5/06/2008

Max Awarded Children’s Challenge Award: Courage

Vic Kops Children’s Challenge Awards
Looking for Kids in League All Their Own

The Optimist Club of Del Mar-Solana Beach needs your help in finding six of this area’s most outstanding children. We’re looking for nominees between the 1st and 6th grades who have challenged themselves to achieve excellence in one of the following categories: Arts, Community Service, Humanities, Courage, Fellowship, Science.

Lisa (Mrs. Sturt) nominated Max. She prefaced this with a note to Andy & I:

April 24

Dear Andy & Melissa,

Yesterday I received an email [about the optimist awards]. Last night I began to draft a nomination for Max. I finished this morning and have enclosed it. I wish I had more time because I really feel I failed to express what I wanted. How can you capture Max with just words? I just couldn’t find the right words. The “about 500 word” limit didn’t help either. I am blessed to know you all. It’s strange that I can remember first hearing your name. Courtney (girlfriend of Melis) had a baby she was holding on the playground. I asked where she got “it.” ;-) “He’s the Mikulak’s… you don’t know the Mikulak’s?!!” Little did I know then how you would change my life years later!

Much love,
Lisa

We think she’s changed our lives, too. I think I’ve begun thinking of her as Max’s Guardian Angel. Here’s the nomination Lisa wrote. You decide if she didn’t find the right words…

Blue eyes that sparkle. A smile that warms your heart. A light. The best way to describe Max Mikulak is to say he is a light. He shines from the inside out, lighting up a room with his presence. All who meet him are immediately taken in. Love and compassion emanate from his heart.

A truly more positive child I’ve never met. Everything is always “Perfect!” There’s a purity and innocence about him. Perhaps what is most astonishing is not that a child like this exists but that a child can have these qualities while in the midst of a great battle. Max is in the battle of his life and the battle for his life. The foe Max has relentlessly and courageously fought for three and half years, and continues to fight, is Neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a particularly virulent and aggressive pediatric cancer for which there is no known cure.

Max is currently six years old and in first grade. He was first diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at the age of three. After standard treatment of high dose chemotherapy treatments, radiation, and a stem cell transplant, Max showed no evidence of disease. Unfortunately, with Neuroblastoma, one is never in remission as the chance of it coming back is so great. And come back it did. Max relapsed soon after his fifth birthday. However, there is no standard protocol for relapsed Neuroblastoma. Statistically the outlook is grim, but you would never know that by looking at Max.

Max and his family have determined to LIVE LIFE TO THE MAX. Max approaches everything with enthusiasm and energy that you would not expect to find in a child stricken with cancer. When asked to do something, Max usually gives a salute with an ear-to-ear grin and happily replies, “Aye, aye, Captain!”

Max receives nutrition via a feeding tube, so every day he must go to the nurse’s office at school to get hooked up at the lunch time. While there, he often offers comfort to the other visitors. One example clearly illustrates Max’s heart. A girl had fallen and skinned her knees. She was quite shaken and crying. Max, with his ever-ready smile, went over to her and gave her a big hug. He then offered her some stickers to cheer her up. Of course the adults who witnessed this were brought to tears; to see a child so seriously ill shower compassion on someone else who just has a temporary “owie.” But that is Max, thinking of others and brightening their lives.

Last week after eight straight days of long chemotherapy infusions, Max was again in the nurse’s office getting hooked up with one of his best buddies by his side. Max became ill and vomited. After just a few tears, he wiped his eyes, grabbed the syringe with his anti-nausea medicine, administered it to himself, looked at his buddy and said, “Let’s go!” They were off to the playground to take in every moment. Such resiliency! It’s astounding and amazing. It makes you shake your head and realize any problems you think you have are really nothing. Here’s a kid who could wallow in his illness, but instead chooses to grab every chance in life to run, to play, to laugh, to be with friends.

Max is truly an extraordinary child. He has faced more challenges in his short six years that most of us will in a lifetime. Yet he never gives up, but faces each day with courage to LIVE LIFE TO THE MAX!

