What Tara and Turner planned as a perfect snowy family trip to the North Carolina mountains in January 2009 turned out to be anything but when the Simkins rushed their fever stricken son, Brennan, back to Augusta, Georgia. Brennan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (“AML”) on the eve of his 7th birthday.
After undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant (thanks to a donation from his older brother, then ten years old), Brennan was pronounced in remission, but soon relapsed. The hospital told Tara and Turner to pack up their bags; determined to Press On, they began a nationwide search for a hospital that would treat Brennan. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened their doors and created protocols for Brennan. He received three more bone marrow transplants, bringing the total to four in a record 18 months. His two brothers remained by his side every step of the way, from Augusta, to Atlanta, to Memphis. Thanks to his family, friends, and the dedicated team at St. Jude, Brennan has been cancer-free for five years.
For more details on Brennan’s Story, you can read Turner’s book Possibilities, available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Did you miss the Today Show special on Possibilities last December? Here’s the video, and take a look at little Brennan on the Today Show back in November 2012! Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
It is Friday morning, exactly one month since the Play for Press On tournament in Augusta. Thirty days ago, I woke early and jumped in with a literal army of compassionate volunteers who had taken a day of their lives to pull off this event. In its second year, it has already been ingrained as […]
With a deep relaxing breath my eyes briefly close and the tension from my hobbled race through the Columbia, SC airport begins to fade. My thoughts drift to my beautiful new book, “Peace Like a River,” which sits dog-eared in my lap waiting to be finished. I close my eyes for a minute and drift.
Its been a long time, and that’s a good thing, I guess. I begin writing this from the darkness of my bed at Grizzly House on the St. Jude campus. The room is dark with the exception of residual light from my laptop monitor, concentrating its dull glow on me as Brennan sleeps soundly in the adjacent bed. It is our last night here from a fairly rigorous week of examinations, scans, screenings, samplings and reunion, as Brennan undergoes the most thorough check-up of his remission. It is now well past the middle of night. My mind is racing, so I write.
…. At least that’s my belief, and I pray the belief of those who have communicated in some form or fashion that the Carepage and Blog updates about Brennan have been missing. Officially, the Carepage updates are over; however, with the new medium of our Press On website, and the Blog post section designed for the specific purpose of providing updates on Brennan, his health and status, I figure that we’ve laid off for long enough.
They say I’ll never swim in the ocean. They say I’ll never sing on the moon.
-Possibilities, Turner Simkins and Joe Stevenson
Last Fall, I was eating lunch with Turner and our friend, Joe Stevenson, the Executive Director of 12 Bands. Joe was sharing how much he was enjoying a creative songwriting phase in his life, and I mentioned how much I would love to write a song about childhood cancer which focused on the possibilities instead of the inevitabilities. I am and continue to be inspired by what the human spirit can accomplish when told, “you can’t.” Don’t get me wrong. I am a realist, but I am also a dreamer. If there is even the slightest possibility that something may be accomplished, some barrier may be pushed, some new ground broken, then I believe there is value in the effort of reaching for that possibility. If it turns out that the dream cannot be realized in the end, I tend to see how the dream actually was realized in every step taken toward its ultimate goal. The magic happens in the believing in the dream and the inspired action taken toward achieving the dream, not in reaching the ultimate goal.
“You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”
– Crosby, Still, Nash and Young
Attending church by myself is not something I grew up doing. As a matter of fact, in such circumstances, I probably would have creeped myself out not that long ago. Things change, though. What would at one time have been a straight shot into the bowels of discomposure has transmogrified itself into an amazingly accurate channel for insight.
Gasping atop the steps leading from the Mississippi to our home-away-from home atop the bluff in Memphis, the remaining warmth from the setting sun cascaded itself around the gigantic steel girders of the railroad bridge in front of me. Looking up, it was blinding.
It is precisely because they play that we press on. As the song says, we’re changing day-to-day, but the children always play. Through our own life-experience with innocence, we have all lived. Whether through our past, our fervent devotion to our own children, or even a glancing appreciation for a joyful child we meet in passing, we are able to taste and feel the purity of life, the irreproachability of love. Things change. People die, but the children always play.
“Through the years we all will be together If the fates allow
and hang a shining star upon the highest bow, oh yeah,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now”
Lyrics from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from the recollected perspective of CHristmas 2010
Monday, December 5, Brennan and I spent virtually the entire day at the hospital clinic. It was bone chilling cold outside; cold, windy and rainy, three of the primary ingredients strictly excluded from his daily lifestyle prescription. When it is my turn to be accompany this little man, days like this are maddening. Fortunately, he is feeling better, and therefore impatient and eager enough to pursue fun things unattainable on days like this.
“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes”
I guess we were expecting Brennan to catch a bug sooner or later. While endeavoring to plug as many holes in the bubble as we could, the bottom line is that: a) he’s a kid; b) it is approaching winter; and people are spreading germs left-and-right; and, c) the new immune system was bound to be put to a test someday.
Tuesday morning, October 4 2011 was my day with Brennan. We awoke early with the rest of the gang, helping Christopher and Nat getting with their breakfast (a la Tara’s usual pre-school chocolate-chip pancake recipe) and ready for school. These days Brennan is feeling pretty good, serving as the attache to whichever parent is leading the morning charge.