I have mentioned the ALL list serv in other posts. It was the first place that we were able to connect to similarly situated families. We grew very close to a few of the other families from this list serv. From the beginning, there was one mom, Nancy, who always seemed to have sage advice. Her son, Dale, had been through many difficulties during treatment, and as a result, Nancy is really an expert in childhood leukemia (or a “momcologist”). But more important than her willingness to teach, Nancy is incredibly compassionate, always offering other parents reassurance. On the list serv, Nancy is an “old-timer”, meaning that her son completed treatment many years ago. So last November, when we got the email that Dale had relapsed, we were shaken.
Childhood leukemia is really an insidious evil because it can wait years to rear its ugly head again. Dale should have been “cured,” but he was not. Coincidentally, Dale’s relapse corresponded with our move to Maryland, and Nico ended up being treated in the same clinic as Dale. I met Nancy and Dale, and her online persona is no joke. She is as genuine, warm and kind in person as she is over email.
Dale returned home on Saturday after enduring many rounds of intense chemotherapy, radiation and then a bone marrow transplant. He spent almost nine months in the hospital. Dale returned home, however, so that he could leave this world from his own house. Infections and complications rendered modern medicine useless, and nothing else could be done medically for Dale.
Dale’s family wrote: “We had every plan that when he came home from the hospital healthy that we would have people lining the street, welcoming him home. Clearly our plans are different. However, we still want to welcome Dale home, even if the time home will be short.”
Jeff, Nico and I wanted to welcome Dale home. We remember, very well, what these gestures of support meant to us during the worst of our trials. So we went, and we are so glad that we did. The street to Dale’s home was lined with people for blocks, signs of welcome, Dale’s school band played their fight song, his scout troop stood at attention and banners waved. The scene told the story of Dale’s life. Hundreds and hundreds of people waiting in the July sun for hours to make sure that Dale left this world knowing how his life had touched and changed it. It was amazing and beautiful and devastating.
Bad things happen to good people. Life is not fair in any way. But these particular people have taught me what dignity, grace, and compassion in the face of unimaginable heartache looks like.
Goodbye, Sweet Dale.