The Day Before…

I read this somewhere once…

“The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t a cancer mom either.” 

And it’s true.  I wasn’t.  However, the night before we heard the words “…she has leukemia,” I knew that she already had it.  Under odd circumstances, we had been preparing for leukemia’s arrival for many months.  That night I could see it in her eyes, on her skin and I could feel it in the deepest part of my soul.  But in those last moments at home, knowing life would flip upside down in the morning, I held on tight to what life was like before cancer.  Because everything would change the following day.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was free from central lines, machines and chemo.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she had a head full of thick and beautiful hair that I was madly in love with.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I had no idea what it meant for life to be crazy–even though I thought our’s was most days.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was free of fear.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, a cold was just a cold, germs were just germs; and we didn’t live in fear of either.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, my heart didn’t have to decide which of our kids needed me most at any given moment.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, she cried in our arms in pain and misery but smiled when daddy joked.

The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, it didn’t exist in my mind.

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Looking back at the day before my daughter was officially diagnosed with cancer, I took for granted the things in our life that were actually blessings–chaos from work and the kids, agonizing over what to make for dinner, organizing school and therapy schedules, complaining about mountains of laundry, crying over little things. And sometimes I was blind to the beauty around me.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I collapsed in my living room.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she was scared, but incredibly brave.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I cried myself completely numb.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she cuddled her blankie in the car during the ride to the hospital.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, I left our six month old baby behind to care for her sister.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, she hugged her new nurse.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, fear took over and I assumed the worst.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, our lives changed forever.

One week after her diagnosis. Halloween in the hospital.
One week after her diagnosis. Halloween in the hospital.
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Becoming an accidental pro at the hospital.

Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, the silver linings sparkled brighter than before; and I truly understood what it meant to be blessed even in despair.  Nurses became dear friends and crying alongside doctors was common.  There were late nights and long isolated days.  Pain and pride became one while we experienced tribulations and triumphs.

Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, we learned something new.  We watched our daughter fight for her life.  I found fear, but believed in hope.  We gave in, threw our hands up and prayed for miracles.

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Every day after my child was diagnosed with cancer, we gained an intense appreciation for those who work in the medical field because they loved, cared for and save our girl while working endless and often heartbreaking shifts.  We learned to advocate for our daughter and for kids with cancer because they deserve more.  They deserve a chance to live a full life outside of cancer.  Kids with cancer deserve freedom from their diseases and a fair shot at just being a kid.

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The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I knew very little about pediatric cancer–especially how grossly underfunded it is.  Less than 4% of federal funding is allocated for all kids cancers.  If you want to learn more hard truths and grim facts of childhood cancer, take a look here … or here … or here.

 

The more we turn our cheeks, the less we will help the future of our kids. Yes, it is scary.  Yes, it is unsettling.  But it is real.

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The day before my child was diagnosed with cancer, I was a mom unprepared for what would come; and she was just a toddler living a normal life.

The day my child was diagnosed with cancer, a spark ignited a powerful flame in my heart to fight for kids battling cancer everywhere.  And because of this beautiful face, I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

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Relay For Life

We spent last Saturday night at our area’s annual Relay For Life event. Tessa was one of this year’s honorary co-chairs, along with Carmen who is an amazing woman.  Literally, you can’t help but feel happy when by her.  And her speech was simply incredible.

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I shared Tessa’s story in the most honest and heart-felt way I could. And while I could not fight the tears that night, I felt proud and relieved to talk about it all–even the really sucky parts.  On this blog, I share so openly the events of our lives.  This site is my vessel and my voice; however in real life, I tend to be more reserved.  I don’t often talk about our struggles, triumphs, celebrations or hardships person-to-person.  It isn’t always easy for me.  I always feel like it may be hard to understand it all–the roller coaster ride that we are on.

Tessa joined me at the microphone right away.  She greeted the large crowd with, “Hiiii,” and then a very sweet and sincere, “Thank you!” That was enough attention for her as she whisked herself back into her daddy’s arms.

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I delivered my speech, quite tearfully, hoping that I conveyed a message of hope through my daughter.  Because that is what I see in her.

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And that is exactly what I feel from her.

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We walked the survivors lap at Tessa’s pace, which was far behind the others.  But she giggled and skipped the whole time.  At some point, she held hands with a fellow survivor.  All Tessa kept saying to her was, “Thank you grandma.”  Dan, myself and the very sweet lady erupted in laughter.  (Kicking myself for not getting her name.)

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At the end of the night, I sat with Dan outside of our camper and watched the luminaries dimly flicker in the dark.  They lined both sides of the long walking trail.   I don’t know how many there were. Too many.  They were beautiful, though.  Each had a story and a purpose.

It is hard to describe how amazing the Relay was.  It was inspiring and very emotional.  We were surrounded by people who were all affected by cancer.  At times, I could feel the heartache.  But I also witnessed so much love.  We gathered for camaraderie to celebrate victories of many kinds, to remember and to continue to fight.  Next year, we will do the same.

My heart is bursting with gratitude, and I am grateful for those who work so hard to make nights like this possible. Thank you to the American Cancer Society and the Lafayette County Relay For Life for taking the time to honor those diagnosed with cancer.

Tessa walked her second survivors lap just days after being one year cancer free. This picture sums it all up.

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