Tag Archives: brokenness

Hopeful Expectancy – It’s Time To Start Dreaming Again

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It is no secret that I have struggled with the idea that hope, often times, seems elusive. Pain from trauma, brokenness, grief, mental illness, etc – that pain can be so intense it’s blinding. It removes hope as a word in our vocabulary. It insists that hope for anything beyond the pain isn’t a thing – that it never really was. It ensures we cannot remember what hope even feels like. It says hope isn’t real, at least not for me. I’ve also come to realize that this is dangerous, and false thinking – simply put: hope never goes anywhere. Yes, our life’s experiences that allow for that temporary blindness that makes hope appear to play a mean game of hide and seek – with us consistently losing. I urge you, however, to remember that hope is still real, and it always will be. Yes, I’m speaking to myself as much as the next person reading.

Today, however, something pretty interesting happened. I will explain more specific details in a future post, but I will say this. I was at a very low point today, and – if I’m being honest – the same can be said for plenty of the time recently. I have been questioning the meaning of life, in combination with the actual desire to keep on walking. To keep breathing. It’s been a struggle, trying to simply be, and live with the intensity of the pain. Instead of getting easier to navigate and deal with over the course of time, it’s been getting intensely more difficult. I have questioned my ability to keep fighting. Life shouldn’t be a fight.

Today, I was feeling really very overwhelmed, like giving up – and just, hurting. Instead of forcing myself to deal with it on my own, I reached out to a trusted friend. I will write more about this friend in time, but it became a moment, inspired by God Himself. That is not something I say lightly. But, it is something I say absolutely, with no doubt, was orchestrated by the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.  Grace took on the form of human connection, and reminded me of hope. And smiles. And laughter. Even tears. But, more than that, reminded me of the life saving grace and love that God offers.

This day especially, I needed this reminder. Had I forgotten who God was, or all He’s done in countless lives, mine included? Absolutely not. Had I been blinded by the pain, so I was unable to see or focus on Him at all? Yes, more than I care to admit.

But, the beauty of it all? Hope arrived. Though it never actually left, it did become real again. I would be lying if I said all was now a bed of roses, and all my thoughts and feelings are suddenly all totally better. I would be telling a tall tale if I told you that I now have it all figured out, due to this magical conversation with a friend. Though, I will say that the conversation was absolutely a tool God used to penetrate some dark places – to shine light on hope again; to allow for hope to arrive. What did happen, was beautiful indeed. I dared to allow myself to hope again.

Then, like a healing balm applied to a painful wound, a word was beginning to take form, and be etched in my heart. Expectancy. More than that, to live with hopeful expectancy. That is a change from where I am right now. It became a moment of deciding to choose not to live life comfortably – a moment where I chose (and will continue to choose) to dismiss the status quo. I realized, I really do want more than just the pain that life has offered. I know there has to be more out there. I will not give up on it.

You see, just last night, I was listening to this same  previously mentioned friend talk about dreaming. That our dreams are possible. While he was speaking, something broke inside me though. It was at that moment that I realized that I do not really have a lot of dreams – big or small. I haven’t been dreaming anymore. This really bothered me. But, I didn’t have the answer – the “how to” on dealing with it.

During my conversation today, though, That word, expectancy – it became real again. It is taking up residence in my heart, and is helping me grow my thinking.  It is helping me believe that not only is hope real, but also that dreaming is possible again. I haven’t really dissected this all that much yet. I haven’t sat down and really put much more thought into it, but I am going to.  I need to be in a different place than I am right now, and I can already tell it will require re-framing of my own thoughts. Re-framing reality even.

So, even though I don’t have it all figured out – I say that’s okay. I have something much greater: hopeful expectancy. That, in combination with my faith in a God who loves – that, is where I believe life change will begin to happen. That is where I see hope growing and thriving. That is where redemptive grace takes hold, and doesn’t let go. For this, I am grateful.

