There are some things in life that are given the tag of priceless… like our children, families, and the experiences that we create with the ones we love. That is what Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services is all about; creating priceless moments for families like mine.

Christmas. Birthdays. All holidays became luxuries – part of our life before cancer. Not this year though. This year would be different. When I got the call from Jacob’s Heart saying that my family would be one of the families adopted for Christmas, I was relieved. So much had been taken away and neglected since our baby Matthew was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Our family needed some magic, and my children deserved a holiday full of dreams come true. Most of last year was spent inpatient at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital fighting cancer, unable to be home for months at a time.

It was my little cancer warrior’s second Christmas and, although still in treatment, Matthew was doing well. That meant he would get a real Christmas; one that would be spent at home surrounded by all things that had nothing to do with cancer like presents, Christmas trees, family, and friends.

Fighting cancer had taken its toll on our family’s finances, and providing the kind of Christmas we imagined for our family would be impossible. When a child is diagnosed with cancer their care is so critical that parents have to quit their jobs to care for their terminally ill child. Matthew’s cancer diagnosis reduced our two-income family by 50% overnight. Our family was suffering from the financial crisis brought on by childhood cancer, and money was tight.

Kindness and Love

Knowing that, through the kindness of the people at Jacob’s Heart, our Christmas tree would have presents under it was comforting. I remember so clearly when a volunteer from Jacob’s Heart called to get our wish list, I felt guilty. We were a large family with four children, I told her to leave Lily off since she was just a baby and wouldn’t know the difference. “She must need something…it’s Christmas,” the volunteer said. She was right; when a child in a family is fighting cancer that fight takes all precedence. The needs of other family member can become neglected. Our little Lily was actually in dire need of clothes.

The people at Jacob’s Heart took extra care to help our family have something we had missed so much over the course of Matthew’s treatment – a chance to create precious, happy, stress-free moments with our family. The Jacob’s Heart volunteer asked me to give her a list and options, not letting me get away with, “Oh just anything will be fine.” She urged me on with questions like,  “What do they really want?” I struggled with thinking about what it all would cost, especially when it came to choosing items for my teenaged son. But Jacob’s Heart was persistent, trying their hardest to help my children get their heart’s desire (including the pricey remote control helicopter for Izahia).

Smiles and Laughter

When the call came from Jacob’s Heart to tell us our gifts had arrived, we all piled into the car, another Jacob’s Heart volunteer greeted us and said, “You’re the Pierce family; these gifts are for you.” She pointed to where an entire back wall was covered by bags of gifts to be delivered. I walked to the area she pointed and saw two large bags filled with gifts that had our name written on them. The kids smiled at each other excited for what was contained in the big bags. We thanked the lady and turned to leave. With a big smile she said, “No, not just those bags, that whole pile.”

My children burst into squeals of delight. Our car was packed to the roof with bags full of presents and children who could not stop smiling and laughing. It had been quite some time since I had seen looks like that on their faces, and I was happy for what Christmas Day had in store for my family, we had been through so much.

When Christmas morning finally came we all woke up super early. With excitement, my kids opened each thoughtful gift. They received not just one item on their wish list, but pretty much everything they had wished for and more. Izahia, got his helicopter, which brought so much joy to all the kids as it flew overhead flashing and beeping. Lily received a variety of wonderful outfits. Our little cancer warrior, Matthew, was lavished the most. It was like they couldn’t stop thinking of wonderful gifts to give my boy on his very first Christmas at home. Matthew opened gift after gift. Stopping to play with each one – trying on hats and wanting to read all of his new books.

The Last Gift – Priceless

The Jacob’s Heart’s was persistent in filling my family’s needs, and the needs of other local children with cancer and their families. There is no price tag one can put on these essential services. They are priceless. Many of the Jacob’s Heart children don’t have the luxury of tomorrow.When we thought we had opened every wonderful gift, we noticed one gift remained, hidden and slightly tattered, under our tree.  This “last-but-not-least gift” was addressed to my husband, Ron, and me. No one had said anything about including the two of us. Inside was the most beautiful, thoughtful gift. A date night had been planned for two beaten-down and exhausted parents. Ron and I had not thought of ourselves in a long time, and we both were immediately touched. Someone invested a lot of time, thought, and love into the night they planned for us. We were so sweetly reminded that we are not alone in this battle, that there are people out there to help families like ours.

For some cancer warriors like my Matthew, his first Christmas at home was his last Christmas at home. Time with your child becomes not a matter of quantity but quality.

I am so thankful to all who are not discouraged by the busy holiday season or long lines, but who are instead inspired to bring priceless moments to a family like mine. A few days after that Christmas, moved to tears by the kindness of our family’s Secret Santa, I looked at my husband and asked, “How did they know what we needed?”

They knew because Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services told them. Priceless.

Aimee Grijalva
Matthew’s Mom