Today I ran for Jack Bartosz, and I’m not quite sure where to begin. There are so many words to describe Jack, and as you can see I even struggled picking one to compliment his name for the title of this post.
Jack was sweet, funny, optimistic, brave, courageous, giving, strong, caring…the list goes on and on, just like his spirit.
As I started out on the trail this morning, I tried to capture how Jack would tackle a day like today. It was pretty cold, there was still frost on the leaves and on some areas of the trail. It did cross my mind that there must be a better way to do this and then it made me think of how sunny Jack was, whether you knew him personally or if you knew him through the media, you know what I’m talking about. He could melt any lingering frost to reveal that sweet sunny spot that keeps you moving. So I did, I kept moving.
At the age of nine, Jack was diagnosed with Stage IV, high-risk neuroblastoma. I had never heard of neuroblastoma until the day I reached out to Sarah, Jack’s mother, about some non-profit and fundraising ideas that I had for my own quest to support Type 1 Diabetes.
I still remember the exchange of messages that day, she was writing from Children’s Hospital. She explained what was happening to her sweet Jack and I could not even believe it. Sarah had beautiful, healthy twins, Jack and Annie, how could this be possible? No one is immune to the challenges that come to us in our lives, but hearing this news of Jack’s illness left me stunned.
Over the years we followed Jack’s story. I remember one time bumping into Jack, Sarah and John at the airport. I was so happy to see Sarah and to give Jack’s hand a little squeeze. They were just getting back from Jack’s treatments in NY. At first glimpse one might not have known all that they had just endured. As I gave Sarah one last hug before we said our goodbyes, my heart became heavy, the realization of why they were at the airport had settled in.
There was nothing that John and Sarah wouldn’t do to find the best treatments and resources for Jack. They collaborated with other parents to find ways to fund research and often times forged ahead, independently, so not to let any opportunity pass them by. Sarah and John are amazing parents and advocates. Sarah’s strength and commitment has lead me into my own role of advocacy for Type 1 Diabetes.
As the years passed by I was inspired and often times amazed at Jack’s optimism and the sheer joy that poured out of him. He was wise beyond his years. He continues to inspire us in so many ways…little ways with big meaning. Last September when Jack was honored, Zoe and I painted our toenails orange, Jack’s favorite color, in which Zoe lovingly refers to it as “Jack Orange”. I’m not sure my toe nails will ever be any other color. I keep them orange to remind me of Jack’s strength, he’s with me every time I lace up, and he will be with me when I run my first 1/2.
The day that Zoe and I painted our toenails we celebrated Jack by going to one of our favorite spots, the Cabrini Shrine. It was there that we lit candles, offered prayers and thought of Jack, Sarah, John and Annie (Jack’s twin sister). As we were walking into the small chapel Zoe wandered off by herself. I stood back and watched her, she went over to a bench that was in the meditation area. She stood there for a second, turned around and came running back ever so quickly. She was yelling “Mom, Mom, you will never believe it, someone left an orange flower near the statue just for Jack!“. It was unbelievable, but not surprising given the strength of Jack’s presence and spirit in the world. There was not a flower in sight and here at the feet of the statue was an orange Gerbera daisy.
Jack may have lost his fight with cancer but he won in so many other ways. He won our hearts. He made people believe when their hope was running thin, and his spirit is a light that will never dim, it will only lead the way.
So today, I ran for Jack, for his spirit that continues to live on in so many of us, and for everything that he accomplished in his beautiful life. Upon returning from my run there was great news of Jack’s little brother making his much anticipated entrance into this world. Thomas Porter Bartosz was born today, I picture Jack looking down upon his family with a big smile saying “Way to go Tommy, way to go“.
I encourage you to learn more about neuroblastoma and to honor Jack, and his family’s commitment to finding a cure by visiting the websites below. They are an amazing family amongst many that are fighting this fight. I am confident that it will only take a few seconds for you to be whisked away by Jack’s amazing spirit and his family’s grace and courage.
Visit the I Back Jack Foundation website today, there you will be introduced to Jack, the Bartosz Family and how you can get involved to support their efforts to find a cure.
There is always an opportunity to help, to support and as Jack reminded us…there is always an opportunity to believe.
For more information about Neuroblastoma and Cancer Research please follow the links below,
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Organizations and projects committed to finding a cure and raising awareness for Neuroblatoma,
Band of Parents
The Truth 365