With this, I say, let’s get to dreaming. Never let your dream(s) die. If you aren’t dreaming, it’s time to rekindle the fire that says to not give up, and to never stop dreaming. You’ve got this. I’ve got this. Together, we can change the world. Maybe not the entire world (maybe so though) but we can change our individual world. That is worth hopeful expectation.

Dream big.

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When Depression Partners With Grief

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If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll recognize that I’m generally encouraging, or at least positive and pretty upbeat. I apologize in advance, because this is not going to be that. The words that follow will be fairly unfiltered and mostly unedited.

I’m tired, y’all. (Yes, I said y’all! I was born and raised in the south, so it’s allowed!) So jokes aside, I’m just exhausted in pretty much every sense of the word.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that what you’re going to read isn’t comfortable, and may frighten you as you question how I’m doing. That isn’t my intent. And, know this – I am safe, just need a space to process all this. I normally wouldn’t so openly, but ours is a world in pain. If just one person feels less alone, then there is purpose in the sharing.

I’ll get right down to it. I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I said, exhausted. I feel like I am just barely managing to keep the tears at bay some moments. No, I’m not a walking waterfall of tears, but I’m finding that they have a mind of their own. They want out more than I try to prevent them.

This whole grief thing – it sucks. Yes, the sun does still shine from behind the darkest clouds, and there is tremendous beauty all around us – even when depression makes everything bleak and dreary. Even though I know depression lies, it’s hard to hold onto that when is talons claw deeper.

My parents watched as we said goodbye this side of Heaven to my 7 year old daughter. I watched my parents bury my brother a year later. Days before my daughters death (she knew she was dying) she remarked how this just isn’t natural. And she was right. It isn’t. Parents shouldn’t watch their kids die. It sucks.

Depression, especially when partnered with grief, is a dangerous thing. It robs you of the ability to see or feel the beauty everywhere. It encourages statements like, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or simply, “I’m done.” I feel that way often.

But, here’s the thing. So far, I’ve managed to hold onto the idea that depression lies, and grief won’t always be painfully intense. The problem I struggle with is this. It’s hope. For me, hope seems about as easy to hold onto as wet soap in the shower.

I don’t like living like this. I genuinely wonder how it’ll be possible to keep going another day, let alone decades. Yes, I have sporadic suicidal thoughts. More than I care to admit. They’re painful and annoying, but no – I don’t entertain them either. They come, and I let them go. I try my best not to dwell in those moments. I choose not to act on them.

Let me reiterate – I really am okay. Well, a better description would be safe. I’m not particularly okay right now, but I am safe. Like I said, I won’t take unsafe action when those bad thoughts invade.

I guess I just need to hear the same words I share with hurting people all over the globe. It truly is okay to not be okay. It won’t always be this intensely painful always. Hope is real, and it always will be. I am a living, breathing story – one with chapters still being written. My story matters. I matter. I need to hold onto these things, rather than the lies depression partnered with grief tell me.

If you need to hear these things, or you know sometime who does, please tell them. You may be the lifeline they need in whatever crisis moments they’re walking through. If you hear nothing else I’ve said, please hear this. You are not now, and not ever, alone. I know the storms will still rage, and can be damaging – but one thing is for sure. You aren’t on your own, and neither am I. Take my hand if you need a friend…and please also offer yours. As I wrote last week, there is power in an outstretched hand; healing happens in friendship.

Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

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Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

Every human being alive knows the definition of pain. For some, it’s chronic illness – physical, or mental. Life has a habit of launching some curve balls aimed at destroying the status quo. Our action, inaction, or reaction to reality altering events is what sets the tone of our journeys and lives.

When the pain is unbearable, it is easy to lose sight of hope – hope for anything other than pain. In the intensity of a crisis or painful episode, the shaded sunglasses are fastened tightly. Through them, we only see darkness. The brightest sunny day, with birds chirping and life happening can appear dark and dreary as we wear these glasses. It’s being sight impaired to beauty for fear of the pain.

