you can get one person of your choice to do what the die roll dictates. Want us all to do it? That's US$50. Want to pick the thing one person does? That's US$25. And if you want to pick something from the list for us all to do, ante up US$100.
We will be live-streaming at least half of the day's activities, which will include lots of board games, video games and even axe throwing at SixOneSix Entertainment.
There are also other members of the #Dominicstrong team who will do their own thing! We encourage you to check them all out by visiting the team page at https://www.extra-life.org/team/dominicstrong. It all goes to the same wonderful place.
And of course if you want to join our team virtually, there's still lots of time! Feel free to click that team link and sign up yourself.
We do it in memory of Dominic, but also for all the kids in hospital and all of those who benefit from it. So many kids from our community in Medicine Hat get help there and this is one way we can give back.
Monday, 12 October 2020
Happy birthday Dominic. You would've been eight.
Today's birthday falls on the same day as Thanksgiving here in Canada. Our family all wanted us to come join them but we needed a weekend without travel, or surprise parties, or an online auction.
We spent some time doing normal things. We went on some nice, long walks. We cooked the giant spaghetti squash we grew in the garden this summer and had turkey and buns and carrots with our best friends (who were in a similar boat as we were). We played games and danced and hung out at your park.
We call it your park because it's where your memorial bench is, but it's really just another city park. Samantha can pretty much traverse the whole thing blindfolded, and she knows it's Dominic's park. She knows you're dead but keeps trying to tell me you'll get better and come home. Oh how I wish.
For the past two months she kept seeing people come to the door with gifts, then to pick up the gifts. An entire room in the house was devoted to the online auction, known in the house as Dominic's Auction. So all these things were basically for him.
We raised $8,001 through the auction, and everything's been picked up and accounted for. We've even got some donations promised for next year, which is wonderful. Every penny got donated to the Alberta Children's Hospital through our Extra Life pages, and as usual we're not done fundraising yet. Our 24-hour gaming marathon will happen Nov. 7-8, and you can expect us to check in on the #Dominicstrong Facebook group periodically.
We are thankful for everyone who donated and took part in the auction, but moreso to everyone who helps keep his memory alive. Whether that's by adding a gold ribbon to their social media profile during September (childhood cancer month), reading the odd blog post here, or donating in his memory, it's all appreciated. To all of you, a big thumbs-up.
Friday, 25 September 2020
When we announced the online auction would take place for the sixth year in a row, we figured it would wind up roughly half the size as the previous ones.
Are we ever glad to be wrong.
In the span of five-and-a-half weeks, we've racked up 107 items for the #Dominicstrong auction benefitting the Alberta Children's Hospital via Extra Life. Time and time again we've been amazed at the generosity of our community.
A friend from an online community we belong to said she'd give a piece of art, then added a foosball table, toy set and air hockey. Another I knew from when she coached and I reported came through with a massive item including a skateboard with two thumbs-up's on it. So many of the longtime contributors to the auction not only said yes again, but in some cases went above and beyond what they usually give.
And that's no slag on anyone who said no. No is what we expected to hear, and for good reason. "Keep us on the asking list for next year," said a few, realizing they simply can't afford handouts right now but still want to support the cause. We'd decided prior to the auction that we will re-ask anyone from 2019 in 2021 anyhow.
A couple we didn't initially ask were the Medicine Hat College Rattlers and Medicine Hat Mavericks. With sports seasons completely cancelled, we just didn't think they'd be in a position to offer anything. But alas, when we did ask, they figured something out.
This year's auction has a bit of everything. From masks to games, jewellery to axe throwing, food and golf, the hope is lots of you see something you like and bid on it. Most important, don't keep the auction to yourself! The more bidders we get, the more money we raise for the hospital. There's no chance we'll meet the $10,000 mark we have the past few years, but every penny helps.
It's all a great reminder that our community is strong, and generous. In the six years it has run, the total amount donated through the auction is $48,116. It's a lot of work but clearly worth it - it's how we parent our son who's not here anymore.
How do you share the auction? This blog post is a good place to start. So, too is the story Chris Brown put together for CHAT News (https://chatnewstoday.ca/2020/09/22/dominicstrong-auction-keeps-dominic-rooneys-legacy-alive). As for direct links, here's the one to the auction album itself (https://www.facebook.com/media/set?set=oa.242004390576370&type=3), though keep in mind that in order to bid you have to actually join the group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/dominicstrong) first.
We do have one extra surprise in store - whoever winds up buying the most auction items will get a special custom-made bag with Natalie Long's word art on it! Bailey Stralia did the bag for us out of the blue, while she was working on some facemasks which are a story on their own: Trish's mom Anne made the masks in Calgary, then Bailey added thumbs-up and hashtag art onto them, then she made pouches with more art to store them in! If that wasn't enough, Eva from St. Albert shipped us ear savers she crocheted for the project.
