By: Michael Lander
|The St. Jude 24-hour team relay bike ride is one of many|
fundraising events that are hosted by St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital whose primary mission is to make
every effort to save the lives of children like Alexandria.
Everyone has their own reasons as to why they do the St. Jude 24-hour team relay bike ride. My reason is simple. I do it for children like Alexandria.
Alexandria Whittington was born on Oct. 8, 1985.
By the time that I met this sweet, precocious child, she was about 4 years old and she had already endured years of treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for leukemia. She had been diagnosed with it when she was still just a toddler.
Alexandria never knew many days when she wasn’t being poked, prodded, and being stuck with needles. Even though she had some good days, these were often followed by many that were very difficult and challenging, but that was her life, it was all that she ever knew, and she faced it with a strength and courage that I had never seen before or since.
Long before I knew her, my then girlfriend, Martha, had already become close to Alexandria and she would often make visits to see her and her mother whenever she could. It was during these visits that she found out just how artistic, smart, and insightful that she was, which she thought was well beyond a child of her years.
Like most children, Alexandria enjoyed playing, whenever she could, but as Martha discovered, her playing was sometimes just a little different than other children.
One time, as Martha was talking with her mother, she suddenly felt a very sharp pain on the back side of her hand. When she looked down, it was Alexandria who innocently looked up at her and told her that she was just putting the IV into her just like the nurses often did to her at St. Jude.
After almost two years of dating, Martha and I became engaged and we set a date to get married in December 1991. There was never any question in either of our minds who the flower girl would be and Alexandria was excited over the prospect of doing this and being a part of our wedding party.
|Alexandria was as excited as we were to be|
the flower girl in our wedding, which took
place in December 1991.
The year following our wedding was an especially difficult and harrowing time for Alexandria and her family. In spite of the wishes and hopes of everyone, Alexandria’s condition did not seem to improve.
When she became really sick, one night she said she saw an angel and she watched it as it walked around her floor at St. Jude.
Shortly after she had that experience, on March 4, 1993, little Alexandria’s body could no longer fight the cancer that had ravaged it, and she was gone. When I was told about her passing, I thought about the angel that she talked about and I found some comfort in the thought that this angel took her to a place where she no longer hurt or felt any more pain.
So you ask, why do I support St. Jude and participate in the St. Jude bike ride? The answer is simple. I do it for children like Alexandria. I do it in her honor and in her memory. I do it for families like hers and I do it to help raise money for all the great work that St. Jude is doing in saving children’s lives, which is provided without any financial cost to their families.
I also do it so that St. Jude may one day find a cure so that no other Alexandrias in the world will ever have to face what she did now and in the future.