Back in 2012, Holly and I helped our friend Rebecca start something called A Very Airmail Christmas in honour of a wonderful lady who had a special Christmas wish. Since then we have had about 50-70 people all over the world each year who have sent Christmas cards to strangers to spread a little bit of Christmas spirit in honour of cancer warriors who loved Christmas like Robin did. In 2015, I took the reins so Rebecca could focus on her Master’s degree. This year, Rebecca is taking back the reins, but we are using my blog to promote it still!
This year we are going to be using Airmail Christmas to start a conversation about organ donation.
1) Send us your name & address (it can be your home, work or anywhere else address that you’d like a card posted to you at) to the designated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 5th December 2016. Your addresses will be held confidentially and not shared with anyone else apart from the person who will be sending you the card.
If you have a preference of posting a card within your own country (due to postage costs) then please note this in the email.
2) On Tuesday 6th December, Rebecca will be randomly matching Airmail Christmas participants. We will then email you the address of someone else that you can send a card to this year.
3) Write and post your Christmas Card as soon as possible, especially if it needs to go abroad. If possible talk about why organ donation is important to you in the card, or if not you can use the hashtags of #organdonation #donatelife and #airmailchristmas on the card and envelope. It is just something to trigger a conversation.
4) Wait for your card to arrive. Feel free to send a picture of the card (please be careful not to share addresses from the envelopes!) to us to post in our Airmail Christmas gallery, or post a picture of the card on social media with the #airmailchristmas hashtag.
AND….please do spread the word in the next week to encourage others to participate around the world! 🙂
You can see some of the Christmas cards people sent last year in honour of Kylie Myers, on the gallery page.
A little bit about our previous honourees…
When I first met Robin the whole nursing team and I were overcome by how humble she was. She spent most of her days trying to get fit enough for chemotherapy, her husband doted on her and her twins would draw a picture for her everyday after school. However, Robin was growing weaker and it soon became clear that she would never get her chemo and would never reach her favourite time of year…Christmas. Over the last few weeks we had been having a few chats and conversations about a multitude of things. She was really prepared but also aware that making it to Christmas was not a possibility so she wrote letters and said her final goodbyes. However, a couple of days ago we got talking about Christmas and how people lose sense of it’s ‘true meaning’. I never got around to asking her if she was religious or what she believed in about Christmas. I just knew enough that Christmas was her favourite time of year. But it was one thing she said a couple of days before her passing that really struck me.
Robin said “if I had a Christmas wish now it would be really fun, Rebecca, if everyone in the world could just send anyone a Christmas card“. I was really confused and when I mentioned that I do send out Christmas cards she corrected herself. She said “No what I mean is it would be fun to send a Christmas card to someone you have never met. We all send our friends and family cards but not to anyone else. It would be fun to spread good will to other people as well too.“
Doesn’t she have a point you think?
-Rebecca (one of Robin’s nurses)
2013: Mama MB
You can read what Mama MB’s daughter wrote on her own blog here
2014: Anna Basso
Anna Basso was a fun loving, free spirited, beautiful girl. She loved to have fun, to make people laugh and she had a huge heart. She cared deeply about other people; in the words of one of her best friends, “Cancer is supposed to crush your spirits and bring you down. Anna never let it get to her like that, she only showed her strength and if she was worried about anything it was her friends and family. “ Anna was diagnosed in the middle of her junior year of high school with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer that primarily affects adolescents ages 10-20. She endured a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and then was given the all-clear report. Sadly, 5 months later, it was discovered cancer cells remained in her bone marrow. She had relapsed and had to fight for her life. 18 months after her diagnosis, and less than a month after her high school graduation, Anna passed away.
During her battle with cancer, over 1 million prayers were pledged on her behalf. It seemed right, but also just natural, that Anna’s legacy should carry on through the people she connected. Anna, too, had a dream for what her legacy could be. Rather than pass along burned CDs of music she found significant, or fill journals with her wit and wisdom, Anna wanted to be remembered through a foundation bent on finding ways to defeat this disease and helping those affected by it. With that in mind, we created the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation in January of 2012.
Christmas was always a special time in our family. It is the holiday that I have the most special memories of growing up, and all of these include my sister, Anna.
