Yes it is true, Clay is taking trumpet lessons. He kept asking, and we kept suggesting other instruments. Isn't the piano great? What about the flute? But no, he would not be dissuaded. And then once he got his hands on the trumpet, quiet had no chance. Yesterday was his first lesson, and the instructor started out by asking Clay why he wanted to play the trumpet. "Well..." Clay began, "I have a lot of free time." This morning Clay came into our room at 6:45 a.m. and asked if we minded if he started practicing. At least he asked first, right?
Clay has put some of his free time to use by joining the Cub Scouts. JD and Clay have attended a few den meetings and one overnight. Clay particularly enjoyed "Smash It" night where the idea is to take apart old electronics, and then if the pieces don't all fit back together, well then...."Smash!" JD and I were worried that Clay might be discouraged by the things he cannot do as a scout, but he has decided to embrace the experience and do what he can. The Scoutmasters have all been welcoming and helpful, and Clay is so proud to go off to the meetings with his Dad.
A week or so ago we enjoyed a Sunday spent with Pat Leahy and his film crew. They are producing a documentary called Blind Lifter. This film will encourage kids with all types of disabilities to use exercise as a way of strengthening themselves both mentally and physically. As you may recall from an earlier blog post, Pat was featured in The Washington Post last Spring for the accomplishments he has made in his life in spite of losing his vision. We have enjoyed getting to know him, and he has been very helpful in giving me suggestions for Clay. He and his trainer worked out an exercise program for Clay, and we met so they could show Clay how to use the new equipment. They filmed Clay and Pat working out together, and perhaps some clip of this will make its way into the documentary. Clay has been using the new gear at home, and maybe his new arm muscles will come into use to help him hold up the trumpet! You can read more about the film, and see a trailer for it here: www.blindlifter.com
During all of these activities, which take time and patience, and parents, there is Grace (not the virtue, but our daughter!). Grace turned 11 recently, and since she has become quite a baseball fan, she picked a day at Nationals Park to celebrate. Then, she and I took a weekend trip to NYC to see the show Matilda on Broadway. It was a wonderful production, and several of the songs have already become favorites for me and the kids (See below).
Now an update on the medical front. The project we started at Johns Hopkins last year with support from many of you has had some promising first steps. The goal of this project is to develop a good model of the tumor that Clay has. This tumor type does not grow well in culture. So the project is seeking to develop new, genetically accurate models for the tumor, using neural stem cells (which is where things go wrong and lead to tumors). These models can then be used for drug screening - to find the drug that will target the "Achilles heel" of the tumor, and make it collapse, with a minimum of side effects for the patient. At this point in the project the doctors have developed models for two of the more common genetic alterations. These models are growing well in the lab. One of the models causes tumors to grow in mice. In the next few months, they will determine if the models respond to a drug that blocks the signal that is abnormally activated in these tumors. If the test drug works, this will be a new path to screen thousands of new and FDA approved drugs to see which could be used to treat PLGA's.
JD's fraternity at the University of Richmond is helping to continue this critical work by holding the second golf fundraiser this weekend. You can read more about the event, the research and PLGA here: http://akidsbraintumorcure.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=504.
There is a song in the show Matilda that I can't get out of my mind, called Naughty. The words go like this:
Jack and Jill, went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water, so they say
Their subsequent fall was inevitable
They never stood a chance, they were written that way
Innocent victims of their story!
The endings are often a little bit gory
I wonder why they didn't just change their story?
We're told we have to do as we're told but surely
Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty
Just because you find that life's not fair it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
Nothing will change.
You can listen to it here if you have 4 minutes to spare! The girl playing Matilda was 10 years old and was truly amazing.'Cause if you're little you can do a lot, you
Mustn't let a little thing like, 'little' stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Won't change a thing!Just because you find that life's not fair, it
Doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it!
If you always take it on the chin and wear it
You might as well be saying
You think that it's ok
And that's not right!
And if it's not right!
You have to put it right!But nobody else it gonna put it right for me!
Nobody but me is going to change my story!
So thank you to all of you who are helping us to change Clay's story.