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Lucy's Love Bus

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At just 12 years old, Lucy Grogan was wise beyond her years.  Diagnosed with leukemia at age 8, Lucy bravely battled the disease for four years, before her passing in 2006, but even at such a young age, Lucy had an untouchable passion for life and the people around her.  It was out of this passion that her organization, Lucy's Love Bus, was born.  Lucy's Love Bus, run by her mother Beecher Grogan, is a non-profit organization that helps ease the suffering of pediatric cancer patients by providing free integrative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, and therapeutic horseback riding to children with cancer and children coping with late effects of cancer treatment.  We had the pleasure of speaking with Beecher about her daughter's mission and how Lucy's Love Bus continues to bring comfort and joy to so many children and families across the country.

Can you tell us a little bit about Lucy and her story?

Lucy was always a very healthy little girl, up until she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the age of 8.  We were a health-conscious family, and we could not have been more stunned by her diagnosis.  We have no history of cancer in our family, but Leukemia is not a hereditary disease.  Lucy was an old soul, and taught us so much about life during her four years of illness.  She was a spunky girl- a real tomboy.  She absolutely loved to push the boundaries, had a fantastic sense of humor, and was a creative and generous child.  From the moment she was diagnosed, Lucy led the way in her battle with cancer.  I quickly learned to trust her instincts about what her body needed. We lived in the trenches for four long years, and I could not have had a more brave and beautiful companion for that journey.  Lucy relied heavily on integrative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and Reiki (a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation) to help ease the side effects of chemo and radiation.  She also found significant relief from anxiety and depression through these therapies.  Our community raised money for us, so we were able to pay out of pocket for the gentle, healing therapies that complement traditional cancer care, yet are sadly not covered by health insurance.

When did Lucy come up with the idea for Lucy’s Love Bus and how did her idea eventually come to fruition? 

Lucy was in the hospital for the last 6 weeks of her life, which meant long days of suffering, but also opportunity for quiet connection and conversations.  About two weeks before she died, we were snuggled up in her bed, and she asked me why none of the other children at the hospital used acupuncture, Reiki, and massage the way that she did.  I explained that we were very fortunate to have financial support from our community, which allowed us access to the therapies that helped her so much.  When she learned that other children could not receive the benefits of integrative therapies because they are not covered by insurance, she was outraged.  Lucy was a passionate soul, and an activist.  She declared right then and there that when she was “done” with cancer, she would work to ensure that all children with cancer could have integrative therapies. The mission for Lucy’s Love Bus was born in that moment.  It was three years before I was able to recover enough of my self and my energy to actually start making Lucy’s dream come true.  The grief process was, and is still, so incredibly intense. Ironically, it is the work I do for Lucy’s Love Bus and the beautiful children we serve that has restored my ability to feel joy and a sense of purpose in my life, despite our terrible loss.  People often ask me how I can work so closely with pediatric cancer patients.  They think it would be depressing, and bring back awful memories.  The truth is, I love every single minute of the time I spend with our Love Bus children.  They are sacred beings, and it is such a tremendous joy and an honor to work with them and their families.  When one of our children dies, of course it makes me very sad, and I mourn the loss.  But I try to focus on the fact that our work brought that child comfort, joy, and quality of life.  We are not trying to cure cancer with our work- but we ARE healing the hearts and souls of children who have suffered beyond anything you can imagine. Our children feel deeply loved and supported by Lucy’s Love Bus- and they are.

What are the range of services that Lucy’s Love Bus provides and how are these integrative therapies important to kids battling childhood cancers?

We have a pretty broad definition for what is included as an integrative therapy.  Massage, acupuncture, Reiki, and therapeutic horseback riding tend to be the most popular therapies requested, but we also provide funding for art, music and dance therapy, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, nutritional counseling, and swimming.  We ask parents to consult with their child and let us know what they think will help them the most.  We then help the family identify the best resources in their community and partner with those practitioners to quickly and safely provide services for each child.

Scientific research is being done on several integrative therapies, especially acupuncture, nutrition, and massage.  We see great results with all of our children- and are pleased to see more and more hospitals introducing integrative therapies to help balance traditional cancer treatments.

What have been some of the biggest milestones for Lucy’s Love Bus so far and how can others get involved?

We have supported over 75 children in 12 states with grants of $1,000 over the past two years, and have been able to raise the majority of our funds from individual donors.   We recently launched a donor program called “Lucy’s Love Corps”, which is helping us raise money for children all around the country.  Lucy’s Love Corps members are individuals or businesses that make a commitment to donate or raise $1,000 for Lucy’s Love Bus.  Our youngest Lucy’s Love Corps member is 18 year old Maine resident, Arran Maran, who recently held a dance for Lucy’s Love Bus and raised over $2,000 for our children.  We love seeing families get involved and have been impressed by how many innovative ways our supporters have found to raise $1,000.  Lemonade stands, yard sales, change drives, and bake sales are surprisingly effective, and a great way to get children involved in philanthropy.  We find that children are often our best fund raisers- and are empowered by the experience of helping other children who are suffering.

Can you tell us more about Lucy's song, "I'll Be Right Here"?

I am not a poet or a songwriter, but the song was inspired by something that happened during one of my most painful moments of grief. I wasn’t able to sleep one night, and picked up a poem that we sent out with Lucy’s birth announcement, and also read at her funeral.  I read it out loud, and was overcome by emotion.  I cried and said, “Lucy, where are you?” In the next moment, I heard her voice, over my right shoulder, saying, “I’m right here.”  Since that day there have been hundreds of times that I have felt her presence and these fleeting moments have been such a blessing. People are often skeptical and doubt the validity of these moments- until they lose a loved one.  Then- when we are open to it- we become very sensitive to these signs and are granted comfort in our grief. Lucy shows her presence every single day, in not so subtle ways.  We have had so many miracles of timing and good fortune at Lucy’s Love Bus, I always feel that Lucy watches over her organization, and brings us exactly what we need, when we need it most.

Shortly before Lucy’s passing she wrote a beautiful letter to her oncologist stating, “When you look at the sick children follow them to the place they can speak to you in. Notice their bodies are two things, love and illness, and help them remember the love and not the sickness.”  How do you think Lucy feels knowing how many people’s lives she has touched and how many families she has helped?

I know that Lucy is bursting with pride.  I imagine her as a golden ball of light and energy. She sees her beautiful childhood friends, who formed Lucy’s Teen Leaders, and have helped Lucy’s Love Bus fly.  She watches over our sick children, and surely greets our babies who do not survive, with open arms and a welcoming heart.  I know that she is immensely proud of her little sister and brother, Jane and Eli, and surrounds them with love and light always. We love our girl and miss her every single day.   She was a very wise child, and knew that she had to give me a job so that I would not only survive, but thrive.  Through Lucy, I found my life's work, and I am so very grateful that she chose me to be her mom.

To learn more about Lucy's Love Bus and get involved, please visit Lucy'sLoveBus.org!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Download "I'll Be Right Here", performed by Nathan Osmond in tribute to Lucy Grogan, and 50% of the proceeds go directly towards supporting Lucy's mission.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/im-right-here-single/id516156518

 

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