There was a time in my life, not so long ago, that I might have told you that it was highly unlikely, if not impossible, that someone whom I had never met could so completely and indelibly change my life, my mindset, and the way I viewed the world around me. There was a time in my life, in the ever so distant past that I would have told you I believed in sheer coincidences and that everything happens for a reason. But all of that was before cancer. All of that was before Ronan Sean Thompson.
In mid August of 2010, my best friend Ann was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. My world felt as if it had been turned upside down. Little did I know, just a few weeks after Ann’s heartbreaking diagnosis, on August 31, 2010, my little brother Coleman (fifteen years old at the time) and my grandma would both be diagnosed with cancer on the same day. I was in complete shock. Nothing in this world has shaken me to my core as violently as the day my dad’s voice trembled on the phone as he proceeded to tell me that, “Grandma Betty has cancer. But there’s more. It’s Coleman. Coleman has cancer too.” It’s odd how, to this day, I remember every detail of my surroundings, and exactly where I stood in the middle of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, when my dad told me this news. I remember how in that instant I felt an insane and overwhelming sense of vertigo. I thought I was going to pass out or throw up, or both. Somehow, though, I got into my car and drove to my apartment, where I walked in the front door and collapsed into heaving sobs in my roommate’s arms.
In the following months, my grandma, my friend Ann, and my little brother Coleman were all undergoing various surgeries and treatment plans which included countless chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted so desperately to take away their pain and suffering, but my hands were tied. The only thing I could do was become more educated about their cancers in an effort to try and better understand what they were going through and what their odds were for beating this ugly disease.
It was during one of my desperate Internet searches in December of 2010 that I somehow stumbled upon the blog Rockstar Ronan, written by Maya Thompson, mother to a three-year-old boy named Ronan who had Stage IV Neuroblastoma. I was instantly captivated by Ronan’s piercing blue eyes that seemed to hold the entire world in them, and Maya’s raw, deep, honest, and heart-wrenching blog posts about Ronan and what their family was going through instantly made me feel as if I knew this boy and his family, that their suffering and my suffering were one.
I continued to follow Maya’s blog as I watched my little brother’s hair fall out. I continued to read her posts as I watched my best friend Ann deteriorate rapidly and die in February of 2011. Just as my brother’s treatment was ending in April 2011, Ronan took a turn for the worst. On May 9, 2011, Ronan Sean Thompson, the little boy with the sparkly eyes, giant heart, wise soul, and spicy attitude, took his last breath. When Maya posted about his death, I felt as if my heart had been ripped in two. “Not Ronan, please not Ronan”, I thought. His story had somehow become so closely linked to my brother’s own story in my heart. I was angry at the world for being the kind of place where children die and there isn’t a cure to save their lives.
Fast forward to later that year, when I started talking to Maya over social media and we decided to meet up for a hike. Before I went to meet her, I told my dad over the phone that I was going to meet a little boy named Ronan’s mom, and that I knew there was a reason this was happening and that I felt so passionate about this cause and Ronan’s story in particular. I told my dad I had a very strong feeling that Ronan was probably roommates with my brother Coleman at Phoenix Children’s Hospital while getting treatment. My dad was shocked as I said those words, and replied by saying that Ronan and Coleman had in fact been roommates at PCH. I felt an instant connection with Maya and soon found myself very close to her family and doing anything I could to help out with the foundation they created in his honor, The Ronan Thompson Foundation. The Ronan Thompson Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to finding a cure for neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer. We are currently fundraising to create a world-class neuroblastoma research and care center dedicated to funding both traditional and non-traditional treatments to reduce the number of children affected by this disease and increase survival rates.
Childhood cancer and The Ronan Thompson Foundation are two things I am extremely passionate about and are very close to my heart. It is because of Ronan, my brother, and childhood cancer, that I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to making a difference in the childhood cancer community and doing what I can to ensure we are making progressive steps towards finally finding a cure to this terrible, life stealing beast. It is because of Ronan that I live each day with so much gratitude to be alive. It is because of Ronan that I have the courage to be brave and bold, to try new things, to live life to the fullest, and to never be afraid to stand up and speak up for those who need it most, even if my voice shakes. It is because of Ronan that I will forever stand by and work for The Ronan Thompson Foundation, on what has been an already life changing and groundbreaking journey towards finding a cure to this disease and helping provide resources to children with neuroblastoma and their families.
Although every month of my life is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, September is the official National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is during this month that we scream and shout (even louder than usual) on behalf of all the babies and children whose lives have been stolen by childhood cancer. It is during this month that we turn the world around us gold (gold is the color of the childhood cancer awareness ribbon) and hold events to garner support and raise more funds and awareness.
The moment to speak up and act is now. Every day in the United States, 46 children are diagnosed with childhood cancer and seven children die of childhood cancer. Despite these horrific statistics, childhood cancer receives just 3.8 percent of cancer research funding. So it is during September, the one month of the year dedicated to childhood cancer awareness, that I ask you to become informed, to spread this information like wildfire, and to do your part to ensure a future where childhood cancer doesn’t exist and is something only read about in history textbooks. Every child deserves a lifetime. Ronan and thousands upon thousands of other children have had their lives stolen by childhood cancer. The cycle stops here and now, but it can only be done with your help. To read Maya’s blog, visit http://www.rockstarronan.com and to learn more about Ronan, The Ronan Thompson Foundation, and the wonderful things we are doing all because of the little boy who was all good things wild and free, visit http://www.theronanthompsonfoundation.com.
There was a time in my life, not so long ago, that I might have told you that it was highly unlikely, if not impossible, that someone whom I had never met could so completely and indelibly change my life, my mindset, and the way I viewed the world around me. But that was before Ronan, before childhood cancer, and before I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that sometimes the biggest hero you’ll ever know, is a three year old child with a bald head, sparkly eyes, and a love for and appreciation of life that is greater and deeper than most human beings who have ever walked this earth. Ronan should still be here, and it is for Ronan, my brother, and all the other kids out there that I will spend every last day I have here on this earth fighting for them and being a voice for the children who were taken too soon.
How to Connect with The Ronan Thompson Foundation