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"I Dance for More Christmases"

I dance for more Christmases. The Christmas season has always been my favorite time of the year. I love to have fun with friends and family, and it seems like throughout the holidays, this is just about everyone’s first priority. The end of the year is also a great time to reflect on what you are thankful for in the past year, and optimism for what is to come in the next year. In a time that should be filled with celebration and looking forward to the future, though, some families do the exact opposite.

In December 2009, my younger brother, Will, who was nine years old, told my parents about a birthmark on his leg that had recently changed. My parents decided to have his birthmark removed, which they thought was being overly-cautious. However, on December 15th, my parents got a call that tests on the birthmark came back looking very suspicious, and Will would eventually be diagnosed with stage IIIb malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The surgeons in Dubuque referred Will to the pediatric oncologists at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, where his appointment would be December 31st. The holidays should be a nine year old’s favorite time of year, but it quickly turned into days of worry for him, my family, and loved ones around us. How bad is this? What would our family look like at the end of next year?

Will eventually went through two surgeries to remove larger portions of skin and lymph nodes around his original lesion, as well as a year of Interferon chemotherapy, and was declared “No Evidence of Disease” on March 4th, 2010 (he will be 8-years cancer free the day after the Big Event this year!). The feelings that our family experienced during Christmas that year have really stuck with me. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about anything during Christmas except making the “nice list,” and families shouldn’t have to go through their favorite times of the year without the people who make it so great.

Unfortunately, there are so many families and kids that go through each holiday worried for the future or without the people who should be there. That’s why we dance - for an end to childhood illness and a time when all families can celebrate the holidays without any worry or fear.

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