A Sweet Boy Named Wyatt

By Tina Michelle Cameron

wyatt outdoor pictureThis will probably be the hardest blog I have written to date. It is part two of a blog from earlier this month which was about September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You see, I want to tell you about a sweet boy named Wyatt. It is easy to talk about Wyatt; it brings a smile to my face and warms my heart to think about him, but with the smiles, also comes tears. Wyatt Edward Brown was born on October 28th, 2014 to the most amazing parents I have ever met – Ashley and Eric Brown. If you follow my blog or are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I am a nurse at Lexington Medical Center on the oncology unit. This is where I met Wyatt’s mom, Ashley, as she is also an oncology nurse. Ashley and I became friends while working together which is how I got to know this beautiful little boy.

Sweet Wyatt, as I always affectionately called him, was kind, sweet, funny, smart, and so loveable and loved. He loved superheroes (the Hulk was his favorite), cheering on the Clemson Tigers, playing with his action figures, watching his favorite video, The Hulk vs. Batman, and spending time with his amazing family. He was smart having already learned to read and work an iPad like a grownup at age two.

wyatt and mimi adn gigiWyatt was the strongest and toughest little boy that I had the pleasure of getting to know and love. He would light up a room with his smile and gave the sweetest hugs and kisses. Some of my favorite memories of Wyatt were playing with his toys or just watching cartoons. Another favorite is when they would FaceTime me from Texas or call me during a football game to just say “Go Tigers!” (To mess with me because I am a diehard Crimson Tide fan).

Wyatt was diagnosed at three-months-old with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. He had surgery followed by 399 days of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He went into remission, but then, unfortunately, relapsed – which led to more treatment, radiation, and an extensive surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. Eric and Ashley had to relocate there for three months for his surgery and treatment. This is where they met the incredible Melissa Bellinger who started the A Shelter for Cancer Families organization that provides housing and support to families affected by cancer in the Texas area.

bracelet team wyattAshley and Eric created a Facebook page (TeamWyatt) to keep family and friends updated on Wyatt’s condition. His page has 5,477 followers from all across the world. It is filled with messages of love, support, and prayers showing beautiful pictures of sweet Wyatt and his family. T-shirts, decals, and matching bracelets with the words “No One Fights Alone” were made to show support for Wyatt and his fight. Unfortunately, he passed away on April 28th, 2017.

Just a week after Wyatt passed, and despite their unimaginable loss, his parents held an event to honor Wyatt and raise money for A Shelter for Cancer Families. I was honored to volunteer with the organization and Wyatt’s family, and we raised $10,000 in one evening.

This amazing little boy endured surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments like a champ. He never complained. Wyatt will never be forgotten and will forever be loved by his beautiful family. Despite his life being so tragically cut short at two and a half years old, his parents and family gave him a lifetime of love and adventures in that short time. I know that he is watching over them and his new little sister Emma Ray Hope from Heaven and will forever be their guardian angel.

family picI will always love Ashley and Eric for allowing me to become an honorary member of their family and the time I spent with sweet Wyatt. Ashley, I love you like a sister, a close friend, and the daughter that I never had. Thank you both for sharing your most precious Wyatt with me and the world. To Wyatt, we will continue to fight for more funding and for a cure. You will always be my superhero.  I will always love you and hold you in my heart forever.

#teamwyattforever #noonefightsalone #superhero #hulk #sweetwyatt #ashelterforcancerfamilies

Raising Readers

By: Crissie Kirby

Let’s face it . . . we ALL have one or two (or more) guilty pleasures in which we indulge.  Some of these might not be good for us (smoking, excessive alcohol intake, overeating, etc.), but some might not be terrible (working out, writing, crafting, etc.). For me, my number one guilty pleasure is reading . . . few things excite me as much as beginning a new book and delving in to the world created by the author. I don’t know when my obsession with books began, though I do vividly remember reading issue after issue of Reader’s Digest as a child and any other book that even remotely piqued my curiosity.  Reading isn’t a terrible habit to have, other than I could easily while away any number of hours in a land where dirty laundry and dirty dishes and messy floors don’t exist. I fully believe that being a voracious reader has allowed me to become a semi-decent writer.  When I had children, I just KNEW that I would have children who would LOVE books as much I did, so to ensure that, I bought a small library of children’s books. We had Goodnight Moon and Rainbow Fish and lots of Dr. Seuss and many other not so famous children’s books.  Then the unthinkable happened . . .

I had two very busy little boys.

Little boys who wouldn’t sit still for books.  Little boys who exhausted me to the point that I could often not finish a book we started before bedtime because I would, myself, fall asleep before they even blinked one tiny eyelid. I was failing as a reading parent.

As the boys got older, I would try to tempt them by buying books that I (again) just KNEW they would love. Captain Underpants and The Magic Treehouse and other not so famous short chapter books adorned the bookshelves above the aforementioned little kids books that were ever so subtly gathering dust from years of not being touched, much less read.

Unfortunately, most of these books, too, met with the same dust-encrusted fate as the earlier ones.

I was crushed. I was heartbroken. The one habit I had that I had literally waited years to share with my offspring was falling quickly by the wayside. In many ways, I resigned myself that my children were going to be like so many other boys who just didn’t like to read.

But, I kept on reading when I could. Vacations. Late nights. When I should have been folding laundry. I read. I read because it was my one little guilty pleasure that I couldn’t give up. Sometimes it would be with actual paper in my hands; other times it might be with my Kindle or on the Kindle app on my phone, but read I did. I continued encouraging the boys to read. I accompanied them to book fairs where I bought books that I silently prayed wouldn’t just become more dust magnets in our house.

