This evening I went to a kirtan class, and although I feel like it probably “should” clear my mind, I tend to think a lot while I am chanting. But somehow the thoughts seem clearer, and I am to be able to work things out while I am thinking, without getting caught up in familiar patterns. While I was there today, I decided that I wanted to write this post when I got home but I’ll warn you now, it’s going to be unashamedly sentimental and I’m going to try and tug at your heartstrings. Ready?
This is my beautiful niece who is now two and a half. Until she was born I didn’t really understand how much you could love a child who is not your own. I am hopelessly in love with her and what she did for our family when she arrived as the first baby, the first niece, the first grandchild, in July 2007 cannot be underestimated. She helped to turn our family from one that not very nice things happened to, to one blessed with a beautiful, exuberant, intelligent and hugely charismatic little girl. She loves my parents almost as much as they love her, and my brother adores being an Uncle. So why am I telling you all of this?
Just before Christmas, my sister bumped into a lady she met through one of the various baby groups she had attended when my niece was born. My sister hadn’t seen this mum around for a while, and soon discovered why. Her little girl, Stella, who is the same age as my niece, my diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer when she was 17 months old. I’m not an expert on the condition but from what I have read, Neuroblastoma is pretty much as bad as it can get for a child of that age. Her chances of survival with the treatment available in the UK are just 20%. To bring her chances up to 80% the family were campaigning to send Stella to the US for antibody therapy not available in England. The major drawback was the price: £250,000.
Hearing about this from somebody even loosely connected to my niece obviously touched everybody in my family. After I had donated some money, I posted the link on twitter and was thrilled when one of my online friends in American donated (thank you M). Then while I was in India I had an email from my parents saying that they were organising a quiz for Stella’s appeal (all I could think was, I'm so lucky my parents are good people). Although they attend a lot of quizzes my parents had never organised one before, but soon they were making plans to borrow tables and chairs to accommodate 30 teams of 8 people each – that’s 240 people! Despite feeling very stressed on the day and worried about keeping that many people entertained, everybody pulled together and it all went well (although sadly I couldn’t be there). The end result was fantastic – not only did everybody have lots of fun, but when the sums were done they had collected £2,500 – or as my Dad put it, 1% of the total. Of course that’s fantastic, but there is still a long way to go. The curent total stands at just over £15,000. Having completed treatment here in the UK (as it says on her website: "70 days of aggressive chemotherapy; major surgery to remove the primary tumour; a stem cell rescue that wipes out her bone marrow, three weeks of radio therapy and six months of oral chemotherapy") Stella is actually in America starting treatment as we speak, and the family have been allowed to start it when only a fraction of the money has been raised. So now the pressure is really on…
I appreciate that there are many, many stories like this and other causes which you might feel are more deserving of your money because they will help more people. Afterall, this is a lot of money needed to help “just” one little girl. But I know, and I am sure most of you do too, that is that one little girl was your little girl, or your niece, or your best friend’s baby, or your neighbour, you would do whatever you possibly could to keep her here. The alternative is impossible to contemplate.
So what occurred to me during my class this evening was that if everybody who read this blog, all of the people in my beautiful worldwide cyber sangha donated just the cost of a regular yoga class, whether that is $15, £10, €7: whatever it may be, then that could be your little dose of karma yoga for the day. And if you feel like it, maybe you could leave a comment and tell me that you’ve done it, or label your donation in some way, or else stay completely anonymous. The choice is yours. I’m making my karmayoga donation this evening and holding both of my baby nieces in my heart while I do so, thinking there but for the grace of God…
Here is the link for the donation: http://www.justgiving.com/Stella-appeal
And you can read full details about Stella, her treatment and the campaign here: http://www.forstella.org/
I also think it's important to point out that none of the money they are raising is to cover travel or living expenses for the 6 months that Stella and her Mum will be in Philadelphia for the treatment.