Every day Maddie and I get up at 5:00 am and drive into Boston for a 6:30 radiation appointment. We've been doing it for 6 weeks. We have 6 more weeks to go. The traffic is light, there is no backup of patients at the hospital and Maddie is able to get home in time for school if she is feeling up to it. When we get to the hospital I park on the 3rd floor in the handicapped parking area. There is one spot open for non-handicapped patients and since we're the first ones there we're always able to get it. It's next to the entrance and only a short walk from the car, which is importantant if you're just wearing pajamas and slippers in the middle of the winter.
We're usually done and back to the car by 7:15 . As we leave there is always one car parked next to ours. A green Jeep Cherokee. An older woman sits in it, patiently listening to the radio with the heat turned up until she's ready to start her day somewhere in the clinic.
At first we used wonder who this woman was and why she was there so early in the morning. I'm sure she thought the same of us, especially since Maddie was always in her her pink pajamas. One day she smiled and waved at Maddie and Maddie smiled and waved back. Each day we came out of the clinic and looked for our new friend, a bright smile widening on each of their faces whenever they spotted one another. Eventually we introduced ourselves. Her name was Denise and Maddie told her the story of how she had cancer and was undergoing chemo and radiation treatments. The next day Maddie brought her one of her Maddie Bracelets and presented it to her. Denise said she was honored to wear it.
A few weeks later we stopped seeing Denise. We watched for her but we didn't see her. It was just after New Year's and we thought perhaps she was on vacation. We were halfway down the exit ramp one morning when Maddie spotted her pulling in. "There she is", Maddie said excitedly. I stopped the car, put it in reverse, and quickly backed up the ramp to the parking area so we could say hello.
I could tell Denise was excited to see Maddie too. She parked quickly, leaving her car angled across two spaces. She opened her door, got out, and headed towards us. It was the first time we'd seen her outside the car. Maddie rolled down her window and asked her where she'd been. "I have a new leg", she replied. And then she told us all about it, how it was lighter than the one she had before and she had to re-learn to keep her balance on it.
I didn't think too much about it until I received the following email from Denise:
HI MY NAME IS DENISE I CAME TO KNOW MADDIE IN THE PARKING AREA. I WORK AT DFCI FOR 23 YEARS NOW. SHE HAS BRING SO MUCH HOPE TO ME, CAUSE I WAS FEELING SO DOWN ABOUT HAVEN TO USE A SCOOTER TO DO MY JOB NOW. I HAVE ONE LEG SENSE 1979. SO I AM GOING TO SMILE ALL THE TIME LIKE HER. SHE IS THE HOPE FOR ME KNOW. THANKS MADDIE FROM DENISE
As I read this I thought about Maddie and all the other kids with cancer. You can't help but be motivated when you see them. They are full of hope, and joy and courage. They radiate an inner strength and beauty. Spend some time in the presence of any of these kids and you will never quite be the same….especially when they smile at you.
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