September Eyes

We’ve all heard the expression, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” It’s a rather absurd notion – not because of its veracity, but because of a lack of alternate windows. As if one could discern intent through an open mouth or wide nostril. Just look at the face. What social cue could you ever glean from its other orifices? Without the look me in the eye mother-son interaction, I can picture a young mother staring into her son’s ear to discover truth like a scientist into a microscope.

Take the literal interpretation and my general silliness away, I get the allusion. They eyes are amazing in what they can relay nonverbally. In fact, I got smacked by several sets of eyes very recently.

This month is September – Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I knew that before, but now that I work for CURE Childhood Cancer, I really know it. It’s been busy! This is not a complaint, I love my job. When this month ends, I will have been doing it for a year and I can no longer imagine doing anything else. In fact, I recently told my lovely wife that the only thing I would rather do than this is write for a living. She quickly pointed out, “You do write for a living.” Of course, she is correct. What I meant was crank out three best-sellers a year like James Michener while sitting on a beach sipping fruity drinks with paper umbrellas. But yes, I daily get to write on a topic about which I am passionate – children with cancer.

And I get to meet the most amazing kids: a thirteen-year-old who has been fighting cancer more than half his life and a girl who donated her twenty-first birthday to our organization because she’s been dealing with cancer and its side effect since she was two. For September, I read the stories of 120 incredible kids and I made this collage to use on social media.



Those eyes. Those windows. Those souls.

Sweet, innocent babes forced to fight like no man should have to. Their September eyes stare at me. I see their eyes even when mine are closed. I can’t look at it without getting a chill because some of those eyes are gone. I won’t tell you which ones, but this cancer beast is vicious. We comfort ourselves and talk about eighty percent cure rates for childhood cancer. But that leaves twenty percent who don’t survive. Children who die… 1 in 5. Kylie was in that 20%.

And I step back, and I remember those carefree days before I knew these facts. Before I realized that children die from cancer. Back when I thought it was a disease for seventy-year-old smokers. How foolish and naïve I was.

Happiness is a kind bedfellow of naivety.

In this dreamy state I see little Kylie skipping toward me dressed in her blue ballet leotard, lugging a huge backpack on her shoulders. The weight on her back forces her to stoop slightly as she approaches, giving full view to the rolling acorns on the sidewalk. She stops to smash one under her heel. The sound makes her giggle. Another acorn squished. A squeal. Then another and another until she realizes I’m waiting. She looks at me, smiles, and hoists up her backpack to sprint the remaining distance.

“Hi, Daddy!”

“Hi, Baby. Let me take your backpack. It looks heavy.”

She deftly swings the burden off her back and into my waiting hands. It is heavier than I could have ever imagined.

“You take it for good,” she says.



And then she is gone. She is gone and I am still holding the weight.


20%  –  1 in 5

We must do better. How can we not? Innocent September Eyes depend on us.


Today is the day we are sharing Kylie’s story in an effort to raise money for research that will lead to a cure. If you can, please share this burden with us by clicking here


15 thoughts on “September Eyes

  1. Mark, I was so relieved as I read further that your opinion of importance of our ” eyes being the window to the soul ” changed. I am not a parent of a child who had Cancer. I worked with kids in treatment & their families. I spent many years watching ” eyes “. The eyes of a child or their parent told the truth of how things really were on a particular day. I could tell when fear was all over them and the days they felt well and joyous just by looking at eyes. I could tell when a child was oblivious to the reason for the extra visit but the Mom’s eyes feared relapse.
    September is ending in a week but I #gogold all year. More must be done everyday. I know many stories & remember a lot of eyes. My involvement in the Charity, GROWING HOPE still fills my days with Hope. Hope for more funding, hope for less toxic drugs, hope for more cures, hope that one day I will look at a child’s eyes and see fear replaced by carefree.

  2. Wow. A sob caught in my heart as I read this amazing masterpiece of a tribute to your beautiful daughter. Especially two sentences were epic to me… I’m jealous not inhuman. & no longer will we paint with such a broad brush.
    Kylie would be so proud how you’ve handled everything. Your account on this emotional ride has touched my soul. I can imagine the hearts you have touched that have needed to know they are not alone. And the ones you’re giving hope to.
    Merry Christmas my friend.

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