Crystals, Cancer and a Circle of Love for Lou

By Alexa Wilding

The Plumfund Story: A Circle Of Love For Lou
I met Maria, a fellow twin mom, during my son Lou's treatment for brain cancer. Her four-year-old son, Michael was getting chemo in the room next to ours, and we liked to meet in the hall after our boys fell asleep. "Cocktail hour?" she'd text. By nighttime, I was usually curled up in the stiff recliner chair feeling sorry for myself, but I'd put on my sparkling Chinese slippers and shuffle out the door. One night, over pretzels and Poland Spring, she showed me a funny quote she found on Facebook. "Check it out," she laughed, "They say God doesn't give you more than you can handle... well God must think I'm a badass!"

Maria and I joked we were the badass witches of the ninth floor. A crystal enthusiast, she gave me some rocks of my own, rough cuts of amethyst and citrine. "Hold them when you're scared," she said, and I did, believing in their magic. By handing our children over to medicine, we had taken the ultimate leap of faith. But no amount of crystals and cocktail hours could hide the fact that God had given us more than we could handle. I didn't know how to say this to Maria, even though I was sure she felt it, too.

2015-11-11-1447284366-4642126-12107915_10153758912824312_3566687909816768900_n.jpgAlexa and Maria

Plumfund Giving In Action: Asking for help
When Lou was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, days after his and West's first birthday, my husband Ian and I truly believed we could go it alone. We had, after all, gotten through the first year of twins, albeit with the help of family and a lot of coffee.

But I had no experience with cancer, and nothing could have prepared me for the complexities of chemotherapy. Keeping a toddler with no immune system infection-free during flu season? My hands, washed constantly, were already red and raw, the one give away that, despite my resolve, I was hurting.

I also never could have imagined the emotional, physical and financial toll such a crisis could take on a family. By the end of round one, with five more to go, Ian and I, having switched off nights at the hospital for weeks, were under-slept, badly fed and running out of money. How was the latter possible when he was employed and we had insurance?

These were the questions I was afraid people would ask when my friend, Ben suggested we crowd-fund to help our family get to the finish line. "Let your community help you," he said. I was pretty sure a badass witch wouldn't ask for help, until I laid it all out and realized we had no choice.

The expenses no one told us about included:

1. Surgical bills, procedures, medications and tests not covered by insurance.
2. Co-pays. Between cycles, when Lou was outpatient, we were averaging 3-4 trips a week to clinic, plus regular emergency room visits.
3. Full time child-care to support the daily back and forth between boys.
4. Gett cars to and from the hospital (public transportation was off limits).
5. Extras: double groceries (for hospital and home), clothing on the run (chemo is messy), cleaning services, nursing supplies...

And so, thanks to Ben, we surrendered. We chose Plumfund as our command center, quite simply because it was the most user-friendly crowd-funding site we could find, a plus for exhausted parents. Our campaign was called, "A Circle of Love for Lou," symbolizing a ring of magic, and indeed, magic was quickly spun. Within 48 hours we raised over half of our $20,000 goal. In the end, we raised almost twice as much, the equivalent of a second income. This allowed Ian and myself to focus 100 percent on Lou and West, for which I will always be grateful. Family, friends, total strangers came to our rescue, no questions asked. Talk about badass!

2015-11-11-1447283449-4320230-IMG_0598.JPGLou in the hospital enjoying time with his dad

Here we are, ten months out of treatment, and Lou is cancer-free. The boys are obsessed with Maria's crystals, and we like to hold them up to the light in the morning, singing "Magic! Magic!" The more I follow their cues -- being happy, totally present -- the further away our ordeal feels. That said, the horror of it all creeps up on me some times, and when it does, I call Maria.

We have cocktail hour once a week, over the phone. On a recent trip to her house in Brooklyn, our boys played together, Lou and Mikey sporting freshly grown hair. Over Cokes, we reflected on the year, and Maria finally shared with me the many ways her family had also received assistance. "I guess some times even badass witches need help, too," she laughed, and we made a toast to the future.

2015-11-11-1447283340-6898860-11935072_10153629048449312_5323704037611253290_n.jpgLou after treatment, with twin brother West

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every weekday in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.