That is what pain does. It blocks our vision. It keeps us from enjoying the okay or good times because there is a paranoid expectancy of the demons and darkness lurking around the corner.

On the converse, those moments where we’re feeling those unexpectedly beautiful moments, and we are able to take joy in them — it’s more crushing when the pain returns. There is no denying that good and beautiful things happened. There are sometimes undeniable miracles at work. Even with those, it’s hard to hang onto what feels like fleeting beauty. Sunglasses continue to darken the world around us. 

We all have pasts. The collective pain and brokenness that each individual brings into a crowded room is unfathomable. Hidden scars. Brokenness. Some have walked through addiction, sexual abuse or rape, traumas of all kinds, physical or mental illnesses, bullying, crisis moments, losses of small and great magnitudes – just pain that is unimaginable.

We all need to recognize the FACT that every single person in there is a living, breathing story. Each comes with their own story – what brought them to where they are today.

Let’s talk about healing. And taking off those sunglasses. 

Healing is a term that people throw around when things hurt. Physical or mental. When life hurts, I can almost guarantee that you will hear that time heals all wounds. Whoever tells you that is lying. They may not intentionally be liars, but time doesn’t heal everything that hurts. Some things, time does allow you to better get a grip of, or to carry a little easier…but take away the pain? Nope, not so much.

However, there are  things in life that help heal. 

When life hurts, love heals. It doesn’t make the wounds automatically go away, but it dulls the sharpness of the pain. When someone offers an outstretched hand, and doesn’t greet pain with silence, healing can happen in unimaginable ways. Hope that we were temporarily blind to – that hope holds your hand and sits with you in the pain. That place is where healing happens.

It’s important to note that it’s okay to not be okay. But, when you’re not, please reach out – and allow someone else the honor of your taking their outstretched hand. No, reaching out doesn’t erase the pain. It won’t, and it can’t. Even when you feel that you’re walking through hell on earth, it’s heartwarming to know that you don’t have to do it alone.

Even not being alone doesn’t mean the storms aren’t damaging.

It is what we choose to do in these moments that define us. For me, it’s accepting the gift of friendship. When there is an outstretched hand, it’s taking it and allowing myself to just be. To just feel. To cry the tears that I want to suppress. A friend recently reminded me that I needed to feel what I was feeling, and that it was okay. Even the brokenness and tears. That is a reminder I have shared with many people over the course of time – but, hearing the words said to me – did something in my heart.

No, healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage is no longer permitted to control our lives.

I know it’s sometimes easier said than done. I’ve walked through hell on earth. I’ve known deep pain. But, I’ve also come to know hope and healing.

If you are or were a kid who was picked on and bullied, know that you don’t have to be defined by that. Healing is possible, and you are more. Your life is valuable, and you matter more than the words of any written language could express. There are many who may feel their pain is a result of their own doing. If you feel like you’ve messed up, always remember that you are not a sum of your past mistakes. You can make choices that enact positive change. You don’t hold all the keys to the universe, but you do hold some to your own world. We can’t control everything, but we can control our own actions.

Yes, bad things happen. Yes, it sucks. But, no, it doesn’t have to define your entire life. Brokenness can be exchanged for healing. It may not happen immediately, but it can happen. Sometimes love and friendship is like a healing salve applied to intensely painful wounds to aid in the healing process.

In case no one has told you this, please hear me. I believe in you. I believe in your story. I believe in the power of a shared story. So, let me offer this. If you have a story to tell, or just want to talk – reach out. I’m here, and others are as well. You can post in comments or send me a message via my “contact me” page. Just never give up on your story. Yours is a beautiful story, with chapters yet to be written. Never, ever give up. 

Traversing A Tornado – When Life Seems Like A Whirlwind

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This past week, I cannot count the number of times I heard that it just felt like we were being caught up in a whirlwind. I can relate. 

You see, my big brother died last week. There are still more questions than there are answers. The pain associated with his death seems unbearable some moments.

