I am starting this journal 11 months since Cristian passed away on January 25, 2009, and will continue as I did while Cristian was sick. So much has happened in that time. We had a beautiful mass celebrating Cristian’s life. Family and friends filled the huge church where there were easels set up with collages of Cristian’s life. I ordered a special, custom, handmade Thomas the Tank Engine flower arrangement since Cristian loved trains so much. It really was a beautiful event. The priest delivered a wonderful sermon and Cristian’s sister Brittnee said beautiful words.I’ve also started a foundation in Cristian’s name so that no other family will lose a beloved child the way I lost my Cristian. His brave battle humbled me greatly and I want to make sure that his death was not in vain. I am so confident that we will find a cure for Pontine Glioma and Cristian’s name will live forever for bringing such a positive change to the world. We’ve assembled a wonderful committee. Ricardo Cardona is a member, as is Jim Jones, Jose Alberto “El Canario”, Victor Martinez, Raul Acosta, Little Louie Vega, Jeff Lavino, James Cotto, Vic Latino, DJ Camilo, Elis Pacheco, Anthony Mason, Fernando Ferrer, J.I. Starr, Tedsmooth, Dr. Ben Velazquez, Hamlet Peralta, Eddie Caban, William Pla and so many others I am proud to call my friends. Together we stand so tall and can accomplish so much. Our first gala was held on September 29 at Eden, where Cristian had his memorable fifth birthday party. It was such a great success and so many people were there. I know that Cristian was there too, in spirit, and that he was as touched as I was by the outpouring of support from people like Luis Guzman, Miriam Colon, Ruperto Vanderpool, Bill Thompson and Franc Reyes. Their presence meant everything to me and it truly warmed my heart.Sadly, I was reminded all too quickly of the toll brain tumors can take on a beautiful child. This November, Cristian’s friend Valeria died. It was heartbreaking. Valeria was such a sweet girl. She had become like family to me and towards the end, I was there with her and her family, helping them with meds and battling with them every step of the way. I was at the hospital when she passed and cannot express how sad and painful it was to watch brain cancer claim yet another life. But I know that she has a great friend up there in Heaven with her: my brave, wonderful son. And now I am faced with celebrating my first Christmas without Cristian. Though he is not here in person, I am blessed to be able to spend the holidays with him both in spirit and in my prayers.As I write this, there is new hope for a cure. Dr. Mark Souweidane, who was one of the doctors who conducted various shunt surgeries on Cristian, thinks he has had a breakthrough. This is such great news. Dr. Souweidane is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery and the Director of Pediatric Neurological Surgery at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He has dedicated himself to researching brain tumors like the one that took my beloved Cristian from this world. I am very excited to see where his research can go and I am hopeful that this could be the godsend we’ve been waiting for.Of course that doesn’t mean I have given up on my own personal quest. I am always grateful for donations made toward Cristian’s foundation. No matter if they’re big or small, every generous gift brings me one step closer to my goal and that support is invaluable. And I look forward to the next Cristian Rivera Foundation Gala in 2010 when we will once again celebrate Cristian’s short but meaningful life.
John “Gungie” Rivera
Forever Cristian’s Daddy