The cat with the yellow eyes…

I imagine if you’ve been popping over to this here Koala Tree for a while, you’ll have read posts where I’ve mentioned Kylie. People at my work are very used to my yellow band that is always on my wrist, and many friends have had the courage to ask me “Why do you wear that yellow band, what’s it for?” and I get to tell them about Kylie, and why I wear the band…to remember Kylie, to remember her family and closest friends (I pray for them pretty much constantly) and to raise awareness about the need for more research and better treatments for childhood cancers. Sometimes when I mention Kylie, people who have asked also end up hearing about Oliver, Anna, Kate and Keira too.

Today marks two years since Kylie left this earth. Please be thinking of her family today. Anniversaries are tough, this I know. But I think (I hope) that people remembering the one that’s gone, helps the people left behind here who are missing them. A couple of weeks ago, Kylie’s family shared a short film that has been made by Mutual Rescue. It tells the story of Kylie and her kitten Liza. Liza had a very special role to play in the days leading up to and days after Feb 13th 2015, and in this film, Kylie’s Mom, Dad and two of her sisters share Kylie & Liza’s story so beautifully.

I’m also not sure if I’ve mentioned this already, but Kylie’s family have now set up a non-profit to raise funds and awareness for a cure for childhood cancer. You can find out more on the Smiley for Kylie website.

Today it’s likely that if you see me, my nails will be painted yellow and I will be wearing my Smiley for Kylie wristband. And tomorrow, I may just have to go and find some penguins.

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Remembering a girl who loved yellow…

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Today, I went into work with my nails painted yellow. I’ve done this once before  – on the day after American Thanksgiving  – and for the same reason.

To remember a girl whose favourite colour was yellow.

Today several of my colleagues commented on my sunshiney nails – it was a grey rainy then snowy day in our city, so the yellow stood out more than usual. And I took great honour in explaining that today my nails were yellow because there was a girl who walked this earth until this day last year. Her name was Kylie, and she taught us all how to smile…and when cancer, chemo and radiation did it’s best to stop her smiling, there was whole army of people around the world who did their best to smile for her.

Earlier this week a lovely young girl came into our shop who was in a battle with the C word. Pesky, stinking, conniving cancer. She had made herself a beautiful headscarf that had this ornate gold decoration stitched onto it. It was the gold that made me think of all the kids that have gone through similar battles. Back in September it was childhood cancer awareness month and I spent that month with frozen feet wearing a pair of gold flats – gold and yellow being the colour that symbolises childhood cancer.  I know that there’ll be many more days when I am making bears that become buddies for hospital stays. Bears to remember people by. I’ve done many already and I have to take a breath each time…but there have been many times my colleagues have had to take a moment to go behind a door and cry once customers have left the store. It is an honour and a privilege each time we make a bear that has such meaning to someone, but just like the days where I counselled women and men through their losses…there are stories that simply break your heart.

One of my little customers in the afternoon told me how much she liked my yellow nails as I was stitching up a bear for her. Her nails were gold. I could only smile when she advised me “you should paint smiles on! That would look really good with the yellow“.I simply replied “that’s a great idea! I might have to try that!” She had no idea why that made me almost want to cry…because that’s exactly what I plan to do 11 days from now.

My nails will be Smiley for Kylie.

Kylie’s family have been sharing their letters to Kylie on Mark’s (Kylie’s Daddy) blog. They have been informing my prayers for the Myers clan over the last few days. People have also been writing letters to Kylie on the Smiley for Kylie facebook page. Please be thinking of Kylie’s family today as they walk through this first anniversary of Kylie’s earthly death.

And let’s keep working to realise Kylie and so many others wish come true…to stop childhood cancer for good.

This song/video was made by an organisation based in Minnesota. The band, Quietdrive wrote it inspired by another young girl who battled cancer twice. The song has been stuck in my head like an earworm all this week.

Also, the organisation that Kylie and her family have been working with to raise awareness for the need for more research and funding to find better treatments and a cure for childhood cancers released a film this week which Kylie and her Dad both feature in. Please, especially if you are based in the US, do share it with others if you can.

