A Love Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

I love you.  Every obstacle that was in the way of us getting to you, God knocked down.  One by one the obstacles were removed and we are now enjoying the perfect summer weather AND our son is receiving some of the best medical treatment in the country.  Every hope our hearts have held, you have seen and welcomed.

We knew that despite Ricky’s career heading onward and upward it would now have to take a backseat to Mac’s treatment.  I don’t think I have ever let my husband know just how much it hurt me to see this transpire.  Ricky has given his life to the USAF and now all those years of hard work and dedication were being limited because of a stupid, little-known, under-funded disease.  Not that moving to Hanscom was a death-sentence to his career, but he was advised more than once that it was “not a recommended path if he wanted to make O-6.”

As parents, we both knew we didn’t want our son to just be treated.  Many Children’s hospitals can treat LCH but as we quickly learned, few of them specialize in LCH.  We knew our son had to be seen by someone who is an LCH specialist and not someone who would go to histio.org for their basis of information .  As indebted as we are to the doctors, nurses, and medical staff at Children’s of Alabama, we had a less-than-easy feeling knowing our son’s doctor had NEVER seen a case of LCH. Yes, doctors need to learn and they learn by doing but can’t they learn on someone elses kid?  Why does Mac J. Howard have to be the checked LCH box on that doctor’s resume?

Dr. McClain of Texas Children’s Cancer & Hematology Centers is THE M-A-N when it comes to LCH.  Sadly, their facility is in Houston, which would leave us with a three-hour weekly commute since Ricky would have to be stationed in San Antonio.  So naturally, we look to you, Boston.  Ranked# 2 in Oncology / Hematology.  Second-best still sounds pretty good to us.  Plus, we would be near family. Knowing how heavily we would have to rely on family, Boston seemed to be a no-brainer.  Now that we mentally made the decision on the place, we had to get all the wheels in motion.

Initially, we were told there were no job openings for Ricky.  Even if an assignment was found, we were told housing would not be available for 2-6 months.  Then there is the whole issue of Dana-Farber accepting Mac to receive care.  Oh, and did I mention we were suppose to close on a house in Pensacola, Florida?  Boston answered loudly and proudly:  Hanscom AFB had an unlisted job (husband hired); while going to chemotherapy in Birmingham, we received a phone call from housing stated a home would be available  7/1 (rented, where do we sign?!); oh, and Dana-Farber…amazing. They pulled more strings, gathered more paperwork, made more phone calls…they were our advocate.  Amazing.  And as far as our home closing…we called our realtor in good faith.  I would be lying if I were to say we didn’t want our $3,000 earnest money back but realistically, we knew it was only money and if that was the price of getting Mac to Boston, than so be it.  Well, wouldn’t you know that the seller’s realtor’s son was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks prior to Mac’s diagnosis.  Humanity reigned and we received our earnest money (in full) within five days.

Boston embodies such hope for our family.  I remember speaking to a friend in Alabama when Mac was first diagnosed and our minds were already spinning with the prospect of continuing treatment in another state. Kathy asked me how she could pray for us.  I gave her the usual, “pray God will help us get to where we need to be.”  Kathy challenged me.  “Amanda, what can I pray for specifically.”  Without any hesitation, I said, “Boston.  Please pray for Boston.  I don’t know how it can work…in my mind, it can’t work but just pray for Boston.”

I will never forget the feeling I had as we drove up to Dana-Farber.  “We did it.  We’re here. I can hardly believe we are actually here.”   Obstacles cleared, treatments scheduled, and our house windows open  (in August, no less.  Living in the south my entire life, this is huge, people) we are in Boston.   I love that our family was able to make this leg of our journey.  It wasn’t always easy but well-worth every tear and emotional meltdown.  Mac now has a Harvard-trained LCH specialist, Dr. Barbara Degar and Nurse Annie, who will be his nurse every single week.  Team Mac just got two new MVP players and we cannot be more thrilled.

With all my love,

Just a girl from Tennessee who happened to marry one of your finest exports

The Howards / Boston Strong

The Howards / Boston Strong


2 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Boston

  1. Praise God! What a blessing and a testament to the power of prayer and hope. Sending love to you from the heartland. 🙂

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