 

When I look at this picture, and one I’ll share in a few moments, I’m a mixture of emotions. I smile, and I cry. You see, he was just 40 years old. He’s supposed to still be here. My big brother. 

I wrote, and had the honor of reading a eulogy at his funeral. It was not without tears, but it was also not without giggles. Fitting for the dichotomy that walks alongside losing someone you love. The following words are my hearts voice: 

Steven was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was my big brother. He is a son, a grandchild, a nephew, husband, daddy, an uncle, and a friend. He was my friend. 

If you knew him, you’d know he wasn’t any cookie cutter mold of what society thinks of as normal. But, that’s what made him, well, him. He could be out there at times, but he was passionate. He had such a tremendous heart. He loved his family deeply, and he valued himself as a protector. He would do just about anything for those he loved. 

I know that many of us feel like this is a nightmare, one we wish we could simply wake up from. It feels so surreal, and it’s hard to even believe at this point. 

In his honor and memory, I would like to ask and challenge each person here to live life on purpose. Be intentional with your time. Love people like tomorrow isn’t promised. Tell them you love them. Make sure you know what they mean to you. Treat people with compassion and kindness, and make sure people know their value. 

None of us know how much we mean to others. But when I looked around the room last night at the visitation, and I look around the room right now, I see love. I see people who my big brother touched in some way, shape or form. He had a tremendous impact on this earth, and his absence this side of Heaven leaves a giant Steven shaped hole in a lot of hearts. Nothing can or ever will take his place. And it shouldn’t. 

One of the last things I want to leave you with is a reminder. It’s okay to not always be okay. It’s okay to hurt, and to mourn a loss of someone pretty incredible. Just don’t stay in that place forever. Connect with other people, and connect with hope. Celebrate that he lived, don’t only mourn that he died. 

Please, do not ever forget my big brother. Let’s always strive to remember all the good, or even downright amusing moments that bring joy and make us smile or laugh. Those same moments may also bring tears at times, and that’s okay. 

Heaven welcomed an incredible person, and I’m proud to be his little sis. I know we’ll all miss him greatly, but we’ll be okay somehow, because we have each other, and none of us will carry his loss alone. Thank you.

I meant every word. Though miles apart, we knew love. He often joked that I was his little big sister, because he was able to come to me with “some really big shit” and he knew I would be honest, and I would help him in any way I could. He also knew he could trust me to tell him the truth, even if he didn’t really want to hear it. 

That’s what love is. Love does. It’s an action word. My brother walked through hell on earth, but he wasn’t alone as he traversed his tornados. Even literal tornados – just ask me about his treehouse one day. 

Just as he wasn’t alone, none of us traverse life’s most difficult whirlwinds alone. 

I won’t lie though; right now, life feels really heavy. It hurts. I think of Heaven, and I long for the reunion(s) that will one day happen there. But, reality then sets in, the here and now reminds me that life isn’t always fair, fun, or even good – and sometimes I’m just sad, really sad. And, I know that’s okay too. 

I will echo something I’ve said a lot of times. I firmly believe we were created as community people. To know others, and to be known. To love, and to be loved. The key here is: not alone. I’ve been reminded a great deal very recently – it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Grief needs to happen, and what grief looks like is very individual. If you’re sad, know that it’s okay. If you’re hurting, know that the pain won’t always feel as intense as it does in these moments. I’m there. I get it. These words are as much for me as the next person reading this. 

With that all in mind, let me share an open invitation: please walk with me. Don’t greet my pain with silence. Give my heart a voice, even if that voice may be a little shaky. I need you. 

And let me offer that same hand of friendship – If you need someone who won’t ever give up on you, and who will simply sit with you in your pain- allow me that honor. 

The Date That Would Alter Realities

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 This is the face of hope…of courage…of faith. This is my beautiful, then 4 year old daughter, Janet. Until this day, she had never had a hair cut in her life. Cancer treatment would take her hair away, and eventually her life. But, the smile you see here – it never really faded. She had a smile that could melt an iceberg.

