I’ve put off writing this post for several days now. I didn’t really know what to say. Andrew’s passing has made me think and feel a lot of things that I wasn’t sure how to best articulate.
First, I’ll link to Andrew’s father’s blog: Andrew’s Fight, One Step at a Time. The last several posts dedicated to his son are particularly beautiful, although the theme of selfless and unending love for Andrew permeates all the words throughout the entire blog. As a warning, the most recent posts leading up to Andrew’s passing are very emotional.
I’ve never met Andrew or his father Joe. I was introduced to Andrew’s need for a bone marrow donor through a bone marrow drive I helped at in February, held at the VA church of Andrew’s Aunt Pam. The drive was massively successful, with 254 registered donors in a single day. To date it’s still the biggest drive I’ve ever personally been involved with.
After the drive finished, Andrew’s father Joe emailed me to express his gratitude for publicizing his son’s fight on this website. It was a gracious and unnecessary gesture from someone who was going through a lot of very chaotic events that demanded much more attention than writing me an email.
After I was diagnosed, in a particularly emotional moment my mom mentioned to me that the biggest fear of any parent is to experience the death of a child. That if she could, she would absolutely have traded places with me in a heartbeat. That for some reason, my sickness consumed her with guilt. Guilt that she couldn’t make things better, guilt that she couldn’t take my place, and guilt that she would go to the end of the world if it’d make me better but things weren’t in her control. Medicine and God were in control of my fate. It was difficult for her to come to terms with that reality.
Joe has been incredibly courageous in blogging so transparently and diligently in the midst of such an emotionally draining time period. I know what that’s like; to sit down at a computer for hours, writing about something extremely personal that you don’t want to relive. It’s nobody’s business, and you’re tired and well within your rights to forego the post entirely, but you sit down and do it anyway. You do it because maybe, someday this post will help somebody. You do it because there are so many other people out there who are wondering how things are going but can’t physically be there. So you bare your soul and deepest fears to these people and potentially thousands of strangers who happen to stumble across your blog, in faith that your words will be used in a positive manner that you cannot foresee. Blogging like Joe did was absolutely an act of selflessness and an outpouring of the love he has for Andrew.
Joe’s blog and Andrew’s memory is why it’s so important to continue to spread the word about bone marrow donors. Everyone who has read Joe’s blog now knows what it’s actually like for families undergoing treatment — the fear, the hope, the moments of despair and the moments of triumph. It’s easy to understand the kind of hope that a medical breakthrough/bone marrow match can provide not only a patient but all the loved ones connected to that patient. Although Andrew’s transplant was not successful, it was only through the altruism of a random, willing donor that the hope of a cure existed for Andrew.
Rest in peace, Andrew Park. I know you’re enjoying your new, healthy body now, and doing everything that your health limited you from here. And I know you can now see how much your father, mother, siblings, family members and community love you.
To the Park family: God bless you and keep you, especially during this difficult time. Thank you for your willingness to share your lives with us all. The drives you’ve conducted and people you’ve convinced to join the registry in hopes of finding Andrew a bone marrow match will go forth to save countless others that you’ll never meet. That is a part of your and Andrew’s legacy that I hope you never forget.
The Park family is open to receiving financial assistance, as I’m sure they are facing a lot of expenses, medically and otherwise. To give you a frame of reference, my first two inductive rounds of chemotherapy (out of six rounds total) cost my health insurance company $500,000. If you’d like to send them a financial donation, please send it to:
PO Box 335
Hinsdale, IL 60522