Very few of you who will read this know Gracie Irish, and I have to admit I don’t know her either – at least I’ve never met her face to face. But, as a mother, I know Gracie as if she was my own child.
Shimmering on the surface of every parent’s heart is a fear so terrible we can scarcely speak of it. It can come at us like some horrible monster at any moment of the day, but usually raises its ugly head as we prepare for sleep. We close our eyes and think back over the wonderful day we’ve just spent with our family and then, unbidden, we think about the family next door, or across town, or on Facebook, who we’ve learned has a child diagnosed with that worst or the worst monsters – cancer. And then we think . . . what if it was my child?
Is there anything as a parent we can imagine worse than a monster that wants to take our child from us? Is there anything else that can strip us of all our insulation and take us down to raw emotion more than a monster that doesn’t take into account age, sex, race, income, or religious beliefs? Cancer doesn’t care. It’s an equal opportunity monster. It. Just. Doesn’t. Care.
Ted and I have known the Benser family on Mackinac Island for years. You’ve heard of them through this blog. They own several businesses on Mackinac, including Original Murdick’s Fudge. Mr. B (as we lovingly call him) is the family patriarch. Bobby, Leslie, Heidi, and Amy are his children. Gracie is Amy’s daughter.
Today Gracie is a beautiful, healthy and active 14-year-old. She’s a Freshman in high school and plays on the Junior Varsity Golf Team at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester, MI. She is taking classes in Theatre and loves to cook. When she comes to Mackinac to visit family in the summer she rides horses (another love) and swims off the dock at the marina. You would never know – looking at her now – that as a 4-year-old Gracie was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
When Gracie’s parents got the devastating news they were urged to take her immediately to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, and she was airlifted there later that same day. One of Amy’s most vivid memories of that day is being told she couldn’t accompany her daughter on the helicopter. She was crying and remembers one of the flight crew coming to sit beside her and saying, “You’re taking Gracie to a great place. My son was treated at Mott’s, and today he’s a successful college student.” That was the glimmer of hope Amy held on to through the months ahead.
Gracie’s leukemia was intensely treated for 2 1/2 years at C.S. Mott, and the summer of 2008 was a good one, including being back on Mackinac, having fun with her whole family. Then, during that winter break, she began to complain of leg pain. Her parents immediately returned her to C.S. Mott where tests revealed Gracie had a benign tumor that was a rare complication of her leukemia. Several attempts were made to surgically remove the mass, but it always returned.
Dr. Valerie Castle, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at C.S. Mott, was determined to aggressively fight Gracie’s tumor. Dr. Castle invited her colleagues to weigh in on a solution, and Gracie was given an experimental drug as part of a clinical trial. C.S. Mott is one of only a few leading children’s hospitals to have access to clinical trials. At the very first follow-up after the drug was given, they learned the tumor was shrinking – and it did not come back.
The Benser family now has a passion to support further research into treatments for patients who relapse or experience complications from leukemia. They established Gracie’s Fund for Pediatric Leukemia Research at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital several years ago. Since then, they have hosted fund-raisers and donated proceeds of fudge sales at various times of the year. The Mackinac Island community has supported their efforts from the very beginning.
There are remarkable treatment options available now for children who are diagnosed with leukemia, but for children who relapse or suffer complications – like Gracie – resources are very limited. We need to help fund more research.
During the week of Sept. 21-27 Original Murdick’s Fudge will match dollar for dollar all donations to Gracie’s Fund. You don’t have to know Gracie to give, and you don’t have to buy fudge – but Original Murdick’s Fudge does want you to join their team – Team Gracie! You can click on the link below to give $1, $10, or whatever your heart whispers for you to do. Every dollar will make a difference, and Original Murdick’s Fudge will match it. No limits. To donate, click the link highlighted below and then click on the gray box entitled “Support Original Murdick’s Fudge – Team Gracie”: http://umhealth.me/teamgracie-omf
If this blog has popped up on your Facebook newsfeed page, I’m asking you to share it, and ask your friends to share it also. This is a fantastic way to do a good deed and help give scientists the funds they need for this research. And yes, your donation is tax-deductible.
Gracie says, “Thank you!”
For more information on the “Block Out Cancer” campaign, click here: http://www.originalmurdicksfudge.com/block-out-cancer-awareness