Then, the tide began to shift. As surely as the sun rises slowly each morning, I would catch the boys reading books or magazines (mostly the Lego magazine, but, hey, whatever works, right?) when they weren’t required to by school. For my eldest, the reading bug sort of hit him after watching Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and he began to read one of the Heroes of Olympus books. I was dumbfounded. I had tried buying the short little chapter books in an effort to ease them into reading and he picks up a 500+ page book and starts reading it willingly? His recreational reading has taken an even more dramatic turn in the last few weeks and he has been quickly devouring more than more than one book at a time. At bedtime, he reads. On the way to and from school, he reads.  The other night, I found him reading at 1 a.m. How could I fuss at him? As my mom replied when I relayed the story to her, it sounded like something I probably did as a child too. My previously devastated reading heart swells each time I look around and notice my son with a book in his hands sitting in the car or sprawled on the couch or nestled under his covers.

Study after study has shown that reading improves vocabulary and general knowledge and helps teach patience.  As with learning to walk and talk, developing a love of reading, it would appear, is just something that develops when the time and conditions are right.  And I’m so grateful to finally be sharing my guilty pleasure with my sons.

Why I Love Lightsabers and Not Barbie Shoes

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Sometimes, you have to be thankful that God gives you what you need, and not always what it is that you think you want.

Being the youngest of two children and the only girl, I grew up in the 80’s surrounded by GI Joe’s, Star Wars figurines, wrestlers, baseballs and footballs.  While I had Barbies and was a Cabbage Patch Kid collector (last count was 10 or 11, I think), I always dreamed of being Princess Leia.  I had a brother who, while I idolized him, tried out on me every wrestling move the 80’s gave us, so of course, if I were Princess Leia I could kick butt and take names later.  I wasn’t really a “tom boy,” but I wasn’t really a “girlie” girl either.

As I got older, got married, and then started planning a family, I dreamed, though, of having my own little girl to dress and spoil.  I could think of nothing more than beautiful smocked dresses and hair bows galore.  When I got pregnant with my first child, I prayed to have a little girl.  Yes, I wanted to have a healthy child, but in my mind health and gender were two separate issues completely, so I prayed for a healthy child, but I really wanted “it” to be a girl.  That June ultrasound brought the news that I was most definitely NOT having a girl.  I’ll be honest, I cried for 4 days.  I caught all manner of flack for seemingly being ungrateful for carrying a healthy baby.  I was very grateful, but I was disappointed.  I’m also brutally honest, and so I let my feelings and thoughts show.  December 7, 2005 arrived and at 8:00 a.m. I fell in love with a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed little boy named Samuel Pierce Kirby, II.

Fast forward about 2 years.

By this time, I’ve got a 2-year-old and am 4 months pregnant.  I am also roughly 9 months removed from a miscarriage.  I go in for my routine 16-week ultrasound and the baby will not cooperate, so we end the session knowing that “baby” is healthy, but refusing to share its gender with us.  My wonderful OB-GYN takes pity on me and agrees to bring me back in the following week for an “unofficial” ultrasound the week before Christmas so that I will, hopefully, know the gender before the holidays.  We spend one week sure that this baby is a girl because it was being stubborn like me.  When we get to the office for the ultrasound, I’ve had orange juice and Coke hoping to excite this little one into telling us whether it is a “he” or a “she.”  The answer is obvious the moment the transducer is placed on my stomach.  It was very clear, immediately, that I was, again, NOT having a little girl.  Again, I was devastated, but not quite as upset as before, I cried for only 2 days this time.  I worried that I would not be able to equally love another little boy like I loved Pierce, but at 8:07 on May 5, 2008; I was proven wrong when John Smith Kirby made his appearance and I, once again, fell in love with a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed little man.

Fast forward almost 5 years, and I’m the single mom to these two precious and beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed “lady killers.”  I’ve been able to buy some smocked clothing, but at 6 and 4, those outfits are slowly becoming just a memory.  My house is covered in Thomas the Train, Buzz, Woody and the whole gang.  My boys know the names of almost every character from Harry Potter and can even pronounce them correctly.  We’ve watched all six Star Wars movies, and we have enough light sabers around to single-handedly save the Republic.  At least the lightsabers are larger than Barbie shoes, so you can typically avoid them in the middle of the night.

Obviously, I have no experience with little girls, but I know that during the last 3 years when I was at my lowest point, these little men knew, instinctively, how to lift my spirits.  There is something to be said for the “Mama’s Boy” syndrome; in each little boy lies the honesty, utter love and loyalty every woman desires.  Nothing lifts my spirit or makes me smile brighter than hearing an unsolicited “Mommy, I like that dress on you” or “Mommy, you look pretty.”  I always had short hair until life kept me from getting it cut as frequently as I had before, now I may never have short hair again as my little fellows have told me that they like my hair long.  After my trim the other night, Pierce told me that he liked my haircut.  And speaking of hair, during my most trying moments, I didn’t have to worry about ponytails or pigtails or braids.  I also have the simple pleasure of just handing the boys the clothes they will wear and hearing little to no protests.  I even asked Pierce one morning if he wanted to help pick out his clothes; his lifesaving response was that he would rather I just pick them out for him.  All of this certainly has made my life much easier.

Today, if you were to ask me, I would tell you that I would not trade my two little men for a million little girls and their smocked dresses and hair bows and Barbie shoes.  I often wonder if I ever re-marry and desire more children, what I would do if I did actually have a little girl?  I would almost tell you that I would rather I have another little boy, because at the end of the day, I do really prefer lightsabers to Barbie shoes.