One day, my niece Maddie, ran up to her mother. Her mom was sitting on the couch punching away at the keyboard of her computer, blogging to her heart’s content. But Maddie had something way more important for her mom. Way more important than the comments her mother was anticipating from her next blog installment. Way more important than the very thoughts racing through her synaptic brain. Maddie had piece of paper in her hand, maltreated from her journey from the table to the couch.
“Mom,” she said with a anticipatory smile on her face, “Guess who is going to hilarify you!? Me!” She proudly displayed the paper. “Look! I drew pictures of babies with mustaches.”
Maddie loves mustaches. She thinks they are hilarious. Not real ones, but the fake ones, of course.
This is a picture of Maddie with her three brothers. I imagine that this is one of her favorites. Partly because of the funny mustaches, and partly because this was before she found out how fast she was going to have to grow up. Before her childlike innocence was swallowed up with the need to be brave. Here is her story as her dad tells it:
My wife started noticing that my nine-year-old girl would tuck her hand in next to her side subconsciously—a strange way to relax. Then, one day as my girl helped in the kitchen—which she loves to do—my wife tossed her an avocado. It hit her chest and fell to the floor.
“Why didn’t you catch it?” my wife asked.
“That hand doesn’t work very well,” my girl responded.
So my wife called the doctor, who told us to take her to Primary Children’s Hospital immediately. An MRI later, we found out . . . well . . . my little girl has a golf-ball-sized tumor pressing up against her brain.
Maddie just had surgery today. The surgery was successful. So successful, in fact, that it only took 4 hours instead of the 8 hours that the neurosurgeon had scheduled. But the lasting effects of the tumor are still unknown. She may have vitiation to her optic nerve. There may be irreparable damage to her pituitary gland. She may be dependent on pills or shots every day for the rest of her life. Her life will be thoroughly altered by an unwelcome and unruly mass that her own body produced. Her life won’t be ruined, but drastically different from what she imagined it to be.
Over the past few days, petitions for prayers were sent out to family and friends throughout the social network empire. The response of support was overwhelming. Responses of promises of prayers started pouring in. But one of the unsolicited consequences of the social support network was also one of the best.
Since the story of Maddie hilarifying her mom with babies and mustaches is fairly famous in our family, Maddie’s aunt posted a picture of her daughter wearing a fake mustache. Thus began the mini-phenomenon among Maddie’s family and friends. Pictures of people with fake mustaches littered my facebook newsfeed with the subject: Mustaches for Maddie.
Sometimes, I wonder why such hard things have to happen to the people we love. Why illness has to afflict the youngest bodies. But you know what? Now a young family knows that they have true friends as they begin an uncertain future. Now a little girl in the post-op floor of a hospital knows that there are people in this world willing to sacrifice for her. Even if that sacrifice is just finding some time to say a prayer, make a fake mustache, snap a picture, and hope they can help her smile through the pain.
Here are a few of the awesome Mustaches for Maddie: