A New ‘Normal’

 In

Rob Lewis/Marketing and Media Relations Manager

I would have guessed her age as 7, but in this group of children it was difficult to tell. Many had been engaged in a life-and-death battle against cancer for much of their young lives, and the ravages of chemotherapy, radiation, stress and nutritional challenges make age almost irrelevant. I just knew she had endured more than any child should. They all had.

Whatever her age, this blond wisp appeared to have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with her two front teeth missing and her straw-colored hair pulled into smallish pigtails. Missing teeth or not, her smile was irresistible. Seconds before I saw here, I stood with my camera to capture this cooking class for young children battling cancer and their families and was timid to point and shoot at any of them. I was frozen. The tears forming in my eyes and my Midwest sense of nonintrusive manners made recording the kick off of this Build-it Bites class a challenge. But this young, beaming face was impossible to resist.

She was putting a pitted avocado into her bowl and following the instructor’s directions for what to add to the guacamole next. I knelt to take her picture and she looked straight at the camera and said something to me that I will never forget.

“I got to wear pigtails today,” she said, wiggling her head to make her hair bounce. He mom was sitting next to her and told me that since her cancer treatment had robbed her of her hair, she had been waiting for the day when her hair would grow long enough for pigtails.

Pigtails. Eating a meal with family. Living the “normal” life of a typical kid. All things that had been taken from her. Things she was getting back bit by bit. Or bite by bite, in this case.

When you’re sick, the moment seems to go on forever. Oddly enough, the same sensation of an eternally unfolding present moment also accompanies feeling great comfort and joy. This dichotomy is a part of what makes the Cincinnati Children’s Build-it Bites program so powerful. These children have endured long moments of illness and are learning the power of nutritious and delicious foods in their recovery.

If you’d like to support their recovery, check out Share-A-Plate Cincinnati, the citywide collection of community-hosted fundraising dinners raising much-needed funds for Build-it Bites. All it takes to help is willingness to have a meal with friends. Or, if you can’t host a meal, please consider a donation to Build-It Bites by clicking here.

Let’s help give these children every tool possible in their attempt to get back to a “normal” life.