By Liz Scott
|Happy birthday, Alex!|
Alex’s birthday is this Sunday, January 18 – she would be 19. This past Saturday we held The Lemon Ball, our annual gala. It’s a birthday party for Alex, in a way, as well as a celebration of everything she has made possible. This year the Lemon Ball raised more than $1 million for childhood cancer research – which is pretty incredible. Seeing the little girls in their fancy dresses staying up late makes me think about how much Alex would have enjoyed it.
I speak at the Lemon Ball, and I always try to share what is in my heart, but it gets increasingly difficult each year because my heart is full of so much gratitude that there aren’t words cannot describe how lucky I feel.
I marvel at what has happened since Alex opened up her first lemonade stand nearly 15 years ago. Back then I was still so full of hope that Alex would be cured. She held that same hope and wanted to share it by ensuring that other children had the chance to be cured. It was amazing how, from day one, family and friends, as well as complete strangers, responded to Alex’s story. That continued throughout the years of her life, with each year bringing more support for her efforts, allowing her to raise more than $1 million in her lifetime toward cures for the disease that would take her life. Now, her “little” lemonade stand has surpassed $100 million raised and has funded more than 475 research projects.
It has certainly been a magical journey in many ways, though I admit there have been many moments that have been far from magical. Throughout Alex’s 7.5 year fight with cancer, I was desperate for something magical to occur, for a miracle that could give her the cure she deserved. As much as I wanted that, no one wanted it more than Alex. I once heard Alex ask her older brother if he believed in miracles… when he did not quickly respond, she jumped in and said “I do! I mean I could wake up one day and my cancer could be gone, that would be a miracle.” That was Alex, always the optimist, always hopeful that a cure was around the corner. And, incredibly, even when she knew that her cure would not arrive in time, she never gave up believing that cures for other children were possible. She knew how much research had helped her, she lived half of her life on experimental treatments. She also came to realize that the research had not yet advanced enough to save her; though that disappointed Alex very much, she decided to do all she could to change that for other kids. She wanted to make sure that there was more research, more opportunities for kids to be cured, and that other kids would not have to hope for a miracle that would never come – instead they would know that their cancer could be cured.
For a while, it was hard for me to reconcile the fact that Alex did so much to help others while the cure that she needed eluded her. But over the past few of years, something transformative happened. We have seen progress being made with help from Alex’s Lemonade Stand -- we have heard stories of kids who have been given a chance at life because of research we have funded. In most cases, these kids, like Alex, were running out of treatment options and wanted so badly to be cured, and their parents were just like us, their hearts broken over and over with each day that their child’s cancer did not respond to treatment. To think that kids could get the “miracle cure” they so deserved and to imagine the joy and relief that their parents felt, made everything come full circle. I know that I will never come to terms with the fact that Alex was not cured, it will never be right and there will never be anything that can make it right. But I also know that despite this fact, her life itself was truly a miracle. Alex didn’t get the miracle cure, but the way that she took advantage of the time she was given to help others, the way she inspired others with her courage, and the hope that her life has provided are incredible evidence of that. And even though there have been many tough times when life didn’t feel miraculous at all, it is obvious to me now that the magic has been there all along and continues to contribute to true miracles.
At The Lemon Ball, there were so many reminders of those miracles. Miracles like our honoree Cole, who is a 7 year survivor of Stage IV Neuroblastoma, the same cancer that Alex had. Or miracles like Charlotte, who is a two time brain tumor survivor. There were also children and parents who did not get their miracles and those still waiting for cures. We are dedicated to making that possible, and all of our volunteers and supporters across the country and world will not stop until Alex’s mission is achieved – cures for all kids with cancer.
So, as I remember Alex, rather than dwelling on the fact that she didn’t get the one big miracle she was looking for in her lifetime, I celebrate the fact that her life was, and will continue to be, the catalyst to more miracles than we could ever count.
Happy birthday, Alex – you are truly a miracle!