Julia Bush is on the public relations committee for Mizzou Dance Marathon, an organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer. Dance Marathon raises money year-round to support the MU Children's Hospital. This post was previously published on MU Dance Marathon's blog.
Josh, a Mizzou Dance Marathon Miracle Kid, ran to the end of a portable dock extending into one of Columbia’s “Twin Lakes,” which, in true Missouri fashion, was really just a glorified pond. We were racing, and so I was half jogging behind him the way you half jog when you’re racing a kid you don’t want to beat in fear of collapsing their fragile self-esteem. (OK, fine, you got me. I’m just a really slow runner.)
By the time we got to the end of the dock, I was panting and looking forward to taking a seat and a nice, long breather. Josh had other ideas.
“I’m a werewolf!” Josh yelled. He screwed up his face, leaned backward and roared Charizard style. Then he took off back down the dock.
My afternoon getting to know Josh at our Dance Marathon Family Picnic went on like this for a couple of hours – it may have been the hardest interval training I’ve ever done. This kid is so full of creativity and energy. He just never stops.
Finally, though, he declared he was tired and plopped down in the grass. I lay down next to him, and he snuggled up close, placing his head on my chest and sighing. Then he said, “I just love you,” and my heart turned to mush.
I’m new to Dance Marathon, so Josh and I had just met two hours ago. He didn’t give me his number and ask me to call him, maybe, but his little head lying on my chest told me I had his approval. He didn’t know my favorite band (Wilco, if you were curious) or what I eat for dinner in a pinch (bread and hummus) or where I grew up (beautiful Texas), but we were “best friends.”
So this isn’t really about cancer, I guess, or about sickness or hospitals or treatment. It’s about kids. Josh is just like most 5-year-olds I’ve met – he’s energetic and fun and a little stubborn. He loves immediately and unconditionally. He prefers to go backwards down the slide. It’s impossible to tell that just a few years ago he had a faceoff with neuroblastoma cancer.
“The Fault in our Stars,” a novel by John Green, says, “I don’t believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does.”
Dance Marathon is about giving everyone that chance to love. It’s about making sure that the things we can’t control – sickness, hospital bills, etc. – don’t eclipse the ones we can. And now I’m off to hit the gym – gotta keep up with all these kids.