Monday, June 13, 2011

Ally Barnett-LLS Honored Hero

So this is going way back. 10 years ago. The start of little baby Ally. I was pregnant with her (didn't know she was a "her" either) and this song came on the radio. I am sure everyone has heard it because it has been overplayed and used in cheesey ways now for about the full 10 years. But anyway, it was called "I hope you dance" by Lee Ann Womack. And it just struck a chord with me. I remember telling my friends about it at the time I was pregnant and my friend Jenny Robbins even got me a "I hope you dance" book for my birthday that year. And it still sits in Ally's room. And the messages still apply.

Somehow before I ever held my little baby girl in my arms...I had this strong desire for her to be passionate about something. I remember thinking if I can just get these messages across to my children, then I will have done my job as a mother.

Yes, they need to learn other to potty, how to go to school, how to play nice, how to share....but I just wanted my kids to have some sense of conviction. A sense of wonder. I didn't want them to be just "good" at something, but to be passionate about something. To make a difference. It was just so strong in my heart that even when Ally got her leukemia....well I almost thought this is somehow meant to be. It was horrible, I hated every minute of it, still do!, but somehow this was our chance to be brave and tell our story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And show just how passionate we are about never wanting this to happen to anyone else.

So the day of the LLS event the song came on the radio. I haven't heard it in a long time. But I don't think it happened by chance. I am strong believer that everything happens for a reason. The song was playing for me. So I was sitting in my car...and listening to the lyrics...but with a whole new set of ears.

"I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance.
Never settle for the path of least resistance.
Livin might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin
Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making"

Yea. Yea. That is what I meant to say to you so many times but didn't.

"Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.
PROMISE me you will give FAITH a fighting chance"

And yes. Faith got us through. Just barely, but it did.

"Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along. Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone. I hope you dance"

"And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.....I hope you dance"

And dance we did. It would have been much easier to sit on our living room sofas and decline the chance to the honored hero. There would have been many less events to go to over the last ten weeks and much less preparing our story to be told (twice). It would have been infinitely easier to sit in the crowd and watch everyone else speak instead of getting up in front of 500(!) people at the Schuster Center. And tell a story that could bring me to my knees in tears if I let it.

But no. I wanted my daughter to see the passion. The strong desire I have to tell our story...and yes not leave out the ugly parts...not gloss it over for all the world to see. Not paint a pretty picture. But to see what it is like to live with leukemia. And also to see what it is like to SURVIVE. It was not easy. It was one of the harder things I have ever done. I told Jerad that I was more nervous than my wedding day. But the strength came through me and I somehow delivered my message. Maybe a little long, but I can't really collapse two years into a three minute deal. (I do think I was only about seven though) A few friends asked me to post it. I am not asking that you watch it unless you have extra time and extra desire! This post is long enough.

The most important part of the night for me was recognizing the most humble Dr. Emmett Broxson who was sitting in the crowd with a few of Ally's nurses and another of her Drs. (Dr Dole) The man deserves every good thing that ever comes to him as he spends his life helping little kids fight cancer. Every. Day. And they don't always win. But he keeps fighting. So it was my sincere joy when he walked up on stage with us and let the crowd recognize him for all he has done.

Here is the Dad spoke right before me. All about his fundraising efforts last year and how he became the 2010 Man of the Year... so it starts at the point that introduces me.

Again...feel free to bypass...just putting this out for a few people who specifically asked for it!

And here are some pictures. (photos courtesy of my brother in law Bunk you Bunkie)

Ally with her Pa
And Grandma Barnett
And Dr B...wearing her Emily's Beads of Courage proudly.
The poster of her story at the event.....

Pa pointing out Evan's tie (first time EVER!)

Telling our story

She quietly stands by while we tell all the details....
Dr B comes up on stage with us! So grateful....(brought me to tears)
True smiles from them both. They have a special relationship...
Happy to get her special flowers and gift....
Again with Dr B...darnit, Ally's eyes closed.
With Miss Vickie (who nominate her to be the hero and is also a lymphoma survivor)

And with the 2011 Man of year: Matt Graybill and Woman of Year: Sallie Taylor. Who both kindly mentioned Ally as a source of inspiration to get them through the campaign. We are thankful there are people willing to do this!

And Ally girl....I hope you know how sad your parents and grandparents and friends and family are that you have had to battle through disease at such a young age. I hope you know that we would do anything to take it away from you. You are a honored hero...not just for one night or one campaign or to one person....but to many. I know someday down the road this experience will make you more compassionate, more kind, and more giving. Everything that I want you to be. I hope you dance.......


  1. so well done, Janel! your whole family looked beautiful, and yes, I think you've lived and taught the words of the song so well.

  2. My first thought watching this video was that I could not get over how poised Ally is for such a young girl. That girl is a rock. I could not be more in awe of her.

    Janel, you were spectacular. I loved seeing Evan in a tie and your little Carly so cute....and they are both spectacular in the spotlight, too. Your family is just impressive all around.

    I used to turn that LeAnn Womack song off when it came on the radio, out of annoyance......but now I have a new appreciation for it and will always listen and think of you and Ally.


  3. Janel,
    You, Ally, and the rest of your family are our heroes our mentors. You did a fabulous job describing what Ally's had to endure and painted a vivid picture of childhood leukemia for all to see. Thank you for advocating for "our" children and those yet to be diagnosed. You are an inspiration! Ally's an inspiration! We are blessed to know you and have your guidance.

  4. On a lighter note...I LOVE you dress cute!!!

  5. Janel,
    Truly inspiring. Miracles do happen.
    Hugs to all of you.

  6. Janel, I am having trouble typing through the I am sure you are on many of your posts. I too still love the song...with all of its passion, significance, and wisdom. And all three of my girls also have a copy of the book/CD in their rooms. You are right...Ally is a genuine hero. Your entire family is truly an inspiration. I hope you all ALWAYS dance. xo Jenny

  7. You all are heros!! Thanks for sharing, we are all better people because of the horrible disease you have survived. Once again, thanks for including us in your battle. I am proud to be a member of Ally's Army!!