I got a text from my Step-Mother this morning. She was asking if I would make a prayer flag for a family friend, Tom Belonger, from Appleton, Wisconsin. I don’t know Tom, he doesn’t know me. We’ve never even met. Tom’s probably never heard of Above + Beyond Cancer, and he probably has no idea what a prayer flag is, or why we use them. Tom’s CaringBridge Page describes him as “The patriarch – a loving, genuine, kind-hearted, and strong husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, friend.” Sounds like a good man. There’s no doubt he doesn’t deserve the hand he’s recently been dealt.
My Step-Mom explained that Tom was recently diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. A pretty terrifying diagnosis for sure. I can only imagine what Tom is going through right now. I know this has to be an incredibly difficult time for Tom and his family. I know there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty.
I want Tom to know that I’m headed for Machu Picchu, Peru in a few weeks, as a brain cancer survivor. One of the things our organization does, in addition to leading cancer survivors on incredible adventures, is take prayer flags on our journeys in honor of those who have fought cancer. I made a prayer flag today in Tom’s honor. I picked a green flag to decorate, since I assume he’s a Green Bay Packers fan, on account that he lives so close to Green Bay. I guess I’ve never met anyone from Wisconsin who wasn’t a Packers fan.
Anyway, when we’re having a tough day on the climb to Machu Picchu, I’ll pull out the prayer flag I made for Tom. The courage he has as he faces his mountain will give our team strength and courage as we face our climb. When our team returns from Peru, I’ll return the flag to Tom and his family .
There are around 12 MILLION cancer survivors in the United States. As long as Tom is standing, he’s one of the 12 million strong. I hope that gives him some hope, or at least puts a smile on his face. I want Tom to know that he’s not alone, and we’ve got his back.