Lilli’s story is not unique. Indeed it’s the same story that I hear from hundreds of parents. One morning you wake up and your child has some small and seemingly normal illness. A cold, an ear infection, a broken leg, a lump in their tummy, a headache. The very next, you move into a oncology ward and suddenly acquire a new language with words like blood counts and chemotherapy; BUN and WBCs; platelets and plasma. You’re on a first name basis with oncologists, cardiologists, surgeons, infectious disease doctors, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists. Nurses, CNAs. You even know the name of the guy that delivers the mail to the unit, and he knows yours. In fact, he saves your mail for the next time you’re admitted. Because there will be a next time. This is childhood cancer, and it sucks.
For Lilli, she didn’t know it sucked. For Lilli, childhood cancer was just her life. She was diagnosed with a rare leukemia at eight months old. She learned to walk and talk and play and pretend all within the confines of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. And she was amazing. I couldn’t possibly encapsulate her story here. It is too long and too emotional for a quick recap. But I will say this. That little girl loved music and loved to dance. Even in her deepest, darkest hours, in moments when she had machines that breathed for her, and machines that fed her, she responded to music. And more than anything else, she especially loved Yonder Mountain String Band. Yonder Mountain String Band loved her back. The love that their fans generated for her sustained our family through all kinds of awful things. They celebrated and cheered her on when things were good. Hundreds of their fans (and Lilli’s fans) wore her hope bracelet (check out her hope video below). And when she died, they promised to remember her. Nowhere is that promise more obvious than the Lilli Trippe Memorial Shave at the Northwest String Summit. If you don’t know Lilli’s story, I encourage you to follow these links. If you do, please continue to share her story, ask your friends to contribute to this awesome cause, and most of all, dance your ass off for Lilli Trippe. She’s right there dancing with you.