A lot of things came together for this, and it was made even tougher in the last week when Trish, Samantha and I all came down sick. We had to be tested for COVID but fortunately got the news Thursday night that we're all negative. The auction was never in danger, it's just been a lot of work to get it all up and running!
We hope you have fun, and remember that bidding ends Sunday at 5 p.m. Mountain time.
Thursday, 3 September 2020
The world is different but the pain is the same.
As other parents share pictures of their youngsters going to school again, we took our daughter to Dominic's memorial bench, tied five orange balloons to it, then played at the park. Orange is the colour representing leukemia. We'd have had some gold ones for childhood cancer awareness but alas, they were sold out.
It's been five years since our son took his last breath, since he got those two hours at Disney World, then crashed the next day. Since the hospital in Orlando organized for Mickey Mouse to come visit him, but had to cancel because it was too late.
I think of all the support that came in, from messages on the blog to the lady at the airport who helped with the empty stroller we were pushing on our way home with his ashes.
But most of all I remember his laugh, his thumbs-up, his smile. He'd be such a good brother to our daughter, likely getting in trouble for setting her straight once in a while but also looking out for her.
He can be whatever we want him to be in our imaginations.
We were so used to his world, where wearing masks was normal and you sanitized your hands every time in to the oncology ward. We embraced the change. Needless to say we were ready for this new normal too.
Charity work is slower this year because there's understandably less money going around. As of writing this, we've got 57 items lined up for the #Dominicstrong online auction Sept. 25-27. That's about half as many as last year but I'm still amazed at that level of response. Hopefully we can sell them all, too. Drop by the #Dominicstrong Facebook group if you're interested.
It's been a crazy year, and this fifth anniversary of his death ought to be more sad than the rest. Anniversaries are certainly tough. But in an odd way it's been a happy day so far, intermingled with moments of anguish. We'll take it.
Sunday, 16 August 2020
Sunday, 5 April 2020
|PORCH-RAIT BY BRADLEY EAST PHOTOGRAPHY|
(proceeds from this project to a Healthcare Hero Fund through Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation)
You know how people say "I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy?"
Well, in a way, we're all living that nightmare now. It's both worse and not as bad as it sounds.
I chuckle in a perverse sort of way whenever I see someone talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them into finding a new normal. It's the saying medical families the world over have used - us included - and it's nothing to be scared of.
Accepting and eventually embracing your new circumstances is an important part of surviving something like cancer, a job loss, a death, or being stuck in your house for weeks on end.
Dominic showed us how it's done. After the chemotherapy destroyed his immune system (and, we had hoped, all the cancer cells with it), he could've died from the common cold. So every time nurses came in or out of his room, they had to wear special masks and gloves. The room was constantly being wiped down with medical-grade wipes, which we were warned could actually cause cancer themselves until the cleaning agent in them dried. So you had to wear gloves just to use the wipes.
As a cancer patient, you get used to sanitizing your hands every time you walk down the hallway to the oncology clinic. You know how to take off a pair of plastic gloves so that you don't touch the outside of the gloves. You're scared of door handles, cringe at the thought of handling money and have no problem telling people with any sign of illness to stay the heck away from you.
Seeing everyone else forced to learn these habits is of course sad, but now everybody knows what being immune-suppressed is like. We're all compromised against this new disease. We all have to act like it could kill us, because you don't really know how you'll fare until you've got it. Even if the mortality rate is three per cent, would you seriously play Russian roulette with a 33-chamber gun knowing one of those chambers has a bullet in it?
There are positives to being stuck in isolation. You get creative. I'll never forget seeing Dom sitting in his hospital crib with an entire bag of cheezies strewn around him. You find different ways of keeping in touch: the iPad Dominic was given by the hospital allowed easy FaceTime calls with family, and now our daughter uses it.
We think often about how this situation must be for those in the actual oncology department. Resources are being diverted in our health care system to fight the pandemic, and cancer patients are among those who could be sacrificed as a result. If there's a shortage of masks or gloves, will the cancer units of the world have to do without for a while? How many people will die because their surgeries, or their safety were compromised because a handful of people couldn't be bothered to self-isolate and spread this new disease?
We've been doing our part, staying at home, telling our 3-year-old the #Dominicstrong park has been closed for the past month. We've been lucky because both Trish and I have been able to work from home.
We haven't done any fundraising yet this year. Especially now, with so many people out of work, it doesn't feel right asking for money for a charity. But given all the help the health care system needs, I'd be remiss not to mention what's going on this week online.
We weren't going to Extra Life United in Florida this year. Then the pandemic happened, and it's... NOT CANCELLED. In fact, it's morphed into an online-only experience, free to sign up, with the original US$150,000 still able to be won for hospitals across North America. So even though I'll have to do it around my work schedule, I've signed up to play.
If you want or have the means, you can sponsor me in my efforts to win a few bucks for the Alberta Children's Hospital. This is separate from the link I give the rest of the year for my main Extra Life page: it's a special Extra Life United page.
Now, more than ever, we need the have's of the world to support the have-not's. Let's become a better community.
Wednesday, 15 January 2020
Today, our daughter hits a special milestone.
Today, she turns two years and 326 days.
That's how old Dominic was when he took his last breath.
When he died, he'd never said more than a couple words, "mom" being his favourite. A stroke took his speech and much of his mobility soon after he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He was also gentle, full of love and never seemed to complain no matter what awful things were happening to him. His thumbs-up became the signature for our #Dominicstrong fundraising for a reason.
By contrast, Samantha sings and dances, tells us she loves us and also throws epic temper tantrums when told she can't have what she wants.
She sees photos of him and we tell her that's her brother, but she's far more excited about going to hang out with the girl who's near her age at her day home. That's someone tangible. She'll never hug her brother or sit with him on Santa's lap or have a snowball fight with him.
And while he's stuck at two, she'll turn three next month and continue reaching milestones that never seemed possible for him.
He had a growth chart with only a few records marked on it. Samantha was given a similar one but I decided to mark her height on his chart instead, so that she'd always see his name there too and maybe start asking about it.
We hung it on the back of her door, but she's pulled it down so many times it was sitting crumpled in a spare room - a room that would've been his by now.
Yesterday I fixed it back on her door, had her stand beside it and we took a couple photos. Unsurprisingly she's far ahead of him at this age - cancer and chemotherapy do a number on kids' growth.
We're proud of her, but it feels like he's getting further and further away. The memory of him is frozen, and every winter a new layer of ice gets added around him. It's just a little bit harder to remember his face, or what his laugh sounded like, or how he walked with that awkward gait - another side effect of the stroke.
Today she's an age he was for the last time. Now he's the baby brother, not the older one.
She'll be a great big sister. She'll learn his story, and we'll continue to raise money in his memory. But what will that look like? There is so much uncertainty in our lives right now, we're not honestly sure.
I know this blog has been almost non-existent in the past year. Aside from our charity events, there's not much to say. Thanks to those of you who continue to follow his story and support us.
Friday, 1 November 2019
Friday, 27 September 2019
When our friend Kristine first started an online auction four years ago to help with our Extra Life efforts, we were honoured, and humbled. What a wonderful idea - totally online bidding, no need for pants, every penny raised to the hospital.
It finished off that year with $7,900 raised, and pushed our Extra Life total past US$46,000 for the year, all in Dominic's name. Kristine, her whole family and Trish all shaved their heads. I, having no hair left, waxed my back. Good times!
And then the question became - how do we follow that up?
The answer, of course, is that you can't. The bulk of that year's fundraising happened in the wake of our son's death. But what you can do is continue on with things like the auction, like the 25-hour gaming marathon, and still have incredible impact.
And yet, somehow, the auction itself actually got bigger.
In 2016 it raised $10,000. The number grew to $10,921 in 2017. With a new daughter to care for and far less free time, we still managed $9,877 in bids last year, even though the amount of traffic on the auction went down significantly.
This year we sort of admitted defeat in that we don't have the resources between the two of us to do our day jobs, raise a now-2-year-old, and solicit dozens of new businesses (in addition to the ones who we automatically contact as repeat donors). We knew the auction would be smaller and it is, with 116 items to last year's 132, and a total value of the minimum bids at $4,740 compared to $6,705 in 2018. We definitely don't have time to organize a public game day, though we'll do our own in private again Nov. 2-3.
But I will say, thanks to social media we are seeing more traffic and interest on the auction items ahead of today's (Friday, Sept. 27) auction starting at 5 p.m. Mountain time. So that is really encouraging. If we can double every minimum bid, $10,000 is still a goal worth shooting for!
There are some amazing items again. From the two sets of crokinole discs we originally had made for Extra Life United, to tickets from the Esplanade to each of their three Classic Albums Live concerts, to beautiful handmade items, gift cards to stores big and small, and of course some special word art mugs, the variety is kind of mind-blowing.
It's all thanks to our community, both here and abroad. I know a few folks from the U.S. who we met because of Extra Life will be bidding, and our donations include items from Calgary as always.
What really surprises us are the new donations from people who we never reached out to and never heard from before. The fact Dominic's story has inspired them to give means so much. One woman who wants to remain anonymous hand-made a dozen outfits for a doll she had, which literally took months, and has now donated the lot of it including the doll. When I told a gaming company we weren't sure if having the same game in the auction year after year was a good idea, they donated two other games instead. And when one friend's company declined to donate anything, she went and bought things from her own store and donated anyhow.
Stories like these remind us how good people are. And the number of families we know who've needed to use the Alberta Children's Hospital past or present only gets bigger. We want to help the hospital continue to give them the best care possible, just as they did when we needed it.
Go check out the auction now. It runs until 5 p.m. Sunday. You've got to be a member of the Facebook group in order to bid, and make sure to read the auction rules in full before you participate! It should be a great weekend.