Loud Summers

Steve McKinion Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Harrison pretends he is ready for school to be over, but the truth is he LOVES school. Not the school work, mind you, but the teachers and friends he has there.

Lachlan and Blakely were always happy to play alone as younger children. Not Harrison. He has to be with people. Preferably, his friends.

I wonder sometimes if his connection to friends is the result of his struggle. If their being there for him in his darkest hours has created this incredibly strong connection. If his view of friendships has been shaped, unwittingly, by his experience.

I don’t know if he would value his friends as much had he not faced cancer, but I do know they have become invaluable to him. And watching him interact is a daily reminder of the immense value genuine friendship can be to those who are suffering.

I hope to be a friend like Harrison and to have friends like he has.

And I hope this summer our home is filled with twelve year old boys playing airsoft in the yard, swimming in the pool, and annoying me and all of my neighbors.

Suffering and summers have this in common: they are best spent with friends.

Steve McKinionLoud Summers

Mother’s Day with Childhood Cancer

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Yesterday my wife celebrated her eighteenth Mother’s Day as a mom. And her third as the mom of a kid with cancer. Which means her say was a mix of extreme joy and sadness.

Mother's Day 2014

Ginger loves being a mom. There is nothing she would rather do than bless her children. My kids mean the world to me, but they mean even more to her. I love her for it.

Our children are all a blessing. They love our God and love other people. They show kindness to strangers and friends alike. And my wife can take all of the credit for that.

But being in the childhood cancer community is draining. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Financially.

Draining.

It is hard enough being the parent of a child with cancer. Watching his pain and suffering is almost unbearable. There is no pain like that of a mother watching her son or daughter suffer.

But the pain extends beyond your own family. Families with childhood cancer also suffer alongside other families. Every time a child is diagnosed you feel a punch in the gut. Your heart breaks. Again and again. When a child loses the fight you hurt with the mom, the dad, the grandparents, the siblings. You feel their pain.

And you worry. Worry that your child will be next. That you will be told, “We are very sorry, but you must go home now and watch your child die before your very eyes.”

And so the joys of Mother’s Day in the childhood cancer world are muted by the sorrows of lost battles. It is hard to celebrate holding all three of your kids close when you know dozens of parents personally who cannot do so for one reason: cancer.

I feel guilty writing about Ginger’s Mother’s Day with all three children, knowing that many of our friends suffered yesterday without a child.

I sympathize with people who spent Mother’s Day without their mom. And I hurt for moms who spent the day without their child.

I pray for the mom for whom yesterday was the first Mother’s Day without their child. And for my classmate’s mom who lost her daughter to leukemia almost twenty years ago. And for the mom who knows yesterday will be the last she will have with her child.

And I am grateful that sorrow will one day give way to joy. That laughter will replace tears. And that yesterday, my dear wife celebrated with all three of her children. May there be many, many more.

Steve McKinionMother’s Day with Childhood Cancer

Distracted by Life

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Harrison and two of his good friends are playing wiffle ball in the front yard while I write in the den.

And I am happy to be distracted by their playing, because the distractions are the sounds of life.

Laughter is often missing in the world of childhood cancer. The cancer journey can be a lonely one. Thankful that Harrison has friends to laugh with on his journey.

Deadlines can wait, there is life to be lived.

Steve McKinionDistracted by Life

Give It Your All

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As a follow up to my recent post about the opposing player who compared Harrison’s status in his league to Derek Jeter’s in the major leagues, I wanted to share this reminder:

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This statement, by one if baseball’s greatest legends, characterizes Harrison’s approach to life. This attitude has, I believe, helped him immeasurably in his fight against cancer.

Every day with cancer demands a determination that must be unmatched. Stop fighting and you die. There is no alternative.

And when I see Scripture’s use of the imagery of war, battle, and athletics, I am reminded that my life as a Christian should reflect the same attitude.

Although I don’t fight cancer in my body, I do join my son in his fight. And I battle every day the anxiety, stress, and hopelessness that accompanies a childhood cancer diagnosis.

I am grateful to God for his rich provision for every battle we face, for every mountain we must climb, every anxiety we have.

Steve McKinionGive It Your All

His Team’s Tim Tebow?

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Baseball season has begun, which has me again thinking about where was and where he now is.

Before cancer, another player was watching Harrison play shortstop and remarked, “What Derek Jeter is to the Yankees, Harrison McKinion is to his team.”  It was a tremendous compliment for a nine year old kid.

Raleigh Family Photographer

But cancer has put Harrison in another role on his teams, I believe: Tim Tebow.

To get the comparison, one need only recall the Florida Gators’ loss to the Ole Miss Rebels in 2007. After the loss Tebow came to the post-game presser and gave his famous speech in which he took the blame for the loss and expressed and unwavering determination to never let his team lose again.

The Gators went on the win the National Championship behind Tim Tebow’s leadership.

What Derek Jeter is to the Yankees, Harrison McKinion is to his team.Player on an opposing team

Now I am not saying Harrison is the athletic equivalent of Tim Tebow. Nor am I saying he has the same leadership abilities at Tebow.

But Harrison is a natural leader. In football he was the quarterback. He moved players around, putting them in the right position, coaching them on the field. As an eight year old.

He’s always been the shortstop. The leader both by his actions and with his words. And if how he’s played for his middle school team so far is any indication, he’ll continue to make plays for his team.

Now, with cancer, Harrison plays an even more important role on his teams. Whether he is the most athletic player or the most talented player or the most gifted player is debatable. Other kids are just as good, and better. Cancer has allowed everyone else to catch up with him.

But Harrison refuses to lose. His determination to fight, claw, scrape his way forward reminds me of all the accounts I’ve read about Tebow. While others may question his abilities due to cancer, Harrison just plows ahead. Again and again and again; refusing to settle for personal or team defeat.

I don’t know if Harrison will grow up to be an athlete (or if he will grow up at all, unfortunately). But I know this, every day that he is here he will live with determination and confidence. The day may come when his body cannot function as well as it does now, or when no one wants him because they doubt his abilities. But until then, Harrison will start the days he has remaining facing forward, making the most of every opportunity he has.

And, much like Tim Tebow, he will never let his teammates down. They will always get his best. Whether he is sick, fatigued, suffering from joint pain, fighting headaches, or pressed on every side, he will fight.

I wish you could have seen him play before cancer wrecked his body. I pray that one day he will overcome the side effects of the treatment. But even if he never does, you’ll never know it from watching his face. You see a kid who will give everything he has, knowing that God is his strength. He will press on to the prize set before him in Jesus Christ and model a “never give up” attitude.

Steve McKinionHis Team’s Tim Tebow?