Sunday, May 12, 2013

Vic and Eli left at 4 a.m. last Sunday on an unexpected trip to the Talladega Superspeedway to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Aaron’s 499 race. An organization with which we have been blessed to be involved called me late last Thursday afternoon to offer us two tickets and pit passes to the weekend’s race. The offer was bittersweet. The reason the tickets were available is because a boy in Indiana who is battling cancer was suppose to go with his dad but is not doing well. I believe I understood that he would indeed be victorious in his battle soon. The parents contacted this organization requesting it help them offer the tickets to another cancer kid with similar interests. This organization could have more easily picked someone from Birmingham, closer to Talladega, but for some reason our representative thought of
Eli with his love of cars. Our immediate reaction was, of course, just pure excitement due to the event itself. Then we had a sad appreciation for the reason behind the gift. We don’t know the boy’s name or his age, but it was an honor to serve as a substitute. I was thrilled for the two to go, especially with Eli’s obsession and Vic’s interest as a hobby mechanic, but I thought often about what that family was doing that Sunday instead of what it had planned or hoped to be doing. My heart was torn all day as Vic texted me the exciting things they were doing and I would think about the other mama at her home living out a nightmare. For us, anything we do with Eli, or as a complete family, these days is icing it seems like, almost like time we are not supposed to have anyway. So, for Eli to be able to go and to go as a
proxy for a cancer peer just fuels our thanksgiving and humbles our hearts as we continue to reap blessings in this earthly life. The only request made to us in accepting the tickets was to take a lot of pictures, so I am going to share the gist of effort in the hopes that they will be able to see the pictures. As you view these pictures, please keep in your prayers this child who should have been in seat #4; this precious daddy who was supposed to be taking pictures with his son in front of race cars; and the mama who had to come to the realization that they were not going and instead of packing snacks and an emergency poncho made the painful effort of preparing the package of special tickets to mail to strangers. Every day I can sense the comfort and protection of God’s hand around us, so please always include thanks for Eli’s health and progress.

So, as I said, last Sunday, they left at 4 a.m. to take advantage of the 8 a.m. pit pass which got them into the heart of the track where all the action of race prep takes place. They were pretty much allowed to just walk around, I think. While in there, they met Chipper Jones, who was the MC for the event. Vic said Chipper was just walking around and he yelled at him. Vic said, “I actually yelled ‘hey, Chipper,’ and he turned around!” Notice in the picture how much bigger he is than Vic. Vic is 6-feet 200-lbs with a melon head, but Chipper’s whole head and even just facial features look so much bigger and look how huge his hand is on Eli’s shoulder.  Vic gave him a bracelet and he said he saw him put it on as he was walking off. He said there was some McCarron guy walking around, too, but nobody seemed to care so he didn’t think
"Hey, Chipper!"
much of it either
J Vic said that everything just seemed to always work out for them everywhere they went, even their parking spot was really good. He said that Eli just seemed to have an aura that attracted the right people. A NASCAR official saw them and got them into the driver meeting which Vic said only about 50 people got in. While in there the driver of the no. 11 FedEx car saw Eli and came over to sign his toy car. If you’ve followed Eli for very long you know about our FedEx peeps and how much they have done for Eli. In a care package hand-delivered to us at Target House by our Memphis friend Ray was a 1:24 no. 11 FedEx race car, a really good diecast collector’s car. I talked the guys into taking it with them just in case and I had Eli to wear his FedEx hat. He had the car in his hand (of course) at the meeting and FedEx
car driver Denny Hamlin saw him. He came over to sign it for Eli before the meeting started. Hamlin is injured and it was planned for him to start the race, but substitute Brian Vickers took over very early in the race. After the meeting, they got to see all the cars being brought out to the pit row. Vickers saw Eli and invited him to come behind the barriers to have his picture made with the no. 11 car. He told Eli that if he won the race, he would take him on the victory lap with him. On lap 43, Vickers was in the eighth spot, and suddenly that seemed like a real possibility, but Kyle Busch caused a 14-car pile-up which took out the no. 11 car. Eli wouldn’t have lasted until the final lap anyway, so as the clouds started to darken and Eli began to tire, Vic left and as he was pulling out the red flag was raised and the race stopped. So, they were
ahead of the crowd getting out to come home and made it back in time for worship service Sunday night. They both had a tremendous experience, and one we would not have ever had on our own.

We have slammed our goals for collecting R/C cars for St. Jude, both in the money raised and the cars bought, just completely blown it away. I did finally shut down the collection site so people could save their money for the next project. I will have a final total soon with pictures. I can’t believe that Eli’s next scan is less than four weeks away. Though I can’t know for sure if anything is going on, he seems to look and feel good. His school had field day and he
Mommy spies Jeff Gordon!!
participated just as the other kids did and had karate that same day as well. He was worn out, but so was everybody else. His appetite is up and I am having a hard time keeping him filled with healthy stuff. He is getting bad about telling me he is hungry, but when I offer or prepare something healthy for him, he changes his mind – his sister does that, too. He and Caleb both had well-check visits scheduled with our local pediatrician and it was the best doctor’s visit we’ve ever had. Nobody had anything to talk about, no concerns, no curiosities, no comments. Eli will be re-immunized I think in September b/c of the stem cell transplants that he received during treatment. I think it kind of dilutes his bone marrow, or something like that. His growth was fine for now, he is in the 75th percentile in height. His labs will
Denny Hamlin signing Eli's no. 11 car.
tell St. Jude if the pituitary gives out, but the Ped said that we should know within the year if he is not growing. I think traditionally patients start growth hormone replacement in about a year off treatment, so I’m putting a lot of hope in this little pituitary gland supplement that we are using from our homeopath doc, although I really feel that it is a long-shot to overcome the destruction of radiation. I’ve written before about not expecting to escape this evil without a scratch, but still you hope, wait and watch for what might be coming for these kids. I read a lot about social issues for brain tumor kids, and I can see it coming for Eli as well. It is hard to put your finger on, because all the kids are so sweet to him. Many older kids even still like to say hi to him. But by this age all the other boys are a lot stronger than Eli, heavily involved in competitive
athletics, and Eli will never be able to be. So, a chasm has already begun to deepen and separate. My oldest daughter is not social, doesn’t have close friends, so it will at least not be new for us to deal with and thankfully Vic makes a good playmate, but still relationships beyond family is so important to life. One day at a time, though, right? And, for these days we are in, he is doing exceptionally well.

We have had a big Mother’s Day weekend that I will share in another post. Last Mother’s Day, I was in the throes of chemo with Eli. I have not gone back to read my posts during this time last year, but I don’t remember even a passing thought of wanting or wishing to be anywhere but right there with him getting done what needed to be
Brian Vickers with Eli and Vic.
done. The depth of my thankfulness and appreciation for where I am today cannot be measured. Please, remember the mamas this weekend that sit bed-side of a child, and those that wish they could sit bed-side again.
History-making Danica Patrick's car.
I think this is Jeff Gordon's car, and I think I see "Eli" painted on it!

2 comments:

  1. I love that Eli is smiling in these photos! I am so glad he got to go to Talladega, see all that he did, and meet the people that he did. What a wonderful experience for him and Vic. I think it speaks volumes about you and your family that you not only recognize but acknowledge the other family. Your concern and gratitude seeps through in every word. I will add that family to the growing list of children and families that I pray for-so many that I have learned of through Eli and his battle. As always, keeping prayers for Eli at the top!

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  2. Thank you! We will Never Ever Give Up (NEGU) and we will never ever forget.

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