Never lose sight of love

The idea that your child is sick and may not sur­vive is enough to break any of us

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - STACEY (ES­COTT) MAR­SHALL Stacey Es­cott Mar­shall lives in Hamil­ton

Good news is hard to find these days and this is not a good news story. Rather, it’s a re­minder of what’s re­ally im­por­tant. Never lose sight of the love you have for fam­ily and friends and the time you have to­gether. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the lit­tle things that, in the end, don’t mat­ter. I was re­cently re­minded of just how frag­ile and heart­break­ing love can be.

It’s a sit­u­a­tion you never want to deal with. Words you never want to hear. De­ci­sions you never want to make. Thoughts you never want to think about. The idea that your child is sick, that she might not make it, that she’s go­ing to feel pain you can’t imag­ine, it’s enough to break any of us.

Not Michael Martinez. Michael and his wife, Dorothy, have a won­der­ful son in Cris­tiano and they had a beau­ti­ful daugh­ter in Anya. Anya was di­ag­nosed with leukemia when she was just two years old. She and her fam­ily fought like hell for eight dif­fi­cult years — years of tremen­dous highs and lows, feel­ings of hope for the fu­ture and de­spair for what may never be. Her father stood stoic through a very tough battle and their fam­ily ral­lied to­gether for what is unimag­in­able to most of us. Anya’s par­ents never let de­feat be­come an op­tion. When a treat­ment or trial didn’t work, they found an­other one. They fought for med­i­cal cov­er­age to make some of the tri­als in the U.S. hap­pen. They looked to the com­mu­nity for sup­port — a com­mu­nity who cared deeply — for do­na­tions to help save their daugh­ter. It worked. And then it didn’t.

What was sup­posed to be a rally cry for an ail­ing an­gel on Labour Day be­came an un­ex­pected mo­ment of mourn­ing. And there was her dad, stand­ing in the mid­dle of a crowd of hun­dreds of peo­ple, mostly strangers, hug­ging each and ev­ery one of them. It was odd to see the pain in his face, be­cause he al­ways hid it so well. But backed by his sup­port net­work, he came down to an­nounce his daugh­ter’s pass­ing, just hours af­ter she left. He was, af­ter all this time, bro­ken.

The com­mu­nity showed up once again, as they have for years, to do what­ever they could to help the fam­ily. Their love could be seen in so many ways: do­na­tions, mes­sages, prayers, gifts, signs and uni­corn bal­loons. Ev­ery time Michael put out a call for help, they an­swered.

To all the par­ents who are there for their chil­dren the way the Martinez fam­ily was, I’m in awe. To Anya, a young girl who had such strength and de­ter­mi­na­tion and the will to live, I’ll never for­get you.

Life is un­fair and it’s dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend why we lose sons and daugh­ters, chil­dren and ba­bies. Hug your chil­dren tight, and then hug them even tighter.

If I ever think of those thoughts we don’t want to think about — if my kids ever need me the way Anya needed her fam­ily — I only hope I have half of the strength that Michael and the Martinez fam­ily had for her for all of those years. Love and fam­ily truly are ev­ery­thing.


The Martinez fam­ily: left to right, Anya, Dorothy, Cris­tiano and Michael. Leukemia took Anya from her fam­ily on the Labour Day week­end.

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