It’s been a few weeks since I posted an update and a lot sure has happened. The Christmas holidays and early January were odd for me since we didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the Diamond State Classic (national girls high school basketball tournament) and the Wilmington Classic (Wilmington Fire Dept vs Wilmington Police Dept ice hockey game). The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is the beneficiary of both events and we miss getting together with both groups.
What I am about to share is NOT a political statement! I am sharing my daughter, Ali’s, FB post from January 20th. She wrote not about a politician but about a compassionate exchange that we had. I hope you will read this the way we intend it. As you know from reading my journal updates, I steer clear of politics. Childhood cancer impacts ALL kids – kids of Republican, Democratic, and Independent families – and, The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is apolitical and we strive to help them ALL!!! No child should get cancer!
Having grown up in Delaware, I have many “Joe Biden stories.” Many Delawareans do.
We are parishioners at the same church. We enjoy the same breakfast spot on Sundays. We are both University of Delaware graduates. His son Beau thoughtfully reached out to my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer, knowing that our family had just fought cancer with Andrew, and my mom did the same for Beau when he was later diagnosed. And much more. In little Delaware, our paths cross often.
Interestingly, generations of my family before me and the Bidens made the same move: from Scranton, PA and neighboring Carbondale, PA, to Claymont, DE, and then to Wilmington, DE.
Despite all of the connections mentioned above, my favorite “Joe Biden story” took place in November 2011. Vice President Biden invited my family to meet with him in the West Wing of the White House. It wasn’t a political meeting…it was personal.
It was 4 years after my brother died at the age of 14 following a 167-day battle against childhood cancer.
Then-Vice President Biden spoke to us from his heart. Quite honestly, he felt like family. He had followed Andrew’s fight with childhood cancer and wanted to check in on us to see how my dad was doing, as he too is a grieving father who knows the pain of losing a child. At the time of our meeting, Vice President Biden had lost his first wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi. Since our meeting, tragedy struck the Bidens again when his son Beau died after battling brain cancer.
We sat in the Vice President’s office in the West Wing and he told us that he will never forget Neilia and Naomi. He told us what it was like for him in the weeks, months, and years following their deaths. He spoke to us as a father years down the path we were now on. We were members of a club you never want to be a part of. He spoke to us of what the next weeks, months, and years of our grief rollercoaster could look like. Because he’s been riding that same rollercoaster since 1972.
He encouraged me, a then 21-year-old grieving sister, to follow my dreams. He recognized that as a grieving big sister, I may feel a pull to live for both myself and my brother (and he was right — I did and do), but he reminded me of the importance of pursuing my dreams and that my brother would be proud of me.
He spoke to my dad not as a politician, but Dad to Dad. Grieving father to grieving father.
As we talked and time passed, the Vice President’s staffers periodically popped in ready to shuffle us out and get him to his next meeting. But, he’d say, “just a few more minutes.” We were struck by how much time he gave us on what was surely a busy day for him. For Joe Biden, it wasn’t about just crossing off appointments from that day’s schedule; instead, our time together was important to him and he gave us extra time because he wanted to have this important conversation with us.
He spoke to my grieving family as a grieving father and husband and it meant so much to us.
If you live in PA or NJ, are 16-17 years old, and qualify for the vaccine based upon your medical condition (cancer or otherwise), and would like to be interviewed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A reporter from a Philadelphia television station is doing a story and looking for people to interview.
ACCELERATE is a global, childhood cancer research collaboration that brings together industry (pharma), academics (hospital researchers), regulators (FDA in the US, EMA in the EU), and advocates (us!) across multiple continents. I am very proud to say that The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is the largest funder of this impressive collaboration. While we are not able to have our annual conference in Brussels, Belgium in person next week, we will hold it virtually. It’s an exciting two-day program that will be include key players from dozens of countries around the world. The upside to holding it virtually is that more people can attend and you don’t have to pay to get to Belgium. The registration fee is very nominal and there’s still time to sign up for the conference which will be held on 4 February and 5 February (have to speak their language 🙂
To sign up, please visit ACCELERATE 9th Paediatric Oncology Conference.
Please wear your mask, wash your hands, get your vaccine, and stay safe. A very good friend of mine and Founding B+ Board Member, Greg Murphy, was recently discharged after 32 days in the ICU. This really hit home.
Ali & Andrew’s Dad