First of all, there are no braver souls in this world than the men and women of the Armed Forces, protecting us and fighting for our freedom, AND, the millions of men and women undergoing cancer treatments and fighting for their lives.
With cancer being the enemy, our plan is to begin putting together a voluntary Army of troops ready to take their positions on the battlefield with us. And, it seemed only natural to place a courageous, young Soldier at the helm.
The Soldier is a symbol of strength, courage and the determination it takes to defeat the enemy. Camouflage (or Camo) is an essential part of military tactics and it greatly diminishes the chances of the enemy identifying the location of strategic points.
We adopted a military theme, made Camo our colors and "Combat Cancer" emerged as our battle cry. And, before we knew it, An Army Like No Other took on a life of its own.
But wait! Let's back up... what happened to cause us to wage this full scale offense?
One day my Mom called to inform me that my cousin, Donna, wasn't doing very well and to say a prayer. Donna had been diagnosed with colon cancer a couple years ago and it had spread. We had just lost another cousin, Elizabeth, to brain cancer this past winter and, sadly to say, two uncles, before that.
It was April 14th- I remember because the next day was tax day. As we were fixing dinner, I told my husband, Craig, about Mom's phone call and that I just couldn't sit by and watch this again. I have to do something, I told him.
I remember him saying, sympathetically, in a voice he uses when he doesn't want me to worry. "Honey, there's really nothing we can do except to tell her she's in our thoughts and prayers, to hang in there and fight the good fight." I know he meant well but I thought, that's what we've always done and look where it got us!.
Later on, I went to bed, Donna weighing heavily on my mind, wondering what I could do to help her. While sleeping, a simple plan began forming within my heart and mind.
I don't know if this all came about due to my "long" military upbringing as an Air Force brat, the recent news of the Navy Seals taking control of the pirate situation on the high seas, playing with a new set of toy soldiers with my grandson or something that stayed with me after all those years of watching Toy Story with my grandkids. There's a cute scene in the movie where the soldiers come to life, (as all the toys do) and they sneak downstairs, on a mission to find out what new toys Andy's opening at his birthday party. (The older toys were struggling with replacement anxiety issues...)
Anyway, I awoke around midnight thinking of a brave squadron of little Army men going inside Donna's body, locating the cancer and blasting it to bits with all the military might they could muster.
I got up, went to my computer (a writer's lifeline) and in a few minutes I had written a poem called An Army Like No Other. I went to the toy box, dug around and pulled out the standard "Army issue" Soldier that had probably been there, off duty, for years. But, it was all a part of the plan and so I packaged him up in a little zip lock craft bag, attached the poem and created his very own Military Service Record.
Around 1:30a.m. I was emailing Donna telling her I couldn't sleep and told her about the poem. This is what I sent her, that early morn of April 15th
Eventually, Donna got the very first Soldier deployed. Steve got the second. My hope is that someday we won't have to send anyone a Soldier or inspirational messages wrapped in a poem. Someday, I want the Soldiers where they belong, in the bottom of the toy box.
Now, some of you will still see this Soldier as a toy. You might even think back to a time and place when young boys played Army on the battlefield floor with the sputtering sound effects of warfare. But, for cancer patients, this Soldier is something, literally and figuratively, to hold on to. Small yet powerful, it personifies strength, courage and the determination to conquer the enemy.
This Soldier can be held tightly during and after a grueling chemo session, he can tag along to all doctor appointments and stand guard during the long nights. He can represent you or someone you love. He can be given a name, a rank and a home. In return, the Soldier gives an encouraging promise of support.
This poem is also dedicated to all those that we have loved and lost. It's for my Uncle Bill, my Uncle Roy, Pamela Rose, better known by her only granddaughter as Ga-Ga. It's for Eldon, our big, loveable Jayhawk and a sweet, gentle soldier named Sarge. It's for Bud and Bernie's gals, old friends we've laughed with and cried with. For good old Harold Michael, and for our Southern Belle, Pauline. I miss you all.
It's for your fathers, your mothers, your sisters and brothers. Your friends, coworkers and neighbors. All those people who, one day went to a doctor's appointment and, in the blink of an eye, received the devastating results of a routine blood test. News that changes a person's life forever. Just an ordinary day like the one you and I are having right now.
So, since we know that no one is immune from cancer, not by age, race, nationality or status, then, we have to recommit ourselves, call out the "troops" and continue to do whatever we can to support the ongoing work of research labs across the country. The cure is there, somewhere hidden among the test tubes or in a chemical equation that is yet to be written.
This campaign is for ALL these folks I've named and those whom I've never met. And, yet, we all have one thing in common and that's the fact that cancer has touched our lives and brought us together.
I don't want there to be anymore cancer, no more robbing us of someone we love, and, I know you don't either, so, we hope you will join this strategic mission by sharing this information with others and purchasing gifts from the Combat Cancer Collection. The keepsakes from the Collection can be given to cancer patients, purchased by caregivers and volunteers to show continued support, sold at local fundraisers, or, held dearly as a memento, in honor of a "fallen comrade".
As soon as your Soldier reports for duty, go to our interactive web site. Register your Soldier and you'll be able to see him standing united with all the other "troops" on our Mission Map. On the map, you can click on any Soldier and his name, rank and where he is "stationed" will appear.
The Combat Cancer website, designed by Frank Chapman, is a tribute to each and every patient, family member, caregiver, volunteer & loyal supporter in the vast cancer community. I can't thank him enough for bringing my 'late night vision' to life.
So, like that patriotic Uncle Sam poster of yesteryear - We Want You! Won't you enlist as one of our Recruitment Officers? It's the easier job in the Army, all you have to do is tell everyone you know about the Combat Cancer Campaign and our web site. Tell them about our Soldiers and how they are being deployed all over the country. Together, we're the troops on the front lines and there's no surrender in us.
And, finally, to my dear cousin, Donna, hang in there, keep fighting the fight and never, ever give up. (Love ya Cuz, Linda)
Donna never, ever gave up but she lost her courageous battle with colon cancer on August 2, 2009. She fought clear to the end, bless her heart, but the enemy simply overpowered her. We are dedicated to the effort of raising funds for cancer research through Combat Cancer, now, more than ever before, and will continue our commitment with Donna in our hearts and our Soldiers at the helm.