🙂

World Cancer Day

Today is World Cancer Day.

My friend is remembering her Mum today. We could barely recognise her in the last months of her life. My other friend is organising his wife’s funeral with his two teenage daughters. She died last Friday evening. My friend lost her Mum before she was a teenager. Another friend and his wife lost their son before his 1st birthday. He never knew life without cancer. I imagine that the other Ranger unit in our area is remembering their friend. She will never ‘graduate’ from high school because cancer took away that chance. And our Very Airmail Christmas honouree, Kylie? She never got to become a teenager. Cancer took away her chance to experience her Make-A-Wish trip and her 13th birthday. Right now, there’s a Brownie called Keira who has battled with cancer since she was a Rainbow and is about to try and do battle with a second tumour. Keira has DIPG – a cancer that no UK government funding goes into research for – unsurprisingly it only has a 10% survival rate. All the research is funded by charitable donations from small parent-led charities like this one.

Kylie said that she thought that “cancer should die, not the kids”.

I agree Kylie, I agree.

And I believe like many medical scientists do, that if we find better treatments and cures for childhood cancers, it’s going to help us fight the adult cancers too.

Because it certainly isn’t happening the other way around.

Why my feet are both cold and gold…

Throughout September, when I’ve not been at work, I’ve been wearing a pair of gold shoes…
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…Practical? No. They don’t fit that well as they are slightly too big for my skinny feet, plus they don’t exactly keep me warm in the Scottish climate. But there’s a specific reason why I’ve been wearing them as much as I can. Because we need better treatments for childhood cancers to help kids like Markell.


You’ve heard me mention Patrice’s sister, Anna. Anna’s family ‘introduced’ us to Kylie Myers. Anna and Kylie sadly both died having gone through months and months of chemotherapy and radiation for Ewing’s Sarcoma. If I’m not mistaken, Kylie’s Dad mentioned on social media that the treatment regimen Kylie was on was 40 years old. A lot of you know of Zach Sobiech. He, like Markell and Kylie’s friend Bailey, had osteosarcoma. There have been no new treatments for that type of cancer for over 20 years. However, researchers recently had a breakthrough at the University of Minnesota (which Zach’s fund helps) as they believe they’ve identified a way of discovering what genetic mutations cause reoccurrence of the disease. I continually pray for Bailey and other survivors I know of – that they never do have a reoccurrence of cancer. If you live near me, you’ll likely of heard of a local hero called Jak Trueman. He had a rare form of lymphoma. And there’s of course, Oliver. Oliver was 24 weeks old when he died. He had the awful luck of being born with cancer. His awesome parents (one of which I went to university with) have been raising funds to support childhood cancer research and families getting treatment in Ward 2 at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh where Oliver spent a lot of his short life. Had it not been for stinking cancer, Oliver would have been starting school this Autumn.

So what can you do?

Well there’s still over a week of September to go.

All over the USA, people are doing the Whipping Challenge…Donating $46 dollars to a childhood cancer charity and taking a cream pie to the face.
Wear Gold. Talia Castellano‘s family and friends are using the hashtag #AmpItUpGoGold and because of Talia’s love of make up and nail art encouraging folks to wear gold make up or nails. Take pictures. And when people ask why you are wearing so much gold…you can tell them.
Download Clouds and/or Beautiful Boy. Profits from the sales of these songs go to Childhood Cancer research.
Do something to support families who are going through a battle with this disease. Contact your nearest children’s hospital to find out what you can do. Many families have to travel for treatment – things like gift cards, raising money for better facilities in hospital accommodation, equipment/toys for the ward can be a huge encouragement. Most children’s hospitals have a charity (like Sick Kids Foundation in Edinburgh) and there may be something like CLIC Sargent villa, Teenage Cancer Trust ward or Ronald McDonald House.
Raise money for a Childhood Cancer charity. Sadly, very little funding goes into research of childhood cancers like Osteosarcoma, Ewing’s Sarcoma, Neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma ALL, AML, Wilm’s Tumour…and a lot of childhood cancers are so very different from adult cancers we probably all know of. Yes Childhood cancer is much rarer than adult cancers (1,600 kids compared to 320,500 adults), but there are much more adults to get cancer since child means anyone between 0-16ish and adult means anyone with in a 80+ year age range.  Not only that but the current treatments for children are pretty horrific and have huge long term effects. They are not ‘cures’ when a kid needs a kidney transplant down the line, or a leg amputated, or have hearing loss, infertility or contract leukaemia years later. I also can’t help but notice the ‘survival rates’ they use mean they ‘live for at least 5 years’. It is the smaller foundations like Love Oliver, the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, 1 Million 4 Anna that make a huge difference  and are so important for funding research by partnering with hospitals/universities.
If you can, donate blood. A lot of childhood cancer patients will need blood and platelets at some point (if not at several points) during treatment. I used to be scared of this idea, as the sight of my own blood makes me light headed (yet I can totally deal with other people’s nose bleeds and head injuries no problem – go figure!). Blood donor centres are used to nervous donors! It is not painful, and if you tell them what makes you nervous they will do things to make the process easier for you. For me they allowed a friend to sit with me to distract me, and covered the tube in paper towels so I couldn’t see anything coming out of me. Another friend got to donate behind a screen so he couldn’t see anyone else either!

