Wishing and Hoping and Swabbing and Praying

I made this photo my Facebook profile, and my funniest smart-alecky friend said:

“All I thought when I first saw it was…Home Pap Schmear Test.”


Ummmm, no. (Although wouldn’t that be fantastic if such a thing existed??)

Nope, this is one big long Q-tip in a packet of four that did unmentionable things to the inside of my mouth.

Getting screened for the national bone marrow registry is GRUELING, let me just tell y’all. After that 40 seconds of vigorous swabbing, I think I need a carpal tunnel wrist bandage and maybe counseling for PTSD. It is a lot for one lazy middle-aged person to be forced to endure.


I don’t know HOW I got through it.

Seriously, it is the easiest thing ever. The hardest part was filling out the dang paperwork, which required me to somehow recall my work phone number and my next of kin’s address.


It’s possible I made some stuff up.  

After the forms were done, someone chatted with me about what happens if I’m a match. You can read all about it at bethematch.com – but I’d sum it up with two words: NO BIGGIE.

As the gal was explaining the process, I thought, “Man, what a cheese-eating wimp I’d have to be if I couldn’t do that little bit of nothing — especially after all Madeline has gone through.”

Madeline Guarraia is who this whole bone marrow registry shebang was for. She’s pretty much the sweetest little girl on planet Earth (and at my daughter’s school).


As precious as that angel face is, this tough customer has already punched cancer in the throat once before. But the family just found out there’s a whole new type of cancer inside her yet to fight. It’s the most heart-breaking thing, and somehow the most inspiring. Good thing this kid has heart and awesomeness to spare.

So this community is going nuts trying to do something, anything, to help. And even amidst all the amazing banners and videos and fundraisers, what she needs most is a match.

So bone marrow registries are cropping up all over. And YOU SHOULD GO.

Here’s a list of some around this neck of the woods:

  • TODAY! 4-7 p.m. at Oswegatchie School in Waterford, CT
  • Dec 22 from 5-7 p.m. Jamestown Rec Center, Jamestown, RI
  • Dec 22 from 2-6 p.m. Voluntown Elementary School, Voluntown, CT
  • Dec 28 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. St. George Catholic Church in Guilford, CT

You’ll even have fun and meet nice people like us.


One of the perils of being friends with me — your picture on here. Thanks Judy and Rebecca!

If you can’t get there, oh ye of California or Latin America (two people apparently read my blog in Brazil yesterday!?), click on this link. They’ll drop a packet in your mailbox so you can swab away in the privacy of YOUR OWN HOME. Just stick those nappy q-tips back in the mail with that delinquent stack of Christmas cards and call it a day.

Christmas is a crazy time. We’re all scurrying around with the last-minute shopping and the teacher gifts and the office parties. But if you only cross off one more to-do on your list this Christmas, DO THIS.

If you only give one more gift this year (besides Dr. Dre Beats), GIVE THIS.

You’ll get bumped to the top of the Nice List for sure.

And Madeline might just get what’s topping her list too.


Roar, Little Tiger, Roar

Two Christmases ago, the great big sadness was Newtown. This Christmas, for me and our town, it’s Madeline.

Back in 2012, with the news from Sandy Hook ringing in my ears, I couldn’t hear a Christmas carol or stir cookie batter without breaking down into tears. (Our cookies were extra salty that year.)

What had happened was horrifying enough, but the fact that it happened at Christmastime….well, that made it unbearable somehow.

This Christmas I keep crying into the cookie dough when I think about Madeline.

If you’re local, you know this face and love it already.


Photo credit: Madeline Guarraia’s GoFundMe page

This face breaks my heart into a million pieces every time I see it. Every time. Even as I type right now. Waterworks.

Her name is Madeline Guarraia, a third-grader at my daughter’s school. Just last week, her parents took her to the doctor with headaches and got sucker-punched with the news that she has leukemia.


For four and a half long years of her little life, Madeline had fought cancer like a tenacious ninja warrior princess til she’d finally whipped it into remission in October 2013.

Her life was full of all these wonderfully normal things, like going to school and having best friends and taking dance lessons and drawing animal pictures.



I just found these pictures I’d taken of Madeline’s art class back in 2013. Happy. Normal. Drawing puppies.

Now a new cancer has returned to that little body that’s gone through so much, and “devastating” seems too small a word.

I don’t know this family personally. I just know their faces — especially Madeline’s, because who couldn’t see that smile and not squint from all the sunbeams?

But as part of our little school family, what this family is going through feels very very close. And to have a daughter that age…well, I can’t even let my mind go there.

So I pray a lot. And I wonder, what can I do? Really, actively, do to help. I mean, I’ve been blown away by all the cool things folks around here are dreaming up to do for this family.

There are already three bone marrow drives set up for next week. Two days ago, a $15,000 GoFundMe goal for Madeline was set; $20,000+ is already in the can. Plus, the gym teacher got duct taped to the wall today to raise money. That’s pulling out all the stops.

Ms. Deeb rocks.           Photo credit: Lilllie B. Haynes Parents Facebook page.

I started feeling quite helpless when it dawned on me. I have a blog. It’s not the Huffington Post or anything, but it’s something. And if one person reads this and goes to get that cheek swabbed, and it’s the match for Madeline (or any other sick kid), well, that’s big enough.  So here’s the skinny on the bone marrow drives:
  • 3 to 6:30 pm. Monday, Dec. 15, at the Waterford Town Hall, 15 Rope Ferry Rd.
  • 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18 at Lillie B Haynes Elementary, 29 Society Rd., Niantic
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19 at Oswegatchie Elementary School, 470 Boston Post Rd., in Waterford

If you can’t be there in person, an online drive has been set up for Madeline at the Rhode island Blood Center’s website. (Just use the code SWAB4MADELINE). Then there’s her GoFundMe page. You can follow her new Mad about Madeline Facebook page. And you can send her mail (P.S. She really likes tigers).

Madeline’s mom says there will be round after round of intensive chemo until it’s in remission. They’ll be in that hospital room ’til that happens. (For anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in a hospital room, that sounds horrendous – especially at Christmas. So they could definitely use some good cheer.)


Lucy made a tiger picture (Madeline’s favorite animal). You can send mail to plaster the walls of Madeline’s hospital room to: Yale New Haven Hospital, 20 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511 — 73 Hem-Oncology Unit

And of course, they can use all the prayers we can muster.

All I know is this: God is good. All the time.

Madeline must know that too, because despite her heartbreaking circumstances, she asked to be baptized in her hospital room yesterday.

What a precious girl. I don’t even know her, but I feel like I’d give her my right arm if she needed it.


Photo credit: Guarraia family from the Mad about Madeline Facebook page

At Christmastime, news like this can sure take the wind out of our sails — and the Fa La La La La out of our hall decking.

But then again, Christmas is a time of miracles– like that humdinger of a miracle that lit up the whole world 2,000 years ago.

I’m praying for another one this Christmas.

And this one’s got Madeline’s name all over it.

Roar, Madeline. ROAR.