This day in history. On some calendars, it is merely but a day. On mine, it will forever mark the day (four years ago today, if you’re reading this in 2017) – that our lives changed forever. It was this day, 2013, that our sweet little Janet was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That was the day that life as we knew it – it would never be the same. The normal we once knew, would never be heard from, or seen again.
 
From that day forward, however, we would also learn an indescribable love.
Yes, this journey would become not a sprint, but a marathon. A journey of epic proportions. A journey so painful, it is hard to breathe some days…but so full of love. It would be the beginning of our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside Janet. She was so very loved, and never alone — and knew both of these things to be truth.
 
With all the love in the world, it’s still a journey marked by intense pain and heartbreak. This day, 2013, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor…and three years later, she would breath her last breath this side of Heaven. Friends, I hate the fact that this is our reality. It shatters my heart, and I wish with everything I am that life wasn’t this way.
 
But, it is…and here we are. Continuing to breath, and continuing to have a heart that beats. I made some statements and promises to Janet just before she died. I told her that we were going to miss her like crazy, like there’s no tomorrow…and that it would hurt when she was gone, but that we would be okay, because we’d be together. I did tell her that we would ALWAYS #RememberTheLove. And, that is a promise I will never break.
 
For those of you following, and who share love and support – and also prayers, it is with heartfelt gratitude that I say thank you. Please, please don’t ever stop.

Where Am I? How Are Things? 

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I’m not these things alone, but I can relate, across the board.

If you know me at all, you know the answer to the title’s questions are apt to change, sometimes about as predictably as the wind blows. I’m not joking. 

Many people comment on my faith, my strength, my love and passion for people, and for life. Daily, people mention these things. It is during the most broken of days that I hear it the most. When the pain seems unbearable, it is the love filled, encouraging words that make a tremendous difference. 

You know I love practical examples. This is no different. I often share that words matter. That they make a difference. I say that about hugs as well. This example will explain more.

Since my little girl died a year ago next month, I haven’t been the same. Some days, I feel like I might just survive, while on other days I feel so broken. Just shattered. I haven’t been very involved in my church, and I’ve been questioning my own faith, beliefs, and if I’m being honest – God Himself. 

On January 1st, I made the decision to go back to church. A new beginning, if you will. Deep inside, I knew I still had (and, for a long time, will likely have) some hard questions. Brokenness. Pain. But also healing. Love. And, I knew that surrounded by other people, being reminded of what love looks like – that’s what my heart longed for. 

A special encounter happened, but the significance – the other individual wasn’t really privy to. They knew enough, more than most. But, the difference was their being intentional. They asked how things are medically (that’s a separate update, for another day) and just all the way around. They shared love and compassion – and a willingness to just do life with me, to sit with me in my pain. At one point, there were simply no words. In response, a hug was offered. In lieu of words, hug are the best. Hugs can often speak the things our hearts can’t. This was that moment. 

But, what they had no way of knowing was a little more of the significance. See, I write more on this blog than is released publicly. Call it self preservation. Call it self care. Call it sanity saving. You could even call it fear. But, this is a blog post I wrote very recently. (In December, actually. I’ll go back and make it public after this post.)

Here is what I wrote: 

The title might be alarming. It should be. I cannot predict all the words that are about to flow, but I’m going to free write. If I think it, I’ll write it. So, here we go. 

Death is a heavy topic. Death doesn’t hold unlimited power. It doesn’t have the final word. It is the end of one life, and the beginning of another. 

But, the allure of death? How could something so heavy and somber have an allure? Let me explain. 

I do not fear death. If I’m being honest, I long for it some days. 

For those of you psychoanalyzing my words, please save yourself the trouble – and, don’t! I’ll save you the time. I’ll break down my thoughts in a way that don’t scare you. 

When I said I long for it some days, I’ll assure you – I have no plans to speed the process along. (I’m not suicidal.) But, I’ll say this. 