If you live locally to me, I’m also going to give you the opportunity to help ‘whip’ childhood cancer into submission. In exchange for a donation to Love Oliver, you will be allowed to smoosh a plate of skooshy cream* in my face. I’ll even let you take a picture of the results and post it on social media. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity, please do message me and I can make the appropriate arrangements. 🙂

*Skooshy Cream = Scottish term for whipped cream in a can. Not, as we proved on my old blog, a term I made up as my South African friend suspected.

BK’s YouTube Picks: The Truth About Childhood Cancer

I’ve been caught on the uni train over the last couple of months, but today, I wanted to come home and share with you an important message.

Today, a wonderful, wise, spunky, talented young woman named Kylie Myers should have been having her 13th birthday. Instead, last week her family and friends came together as they mourned her death from Ewing’s Sarcoma, all wearing Kylie’s favourite colour of yellow (which also happens to be the colour for children’s cancer awareness). It was last Autumn I learned of the Myers family when the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation shared a video Kylie had made doing a parody cover of ‘All About that Bass’. On Christmas Day my Mum and I took ‘Smiley for Kylie’ photos to post to the Myers family on twitter down near Cramond Island in Edinburgh – the aim was to have Smiley for Kylie photos from every country in the world. It may sound trivial, but I know from when I’ve faced difficult times, how much it has encouraged me to keep pushing on and fighting through having messages and words of encouragement from the online community.

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Kylie and her family, and her friend, Bailey (an osteosarcoma survivor) were involved in the Truth 365 campaign – which is trying to raise awareness and action to get the government to put more of their cancer research funding into childhood cancer research and giving a voice to the children who have battled childhood cancers. It is RIDICULOUS how little has changed for children’s cancer research and how little funding it gets because of it being “rare”. (By the way, this isn’t just an American thing, in the UK very little research funding goes to childhood cancers either).

So my YouTube Pick of the week is from Truth 365 – videos from Kylie, and her three close friends.

Kylie may be in a better place…but it sucks that the world lost her when she had so much talent, love, joy and wisdom to bring to us all. And I will continue raising my voice about the need for more research (and help raise funds where I can too).

Also please be thinking of Kylie’s family today – her Mum, Dad and three sisters especially. They are Christians, so I know if you believe in the power of prayer and want to pray for them, they will appreciate it. You can also in Kylie’s honour, make someone smile and/or take a smiley selfie. They would love it if you could post it on twitter or instagram with the #SmileItForward hashtag or tag Kylie’s twitter & instagram (@smileyforkylie). If it’s making someone smile, they’d love to hear what you did to make that person smile. Annoyingly, I’m all alone in the house tonight so I’ve got no one to sing or do silly dance to! I had to settle for trying to take a silly selfie at the university (which resulted in some weird looks from university staff and a few students walking past).

To all the families like the Myers clan who have battled cancer and want to end the fight once and for all…

…we stand with you.