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lisa, for those beautiful words. I don't know when or why you became invlolved with Max but I do know we'd all be lost without you. You ARE his guardian angel... no doubt about it!

I'm so happy to know he is at home again. This little refrain has been running through my head all day today... "There's no place like home, There's no place like home". I know Max and his family feels that,too!

Much love and blessings, Nana

Randee said...

What an honor to know Max--he has touched so many lives with his gift that words cannot describe--I don't think we will ever know the extent to which his touch has and will reach. Today I was told a first grade class in Oklahoma is writing him letters. He draws the best from each of us and causes us to reach deeper than we ever thought we could. We love you Max. And thank you God for those special people like Lisa Sturt who reaches deeper, loves more and shows us the good and beautiful side of this horrific battle Max and his family fight every day. Thank you Lisa for being a light for our Max. As always, love and prayers.

Anonymous said...

An amazing letter for an amazing boy. Hugs an prayers. Carolyn Wing/Angel_Wings grandma to Laura Stage IV neuroblastoma carepage LauraVDB
carolyn_wing@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Okay- that was beautiful. Its only 8:16 am and I have tears streaming down my face. What a great kid.
Carrie & Jeff palmer

Anonymous said...

When I saw Deb's pictures (taken shortly after I wrote) I thought, "Yes! She did it! That's what I wanted to say!" So happy he won the award. Daniel, however, told me that I should have nominated someone else...I went through my class list asking if that was who he had in mind. No. no. no. He thought I should have nominated Melissa. Indeed, you both have shown so much courage and remained so positive that it leaves me awestruck. Max is so blessed to have you as parents!

Anonymous said...

Max richly deserves this award!! I am in awe of him...and so proud that My daughter is part of Max's life and is able to show Max such love and concern..I am so glad I don't have my make up on yet..tears of pride for Lisa and tears of joy that Max is home..you are correct Nana...there is no place like home and your own bed. xo Linny

Anonymous said...

This truly brought tears to my eyes! Max is amazing and extraordinary and I am a total stranger who can see this from half way across the country! BEST WISHES!

Anonymous said...

Lisa truly captured the "light" that Max is! I am so happy he is home. NEVER GIVE UP!
Hugs...Debbie W.

Anonymous said...

Here I thought I was having a bad day Hell I don't know what a bad day is.
Lisa, Thanks for those brave words. Max thanks for being my Hero!

Max, you must see IRONMAN

Thanks for being there and helping the world be strong.

Leo

Anonymous said...

Here I thought I was having a bad day Hell I don't know what a bad day is.
Lisa, Thanks for those brave words. Max thanks for being my Hero!

Max, you must see IRONMAN

Thanks for being there and helping the world be strong.

Leo

debsphotographs said...

yay...yay...yay! it's funny how we said similar words about max. not knowing what one another said and knowing max for different amounts of time...yet such similar words and feelings about max (and your family). i just hope that i can continue to give you photographs that you will forever cherish...that is my goal.

max and your family have so touched my heart through and through.

can't wait to see you again...soon!

hugs,
deb

Anonymous said...

I am so happy Max is home! I am a member of Journey Com Church in S.D. We prayed for Max on Fri night & I have been reading this blog & praying for him every day! I feel like I know him. What a phenomenal job you have done as parents! I read Ms. Sturts letter to my 16 yr old and we both cried. What an extroardinary child! Max is making a difference in the lives of people he doesn't even know! God bless you all!

Anonymous said...

What beautiful words for such an amazing boy!!!! Wow!!!! His light shines strong even for people who have never met him in person!!! I too was brought to tears reading this....

Keep shining sweet boy!!!

love

rhonda dudley

www.caringbridge.org/tn/sydneymarie

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to Max. Lisa sounds like an extraordinary person (and teacher) herself.

Brian

Anonymous said...

We are so happy to know that Max won the award. Max and his family had inspire in too many the same feelings very well described by his teacher. All of you are an inspiration of faith and strength.Our love and prayers are always with you all,
The Aguilars.

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