Every year on Christmas Eve, we got to open our first present, which was always Christmas pajamas. These were often matching, too. Then, although we had separate bedrooms, my sister and I always spent the night together. Anna would wake me up early in the morning so we could go downstairs and see what “Santa” brought us. Christmas day was always spent in the laziest, but best possible way; usually in our pajamas all day and enjoying our new presents. Our Dad is one of the best cooks, so we always had a delicious Christmas night dinner.
Our family cherishes the Christmas memories we have with Anna, and we feel strongly about honoring her giving and loving spirit, especially around Christmas time. That’s why AirMail Christmas is the perfect fit! More ways to spread the love that Anna had for each and every person she met.
-Patrice Basso (Anna’s sister)
2015: Kylie Myers
Kylie Myers was a sweet and talented girl who loved art, her friends, music, and all things related to the stage. At the age of ten, she blew everyone away with her performance as Annie and set her sights on a Broadway future.
During the rehearsal and performance of a subsequent play, Kylie’s left knee began to hurt. She fought through the pain, but as it grew more intense we took her to several doctors to discover the cause. Finally, Kylie was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma on April 9th, 2014 at the age of 12. Since she already had three tumors at diagnosis, her prognosis was rather dire from the start. When she heard the news, she only said, “God must have great big plans for me.” Her treatment began immediately and consisted of the standard Ewing’s protocol of chemotherapy followed by radiation, then more chemo.
Kylie had been called Smiley Kylie all of her life. When we got the dreaded news, we decided they would have to be Smiley for her when she didn’t feel like smiling – thus, Smiley for Kylie was born. With the hope of getting friends to send her selfies to lift her spirits, it grew until many Broadway stars posted pictures and videos for Kylie. She got a smiley from every US state, 94 countries, Georgia’s senators and governor, and many other athletes and celebrities. She was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and it kept her going on the hardest days.
The chemotherapy took an awful toll on Kylie. Her weight plummeted from 105 pounds to under 70, at which point she had to have a feeding tube installed to prevent malnourishment. A scan at the time we were supposed to move into the radiation phase noted significant shrinkage in the tumors. So the decision was made to continue the chemo and hope for more success. Unfortunately, the cancer grew resistant during the next six weeks and rendered that chemo ineffective.
A new chemo regimen began, followed by radiation at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC. Again, for a time, all scans showed significant reduction of the cancer. In early February she finished her radiation only to find new soft tissue tumors. At that time, we heard the dreaded words, “incurable by standard treatment,” and began looking for clinical trials that might save her life. Unfortunately, she died on February 13th, 2015 – days before her 13th birthday. Her last charges to her family were to take care of her kitten, Eliza and cure childhood cancer.
Kylie loved Christmas and we are honored to be a part of A Very Airmail Christmas. She suffered through chemo during her last Christmas here. I’d like to share what I wrote about spending that Christmas with her:
How do we do Christmas this year?
Should we skip it? Or should we cherish every moment together as the babe in the manger intended us to? Maybe, instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, we should hold on to the fragile remains of what we have – love, family, friends, and a newfound respect for the precious thing that is life. We should cling to our little girl, who, though frail, is fighting hard and encouraging others to do the same.
When referring to the promised coming of the child in the manger, Isaiah said, “…and a little child shall lead them.”
What if we took a cue from our little child?
Although she is the one feeling the pain, nausea, and side effects of cancer, she is also the one most excited about Christmas. Even though she only had the strength to stand long enough to put a single ornament on the tree, she admires the finished product and loves to be in the den where she can see it. She is the one who insisted on taking decorations out of town with her while she has to be gone for treatment. She is the one snuggling her elves, dreaming about Christmas morning, and soaking up every minute of the nearness of family and Christ at this time of year. She holds a compress on an aching jaw with one hand and draws up surprises for those most dear with the other. In a year of typically rapid growth for a child her age, she weighs 75% of what she did last Christmas, yet she samples whatever treats her nervous stomach will allow. While we fret over diagnosis and treatment, she savors joy, plucks smiles from pain, and builds a resume of contentment that few on this earth have ever seen. Perhaps she has it right and we have it all wrong.
Instead of looking to health and prosperity for our happiness, what if, just for a moment, we set aside our problems – however overwhelming, and looked to the manger, toward a child – with gratitude for his coming and a longing for his return? What if we laughed in the face of the enemy, knowing that we are wonderfully cared for and uniquely loved? What if we hoped, even when victory was uncertain? What if we dreamed of a better tomorrow regardless of what it may hold?
What if we smiled more…
–Mark Myers (Kylie’s Daddy)