27 seconds is how long it takes a five-year-old girl to say “I love you” to her father for the last time in her life. I know this because four years ago today, I recorded Gabby saying it. Four years ago, at 7pm, I recorded Gabby saying it. The whole recording is 27 seconds long. The next day she would have her biopsy. She was never the same after that. It hurts every time I think about the fact that I have those words recorded and will never have any new ones. It’s been a while since I have written. When Gabby was first diagnosed, I was writing every few days. After we lost her to cancer, I wrote monthly. I don’t believe I have written anything in the last year. The year flew by, Maddie is now 13, Katie is now 11, and Xander is now 2. Carolynn runs the house, the foundation, and is a pet sitter while I work in an elementary school, in a restaurant, help with the foundation, and work on my Masters degree in education. Our lives go on, however even though they do, we are always missing a piece of us.
I was having a conversation with a co-worker today and she apologized for asking about Gabby. I stressed that I love talking about Gabby. The truth is, my biggest fear is the day that no one asks about her. Maddie barely says her name and I have other distant family members that don’t as well. These are the things that really scare me. The fact that she will be forgotten and will become just a statistic is one of the reasons we at the Get Well Gabby Foundation are fighting for other children. I don’t remember what Gabby’s hand felt like, I don’t remember how she smelled, and I don’t remember the feeling of her cheek pressed up against mine when she hugged me. I’ll never remember those things again, I won’t get them back. This is why we fight. I want to live in a world where no father hears his daughter say, “I love you” for the last time because of Cancer.
People have asked why we haven’t changed the name of the foundation. Gabby didn’t get well, she passed away from cancer. The thing is, you can replace Gabby’s name with the name of any child. It can happen in a second. May 31st, 2011, Kids didn’t die in my world. On that day, it only happened to other people and would never happen to my family. On June 1st, I was proven wrong and it happened to us. On June 2nd, I said “Good Night” to my daughter. On June 3rd, a little girl trapped in her body and brain woke up. A little girl who was a shell of what she once was.
F*ck cancer, cancer sucks, I can keep going with the numerous saying I have seen about cancer in the last four years. A more accurate saying is Cancer kills; it crushes, and decimates every aspect of the family it attacks. Four years later and it is still terrorizing us. I can’t look at my 2 year old son and my other daughters and wonder if they could get diagnosed today or tomorrow. A fear I will have forever! Before people say, that’s no way to live, I know that. I wish I didn’t think these things. This is not how I treat my children but the thoughts I have inside creates a huge fear that one of my other children could get a cancer diagnosis any time. Four years later, we have gotten very good at hiding our fears and our pain. Healthy or not, it’s how we get through the day so we can make sure our other children are thriving. People have told me that I should let Gabby rest. I should stop talking about the things that make me sad about her. It’s my opinion that they have never lost a child; they will never know how it feels to try to “let go” of a daughter or a son. I will talk about her every day just like I talk about my other children every day. Carolynn and I have become amazing actors getting through the day with three other amazing children who will do amazing things with their lives. It doesn’t mean the fear every goes away for us. The illusion that this can only happen to other families is gone forever.
Although I have said all the bad things that cancer does, it did one thing inadvertently to our family that it didn’t see coming. Cancer inspired us to go on for our other children and yours. To fight, to keep Gabby’s name alive. To be a force in the fight against pediatric cancer. To make sure that a father’s last time he hears the words “I love you” from his child will be on his deathbed but not hers.
In the month of May we held a campaign for each person to donate a dollar a day in May. We raised $3,510! Anyone who didn’t get a chance to help in May tonight is your chance to help this month. I am asking you to donate $27. $1 for each of the last 27 seconds that Gabby said “I Love You” for the final time. The money we are raising will be used towards our grant to Nemours A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, to help more children financially through our Gabby’s Gift program, and to help fund pediatric cancer research. We love your comments and your likes. But tonight we need more than just likes and comments. With the changes to Facebook, we need you to share our post. As soon as you finish reading this, click “share” right now. Help us spread awareness and reach more people to help us make a difference for these children. Right after you share please go to www.getwellgabby.org and donate $27 tonight! Don’t wait till tomorrow. It only takes five minutes and everyone has five minutes to help make a difference! We can’t do it without you. If we can get just 1% of the people who like this page to donate, that would be over $11,000. Please help us make a difference in the lives of the 46 children that are diagnosed today.
Believe in Gabby
Believe we can make a difference
Believe 27 seconds is not enough
John (Gabby, Madison, Katie, and Xander’s Daddy)