Every year in honor of her son David’s birthday, Susan rides the 40-mile New York City Five Boro Bike Tour. This year, with their feet on the pedals, the wind at their backs (and sometimes their fronts), and 32,000 people riding alongside them, Susan and her friends raised over $4,000 for the David’s Warriors Hero Fund. Susan explains what the ride means to her.
Susan and her cycling friends in front of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.
In 2009 as our son, David, was battling neuroblastoma, one of his incredible Cub Scout leaders rode the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour in David’s honor. It’s a 40-mile ride touching each borough in the city, complete with amazing street music, skyline views that take your breath away, and an opportunity to feel the beat of the city in a way that is just spectacular.
This week, the childhood cancer community is joining together and sending a message to Congress — Step Up: More Funding for Childhood Cancer Research. Add your voice and tweet your members of Congress through SoundOff.
Susan and her son, David.
One of the greatest joys of parenting is watching your child develop and master new things. From stacking blocks, learning colors, and beginning to read, to driving a car and casting their first vote — each milestone is a celebration.
Election days were awesome in the Heard house. There was spirited conversation and a sense of citizenship as we walked to the booth down the block. We would discuss the candidates with our kids and educate them on our values and voting choices. By age 7, our son, David, was well-versed in many issues, and when he came to the voting booth he pressed the buttons and voted for me.
And then cancer came into our lives when David was 8. Voting was one of many normal activities that was put on hold.
After her 14th shave for St. Baldrick’s last year, Susan thought she was done. Today, hers was the first head shaved live on the Today Show as St. Baldrick’s barber David Alexander broke the Guinness World Record for most heads shaved in one hour. She wrote this letter to her son, David, who passed away from neuroblastoma at age 10 and who continues to inspire her to fight to cure childhood cancer. (Join her in the fight!)
David while he was battling neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer.
Hello, my sweet boy. By now you would be almost done with eighth grade and we would be getting ready for high school. Instead, your eternal reef is green and fully supporting the ocean habitats you so loved. And I have made a decision. Well, a change in a decision I made last year in a hotel ballroom in San Antonio with 45 other women.
Last June, I said I was done shaving my head. I no longer needed my grief to be such an external expression. Over the three years of missing you I had absorbed it enough to let my hair grow. That was a huge day and a huge announcement, especially after your dying wish to me: “Keep shaving your head and raising money to fund cures for kids.”
How can you use your love for photography to fundraise for childhood cancer research? Start a Do What You Want fundraiser with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation!
Start a photo booth fundraiser to cure kids with cancer! Photos by Elaine Zelker Photography
This fundraiser helped meet two criteria on David’s final bucket list: fund cures and embrace life!
In 2008, David was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer in children. Cancer took David’s life three years later, when he was 10 years old. David’s mom, Susan, writes this letter to her son.
Susan and David on his 8th birthday in 2008, before he was diagnosed with childhood cancer.
It is your 13th birthday today. I remember the day you were born like it was just yesterday. I started writing you a birthday letter at your first birthday because there was so much I wanted you to know about YOU and how you impacted our lives so deeply. My plan was to share the letters with you when you headed off to college. They were intended to remind you of where you came from, how much you are loved and to encourage you to keep growing and exploring.
For your 10th birthday letter, I decided to read it out loud to you because it would be your last birthday. I couldn’t get through it, and you took the letter from my hands and read it. It made me so proud — you were fearless in the face of the worst news.
Join us in finding cures for childhood cancers. Get Involved
Susan, Tom, Daisy and David in 2010
My husband Tom and I, we don’t mind paying taxes — it really is a privilege to live in the United States. But who knew that our taxes this year would be just one more way we felt raked over the coals after losing David to childhood cancer?
This year, after making it through the second anniversary of David’s passing from neuroblastoma, Tom sat down to fill out our tax forms while I sat at my desk doing work I love. He passed by my door, and I showed him how organized I’ve been with charitable gift receipts this year. When David died, we started giving away a lot more. Tom said that was good because we needed all the deductions we could find.
That surprised me. “Why do we need all the deductions we can find?” I asked. I make less money now than I did when David was alive, so I thought that would actually help in the world of our taxes. Tom’s eyes got teary as he looked at me and said,
Susan, Tom, and Daisy with David in 2010.
For two years, it was an amazing run — vacations we never would have taken, conversations we never could have had, books shared that opened our minds, concerts attended, and wild kitchen dance parties. Fireworks, disco balls, glitter, and champagne (or root beer) toasts were part of our lives. We were life, and if we kept going, then David would stay with us here on Earth.
David’s cancer made me feel helpless, and shaving my head provided me with the chance to find hope! After David died, he asked me to shave my head again with the 46 Mommas, which I did in September 2011. While in Washington, D.C. for the Mommas’ head-shaving event, I advocated for the Creating Hope Act. I met with Representatives and Senators about the importance of research for childhood cancers. I left “The Hill” inspired that I was doing something to change the face of this awful disease.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has been my way to grieve with action — never letting the despair overwhelm me, but staying focused on bringing hope to all families who are told their child has cancer. I am grateful for the training I received on how to meet with political personnel. I brought that education back to my hometown, where I met with my Congressman and he promptly signed on as the 60th sponsor of the Creating Hope Act.
Thank you, St. Baldrick’s, for being a refuge for kids with cancer (and their families)!
Mother of David
Relapsed stage IV neuroblastoma
May 2, 2000 – February 10, 2011