I have to start off this blog entry by acknowledging that the story I am about to relate is most likely going to make me sound completely insane.
I am ok with that. There are those who will understand. And, I am confident that Ylaria would approve, which is really all that matters.
Yesterday was, as you know (at the very least from my last blog entry), the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I intended to mark the month with a platelet donation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. My iron levels, on the other hand, had other ideas. My counts were way too low and I was (very kindly) rejected. I am fortifying myself on iron-rich foods for another attempt in a few weeks.
In addition to donating platelets, I had another mission in mind yesterday. For some time, Belen and I had been talking about walking around NYC together and leaving Dora band aids in Ylaria's favorite places. A tribute to Ylaria, if you will, a marker that would say, in its own small way: "Ylaria was here". I started yesterday.
I left the first band aid on the 6 train sign in the Union Square subway. (You can sort of see it in this picture.) It may seem strange since Ylaria and I were never there together, but this place is significant to me because it is the train I would take to go see Ylaria after work. I know it sounds strange, but every time I pass that sign, I remember running down the stairs to get the uptown 6 train to 68th Street (the stop closest to MSKCC and the RMH). I remember the excitement I would feel at getting to see Ylaria and her family and how incredibly impatient I could get over the 45 minute commute. I miss my trips on the 6 train.
After this little Ylaria stop, I walked over to my office building and placed another band aid on the step outside the main door. Why? Because it's where I was standing the first time Gino asked me to babysit Ylaria so that he could run some errands. "Would I mind coming for 20 minutes?", he asked. "Of course not!", I responded. I stayed for two hours. That was the first of countless visits. I wish I could make some more. (There is no photo of this band aid.)
My last band aid stop for the day was near the entrance for MSKCC (above). After I was denied my platelet donation, I walked outside and placed it very carefully on the sidewalk. Someone saw me snapping the picture and said: "Are you really taking a picture of a Dora band aid on the sidewalk." And I said. "Yes." (very definitively) and walked away. I am certain he thought I was insane. He doesn't understand the significance of Dora band aids.
After this picture, I did something I wasn't planning on doing at all. I walked into MSKCC. I can honestly say now that the need to walk in that building was my driving force at the time. When the security guard asked me where I was going, I told him I was going to peds on the 9th floor. He let me through. I walked into the gift shop and looked around. I saw things that I knew Ylaria would like. I saw chocolates that I remember sharing with Belen on one of my many visits there. Then, I got on the elevator and took it up to the 9th floor. I got out, stood in the hall for a moment, and then took the elevator down again. A nurse saw me then and said, "You just missed the elevator" (she did not see me get off initially.) I replied that I had missed my stop. The lump in my throat was too big to explain any more.
I am completely aware that in sharing the above, I sound completely insane. I can assure you, I am not. It's hard to explain. Impossible, actually. All I can say is that I wanted to do something to honor Ylaria yesterday. I wanted to spend some time reliving moments that I had shared with her. Some people feeling a need to remember a loved one might light candles. Others might choose to release balloons. I leave Dora band aids in places that most remind me of Ylaria. I smile every time I pass them now.
I did not raise any great degree of awareness on my venture . I'll be making more lanyards for Erin's Dream Lanyards and gold ribbons for Kids Cancer Crusade this weekend. But, yesterday, I needed to start my month with a tribute to one of my very best and most cherished friends: Ylaria, a soul who taught me so much about strength, and courage, and laughter, and love, and the pure magic of being alive.