In May 2016, our young next-door neighbor was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which attacks immature blood cells. I’ll never forget that day or those following as we watched his parents drive by our house either coming or going to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, where he underwent two rounds of chemotherapy treatment.
We felt at a loss–what could we do for them while they underwent this life-wrenching ordeal.
Our steps were tiny. First, we tied orange ribbons around the big old sugar maple tree in our front yard and then snuck into their yard and did the same around all the trees that lined their driveway. It was the beginning of saying, “We’re thinking of you.”
We offered to cook a meal and mow the lawn, and even started to head over and do the latter but as it turned out, those were common, every day acts that Bill and Binaca, Ky’s parents, cherished because in that moment life was almost normal again. Sort of.
My next step, since orange is the color that represents leukemia, was to post a photo of something orange found in the natural world on my Facebook page each day. It was a small token, but a way to let Ky, his sister Quinn, and his parents know that they were in our thoughts and prayers. I did notice that though his mother “liked” most, the yuckiest ones were the ones that evoked a comment from Kyan. Typical tween–in a way.
After a spring and summer of ups and downs, the decision was made for a bone marrow transplant. And a donor was located–in the Netherlands. A year ago yesterday, Binaca and Kyan headed to Boston Children’s Hospital to begin the process. That journey was long, for Ky had to be quarantined, and even after they came home, life was different.
I do remember Halloween of last year–I don’t recall how long Ky had been home, but he was given the OK from his doctor to go trick-or-treating, as long as he stayed well covered. It was the first time he’d been with friends since May. When he, his sister and their friends came to the door, the sweetest voice to my ears said from within a Scream costume, “Hi Mrs. Hayes.” I’m not terribly fond of Halloween and costumes–it’s always creeped me out a bit. But for once, I wanted to rejoice and hug that Scream. I didn’t. First, it was a germ thing on his end and he had to be super careful. And second, I would have embarrassed him to pieces.
After that, occasionally I’d see Ky and his family as they rode through the woods on their quad, but he was always covered by a helmet. Still I was happy to see him out. And then this spring, my heart melted when I looked out one day and saw him passing by on his scooter. At first he didn’t go far, but soon he and his sister were off on adventures.
And then last night I received a message from his mom telling me that today he’d be granted a wish from Make-a-Wish Maine and asking if I’d be available to take some photographs. Um, yes!
When I arrived this afternoon, I was surprised to see so many cars lining their driveway as it was my understanding that this would be a quiet affair at his request when they were in the talking stages of this project. But, the Make-a-Wish people had collaborated with folks from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to fulfill Kyan’s dream. And all hands were on deck to pull it off.
He wanted a cabin of sorts. It began as a treehouse in his mind, but morphed into something a bit larger after he’d watched HGTV’s Tiny Houses. Only, as he said today, he thought it would be much smaller that what the collaborators created. Of course, his mother was hoping for a trip to Hawaii or, being a huge Tom Brady fan, maybe a Patriots game. But this was Kyan’s wish.
While his dad and sis waited for Kyan, his mom and his dear friend to return from a birthday adventure to Vermont . . .
as quickly as they could, the Make-a-Wish team put everything in order.
The floor was swept . . .
door locked, banner posted . . .
and final sweep made.
And then the waiting . . . his arrival imminent.
In the meantime, collaborators posed–Kate Vickery, Senior Program Director of Make-a-Wish Maine and Pat Sirois, state coordinator of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee in Maine.
For me, it was a fun time to catch up with Roberta Scruggs on the left, Communications Director for the Maine Forest Products Council, who used to work for Lakes Environmental Association.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Word came that Binaca was in the neighborhood and Bill and Quinn went off to meet her. The rest of us kept our eyes on the driveway as we waited for them to pull up.
Bill had blindfolded Kyan (and we later learned that Ky was sure his father had used old underwear to do such), and guided him forward where two Make-a-Wish folks quietly took Kyan’s hands.
A minute later they told him he could remove the blindfold. And his awe began.
Kyan’s not the kind of kid who’s going to jump up and down. But to say he was thrilled and overwhelmed would be an understatement. And by his father’s T-shirt, can you tell who the superhero is?
At last Ky entered his new digs.
And peeked out from the loft.
After he’d walked in and out and in again and up and down the two sets of stairs a few times, and around the back, the news teams stepped up–eager for an interview.
With a smile that never left his face, he answered a myriad of questions.
For a kid who doesn’t like to be the center of attention, all eyes were focused . . . on him.
All the while, he kept looking back at his “kabin.”
He never once wavered in a response and the smile never left his face.
But his eyes–oh were they focused.
His mom was also interviewed and in her usual and beautifully reflective manner recalled the past year and a half.
Sometimes the emotion of the day shown through.
But the strength of her character and thankfulness for all blessings flowed through her being.
As her interview continued, Kyan chatted briefly with his dad and then I noticed that he and his sister and his friend and her friend bee-lined into their home. I suspect they were on a mission to find stuff to make the kabin their own.
The Make-a-Wish Maine crew with Kyan and family.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative crew, Kyan, family and friends.
Hugs . . .
And a quick peek inside, where a sitting area awaits,
two sets of stairs lead to two lofts,
and I suspect his sister has claimed one,
while the other is for him and his dog. (Actually, I’m thinking that when he’s in school, maybe I can meet his mom there–don’t tell. We can start our own klub.)
As of August 17, Kyan will be one year into remission.
Certainly a reason to celebrate. And I think I know where Ky’s sleeping tonight.