In 1977, Luke Park was a super adorable 18-month old baby who was funny and smart and even at that age could speak in complete sentences. He had the most precious smile and to me, he was one of my greatest Christmas/birthday gifts of all time. You see, he was my baby brother.
As a 7-year-old, I thought I was so old compared to him and I treated him like he was my very own doll. One day, I was carrying him down some steps in our back yard when I tripped and he fell and bumped his head. Luke didn't cry. He just got up and we both went on with our day. Luke rarely cried. He was a happy and very healthy baby. Or so we thought.
Not longer after that fall, my mom noticed a bump on Luke's head and we all figured it was from his fall. But the bump grew much bigger and my mom didn't feel right about it. A doctor in the town where we were living thought it was a blood clot and he stuck a needle in it to drain it. But moments later, the nurses were panicking and grabbing the gauze from the garbage and the doctor told my mom that something was seriously wrong with Luke.
My parents took him to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston where he was diagnosed with a very rare type of childhood cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH). Doctors from several different hospitals worked on his case and they told my parents that they needed to prepare for his death.
As a child, it was hard from me to separate my brother's disease from the fall and I thought for a long time that I had caused my brother to get sick. When my parents told us what the doctors said, it was like someone stuck a knife in my soul. My other brother, Drew, was five years old at the time. He and I stayed with our grandparents in Houston and my parents endured what no parents should ever have to endure - their baby went through brain surgery and biopsies and spinal taps and chemotherapy. They fought for his life. Luke also fought and he fought with great bravery and courage while facing death.
It is hard to explain what the siblings of kids with cancer endure. We are scared. We feel guilt. We feel confused. We try hard to comprehend things that even medical professionals don't always understand. You see, cancer is very complicated and it affects everyone in the family and their circle of friends. And in 1977, most kids died.
My brother Luke shocked the world when there was ultimately NED (no evidence of disease). The battle was rough, but our family was triumphant in the end. Today, my brother is a grown man and still shows NED.
I remember wanting to be a writer all my life. Even when I was a toddler, I was telling stories and having my parents write them. I began publishing articles in newspapers and magazines as a teenager in the 1980s. I ended up getting my degree in Journalism. I love writing. And I always wanted to write my brother's story. From the age of seven, I just felt certain that some day I would write a book about him and his brave fight.
Several months ago, I was up early one morning and began thinking about the desire to write this book and how I have let decades go by. I decided that the time had come to finally write this book. You see, my brother is the reason I am so passionate about childhood cancer. He was my introduction to these evil diseases. And in a strong coincidence, I ended up marrying a man who was, just like me, seven years old when his little sister got leukemia. Sadly, one year later, she took her final breath at the age of six. Unfair.
So, as I sat thinking about how the time had come to share Luke's story with the world, it struck me that this story needed to be told by my mom. My mom is the epitome of faith and strength and hope and she is brave, courageous and bold. I called her to ask if she would be at all interested in telling Luke's story in the form of a children's book and interestingly, she had also been thinking about writing another book (she wrote a children's book many decades ago). When I asked if she wanted to tell Luke's story, she told me she would think about it. I was so excited when I got the call and she said she would write it.
When she sent me the manuscript, I immediately loved it. It was perfect. And now, after decades of thinking about it and dreaming about it, my brother's very brave fight against cancer is being told. "Brave Courageous and Bold, Luke and His Big Battle" will be officially released on May 26, 2023 (presale started April 19). Our family and our fight will finally be shared with the world and we are so pleased that we will get to donate proceeds to research to help bring an end to childhood cancer.
I am so proud of my mom. And I am thankful to my dad for being her biggest fan and supporter. In fact, thanks to my dad, I believed in Bell Asteri Publishing long before it came to fruition. He believed in this idea more than anyone else and made me believe too.
Y'all, without my brother Luke and this nightmare we lived, I would never have started a publishing company. I would never have spent the past 20 years raising millions of dollars to end cancer. I hate cancer. I hate that our family had to endure it. But one thing I am grateful for is that good things can happen from bad things.
Thank you to my mom, Linda Park, for being willing to share this story. I love you.