By Jamie Foltz
It was late one April night when I was sitting at my mom’s bedside at The James. She had just been admitted because the clinical trial she was supposed to start needed to be put on hold until they could open the blockage in her main bile duct. Her bilirubin count was through the roof and she needed surgery before she would be able to start fighting the cancer that had been attacking her pancreas for years without her knowing. When the lead physician in charge of her case came in, we didn’t know what to think. We hadn’t met her yet. She had a kind face but was direct and to the point. Her message was this: “If the surgery works, we can start the trial. If it doesn’t, there is nothing left for us to do.” Having never heard the words “there is nothing left for us to do” we were in a state of shock. What could she possibly mean? Why on Earth wouldn’t it work? She hadn’t even had a chance to fight! In that moment, I looked at my mom and she looked at me. We didn’t speak, we just cried together. She wiped away my tears and told me everything would be fine (in true mom fashion). She wasn’t in pain, at least physically, but she was unsure of what was her future. Just like most moms, her focus was on me and not the uncertainty of her own life.
Everyday, right here in Columbus there are kids, very sick kids, sitting in their own hospital beds while they hold their own mom’s hands telling them “don’t worry mommy, everything will be alright.” The roles are reversed but the theme is common. The patient has the strength while the loved one holding their hand is in so much pain at the thought of what they must be experiencing, at the thought of what’s next. We see these families at The Ronald McDonald House every day. Families whose hearts are breaking inside. They try to stay strong, especially in front of their children, but they are in complete disbelief of the thought that their child might not actually live to see their teenage years, or to graduate from high school, to have a family of their own. Some of them stay with us for days, and some are with us for years. It’s those moments they spend at The Ronald McDonald House they find the most clarity, the most comfort and the most relief throughout their journey. Their focus is on getting their kids well, but they are human and they need a respite too. That’s why it’s so critical to give our RMH families a place that is their own, a home they can rely on while they too face their most difficult days. Those moments I spent at The James gave me an appreciation for our families at the RMH that I hadn’t had before. While there was no place I would have rather been than right by my mom’s side, I too needed an escape from the worst reality I had ever faced.
After my mom passed away, my family decided we wanted her strength to live on for years to come. That’s why we asked her family and friends to join us in maintaining her lasting legacy. One that would pass on her eternal strength to other moms who needed it. We asked donations to come to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in her memory. With those donations, we were able to permanently name a guest room after my mom, Cheryl Foltz, whose enduring strength and courage inspired us all. For anyone considering a financial gift to The Ronald McDonald House, let me tell you first hand the truly magical feeling my family and I receive every time we see the sign that reads “In loving memory of Cheryl Foltz.” While we named a guest room at The House, there are so many ways to honor or memorialize a loved one. Rooms can be named permanently or annually. There are also pavers on our rooftop terrace that can be engraved with a special message for someone you love. As a Father’s Day gift, I purchased a paver in honor of both of my parents, and it was a gift that truly melted my dad’s heart. Many friends of the House have chosen to show their support through a similar gift with all kinds of inspiring messages for our families. It was important to my family to give my mom the chance to continually impart her strength to other mom’s in need. With that gift, we know that her spirit will not only live on in those she loved, but also in those she never even met.