Sometimes we have bad days where bad things happen to us and we get stuck in a bad mood. For me, those days seem to be directly and unmistakably correlated with Monday mornings. This seems to be the time when that measly-little-ounce of creativity I possess is still stuck on Sunday afternoon’s nap and I have to go to work without it. What I wouldn’t give for the imagination of a 4-year-old on those days. Four- year-olds see the world without limits and without the grogginess that comes from too many years of succumbing to bad moods and self pity. Four-year-olds can see beyond the line that adults call reality and envision themselves as space explorers and superheroes…or princesses. There is one thing I can think of that a 4-year-old could never imagine though: being diagnosed with childhood cancer.
When she was only 4, Millie Flamm was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer that grows rapidly and causes the bone marrow of the patient to make dysfunctional cells that would normally become lymphocytes the body would use to fight infection. Millie, who is now 6, found out that her leukemia had returned earlier this year. I first learned about Millie and her family from my lovely friend and coworker Christine who is very involved with Millie’s cause. Of course, my first reaction was to think, Oh my goodness, this girl is only six years old and she has to go through THAT? It was a reflex for me to feel appalled by the unfair weight placed upon such little shoulders, and then to simultaneously feel pity and be grateful that this cancer did not happen to me, which seemed to be too selfish of a blessing to focus on. I thought of the toll her cancer must have taken upon Millie’s carefree nature and the spirits of her mother, father, and brother.
Christine sent a company-wide invitation to an upcoming 5K walk/run in Millie’s honor she had helped to plan, and so I clicked on the link that led me to milliesprincessrun.org. I am so grateful to be working for a company that values community involvement and employees who find ways to give back wherever possible. Without those values, I might not have been able to learn about Millie through Christine. While looking over the details for the fabulous princess-themed event, I found a link back to Millie’s mom Amanda’s blog. I began scrolling through post-after-post and scanning the pictures that detailed Millie’s life and the love of her family. After a few short minutes, my entire perspective had been turned upside down.
What I found on the blog was not fuel for pity or sadness, but a completely honest and genuine account of everything that was happening. The posts contained the truth behind what Millie was going through, but one thing that was even more apparent and pervasive than the cancer itself was the love and happiness that bound this family together and that attracted people by the hundreds to Millie’s cause. After seeing Millie’s strength, I no longer wanted to pity her. In fact, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to stand up with Millie and kick cancer’s butt too! How much time have I wasted feeling sorry for myself when I could have been as cool as Millie and her family all along? Inspired by an entry I found that mentioned t-shirts that friends had made in support of Millie with the phrase “Anyway We Can for Millie Flamm” printed across the back, I felt this desire to know more. I asked Christine to take a few minutes and talk with me about Millie and her family.
Here is an account of our conversation:
Q: What led you to become so involved in Millie’s cause?
A: We are backdoor neighbors! I love this little girl!!
Q: What was the inspiration behind Millie’s upcoming 5K Princess Run? Will Millie be able to attend?
A: After finding out that Millie was diagnosed with leukemia a second time, friends mobilized to help offset the cataclysmic financial strain on the family by creating Millie’s 5K Princess Walk/Run. The event promises fun, plus the blessing of all donations being matched up to $10,000 by an anonymous donor. Millie just had her bone marrow transplant Monday so she will be in isolation for a while, so no, she can’t attend the race this year.
Q: What do you find most inspiring about the Flamm family’s story?
A: It's real. They don't pull punches, gloss over the facts, or soften the reality of what is really happening to them and to Millie. Yet, in spite, of the agony of helplessly watching their little girl suffer through cancer treatments, not once but twice, they are still a happy, solid family.
Q: Why do you think Millie’s story matters so much to everyone who learns about it?
A: Millie absolutely adores the fairytale ending that awaits all princesses... and let's face it, she embodies every thing that a good princess would - immense courage, a kind heart, and a gracious smile. What started out as a simple idea has rapidly grown into more than a neighborhood show of support--it has become a wide-scale community effort. Once people hear Millie's story, they can't say no. Who could?
Q: Why is getting help for Millie so critical right now? Why is it important for people to get involved?
A: Financially-speaking, paying for cancer treatments once is a strain on most families, doing it twice can be cataclysmic. We want Brady and Amanda (Millie's parents) to focus on Millie and her little brother Austin, not how they will pay for all of her care.
Q: How can people who can’t attend Millie’s 5K contribute and walk alongside Millie on her road to success?
A: We realize that not everyone lives in Salt Lake City or can run or walk. Yet, there are three ways that people can help out our little princess, Millie: 1) If you are active on Facebook, type Millie's Princess Run in the search box and locate her Event Page. Then like the page and share the page with your friends - ask them to share it too - repeatedly. 2) Go to MilliesPrincessRun.org and register and pay for the race but don't run it or send a donation to the address listed on the website. 3) Make a donation to Millie's Princess Run at any Mountain America Credit Union.
Q: Cancer is a very unnerving thing to say the least, yet the Flamm’s have inspired countless people with their genuine and optimistic outlook. How has this family managed to stay positive in the face of something as incomprehensibly scary as leukemia?
A: Initially, Amanda was very involved with other cancer families (those with children who have cancer) through Cancer Cuties and Race for the Cure. Serving other people when life hands you the impossible is a sure way to maintaining perspective and peace. Amanda and Brady are both great examples of that principle.
Q: Cancer has affected Millie’s life, but she is obviously not defined by her illness. What is it that defines Millie then?
A: Millie shows all of us that when life is hard (as it always is) that we can overcome it all again and again with grace and joy in the journey. She's the little girl that will not give up - no matter what because she's waiting for her fairytale ending.
This blog post, though a small effort, is part of my “anyway I can” for Millie. Thank you to Reading Horizons and Christine for allowing me to write this post and to spread the enlightenment and peace that working for a company-with-a-cause and finding Millie Flamm have brought me. Even on our darkest days we can find the brightest of blessings if we are only just brave enough to look for them. Thank you for teaching us that, Millie. You have our hearts and our support.