Friday, July 31, 2009

He Has Cancer

You know the words no Mom or Dad or Kid ever wants to hear:

''He has cancer.''

Those words were my wife's words about our son.

I'll always remember that phone call. My wife said quietly at first: ''You need to take this.''

Then Those Words, ''He has cancer.''

Same crud as Lance Armstrong.

Those Words send you somewhere lonely. Somewhere scary. It's a place that's not dark. Nor light. A place where time checks out. Moments are thick. Minutes immovable.

And the people, your people, they are gone. Way gone. Because you’ve lost your place because maybe you're going to lose your boy. And they just don't know how to reach over to you. You've moved onto a different path. A path that's only for you and people like you who have Those Words.

I asked just one thing in the middle of our first night with Those Words, ''Are You really coming to take my boy?''

As you wait for some kind of answer, people, who are gonna be Your People through this thing, begin gathering around you, saying stuff like “we're thinking of you.”

They call. “We're praying for you.”

They drop an email. “We'll ask God to heal your son.”

They bring a meal -- lordy, do they bring meals. “Let us know if we can do anything for you.”

This gathering of Your People really takes off when someone says you should set up a page on Caring Bridge .

Holy smokes!

You quickly realize, this is a place where you can actually begin to manage Those Words; to keep Your People up to date in (sorry to sound clinically techno-geeky here) a way that scales. Even better, even more important, Your People can keep you in their thoughts and prayers at scale.

Geez, is THAT important when you and your wife and your kid are dealing with Those Words.

"It's a sacred place," says founder and CEO, Sona Mehring. A place she started in 1997 to support a Mom and a Dad and Their Baby, all friends, who'd been dealing with a really difficult illness.

Sona's a down-to-earth, techie-type, and she asked her friends a simple question at a tough time: How can I help?

You know like I know that keeping Your People up-to-date at a time like this is really hard. Really time-consuming. Really emotionally draining. And, speaking from experience, you gotta know it's really the last thing you want to do if you're like my wife and me and my kid when we gotta figure out what to do with Those Words.

Sona's response back in '97: She stepped up and created the world's first social network so her friends and their family could easily share and update one another. Before Facebook. Before MySpace. Before YouTube. Before Twitter.

Now, it's the most important social media place on the planet!

The CaringBridge premise is simple. Each family has a page. And they use it for free as long they wish to keep friends and family informed and connected when, as Sona says, "it matters most. It's a time when people need to connect. It's a place for important emotional support."

In 1997, Sona's friends and then some 100 other families turned to CaringBridge. From there it took off. The number of families has doubled every year. More than 30 million people have visited CaringBridge in the last 12 months. Every day 200 family sites are created. These are people like Your People who have cancer, premature babies, cardiac challenges, serious accidents.

Today, CaringBridge is a vibrant non-profit, depending on small contributions from the people like Your People who benefit most.

If I could pick a theme song for CaringBridge, it would be this one from Bruce Springsteen. And if I could pick a tagline it'd be this line from that song:

"With These Hands. With These Hands. C'mon Rise Up."

I know what Your People and their hands can do for a Mom and a Dad and a Kid with Those Words. There's no clear-cut cure for cancer yet. But Those Words are no match for Your People, Your Community, and a place like CaringBridge.

Do you wonder what would happen if you had this sacred place and Your People with you before you ever get Those Words?


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