Never before have I wanted to not be living as much as I do now – but – on the flip side, never before have I wanted to live more than I do right now. I don’t want to die. I do, however, have moments where I wish I just didn’t exist. Sometimes this reality feels too much to bear. Sometimes, I feel too much. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I can go on another moment – let alone days, weeks, months or years. 

But, I can. 

And, I will. 

There are days I hurt. I feel pain so deeply, that my only response is tears. At any given time. For pretty much any reason. 

Let’s circle back around to the idea that death could possibly hold allure. See, as I mentioned previously, it is my belief that death isn’t the end. I believe in life after death – in Heaven or hell. I believe that when you die, you’re not eternally separated from those you love. I believe you will see those you love again in what many call the afterlife. 

My daughter died ten months ago, after a three year journey with brain cancer. The allure death holds is that I will get to see her (and lots of other people I miss) again. 

Stop the psychoanalysis!

If you are concerned or worried, I understand. But, because I know the deep pain associated with losing someone you love dearly, I wouldn’t do anything to remove myself from the equation either. I hurt deeply because I love deeply. Suicide isn’t okay. It isn’t fair. And it leaves ripples, and touches generations. So no, that option is off the table. 

I just don’t fear death anymore, and this all explains why. 

That encounter had nothing to do with that writing. However, God’s grace had everything to do with it. It was a moment in time that gave my heart a voice. It was a moment in time that served as a catalyst to helping rekindle not only my faith in people and church again, but also in the heart of God again. His heart took human form that day. 

It has taken the time from then until now (just a couple days) for me to process this, and recognize why there was such significance. The whole thing was an answer to prayer. 

Yesterday, I had several people ask how I was. And, I could honestly say that “I think I’m okay today” and I meant it. I smiled, realizing that I felt loved – by the God of all creation, and also people. Today, I feel like I actually had a good day. 

I feel like this is cause for celebration. I’m learning about the vital nature of self care, and of celebrating the little things in life too. Not only the giant, monumental things.  

So, with a guarded heart, I celebrate today. Guarded because I fear that the world may drop out from under me at any given moment, and the feeling okay right now will come crumbling down around me. But, I am making a choice in this moment to not borrow worry or “what ifs” from tomorrow. That only robs the joy from today. 

But, if it does – if the world drops from under my feet, I won’t be alone – and I know that. That makes all the difference. And, I am grateful. 

The Heart That Bleeds Gold

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Driven To Make Change

Some people have ice cold hearts, while others are warm and inviting. And then there are those whose hearts bleed gold. It takes the age old saying that someone has a “heart of gold” to an entirely different level. 

If you are not aware, the universal color representing childhood cancer is gold. 

Today, I met a man named Ronnie. He started Driven To Make Change. Before a couple of days ago, I hadn’t known very much about Ronnie and his heart that bleeds gold. He is a compassionate person, who – yes, has a heart of gold. His goal and mission in life right now is to raise awareness for pediatric cancer . 

He’s driving across 48 states to learn all he can about all the  pediatric cancers (139, currently known) and also to raise awareness. His hope is multi faceted. Not only does he have vision to raise funds for fighting cancer and finding a cure – he also seeks to take that deeper and further. 

He wants to aid research into the why. Cause. Find out why or how (any environmental or otherwise) these cancers form. It is then that they become preventable. 

Preventable cancer!?

It sounds like a pipe dream – but, I’ll draw your attention to medical history – so did the cause and/or cure for polio and other similar diseases. Let’s band together and turn this pipe dream into hopeful reality. Don’t tell me it’s not possible. 

Why the passion? 

I’m glad you’ve asked. My daughter Janet (Praying For Little Janet) was diagnosed with a rare (literally one of a kind) brain tumor at age four. She courageously fought brain cancer for three years, and passed away February 13, 2016. She is my why. My passion. My love. There is a giant hole in my heart that only she could ever fill. 

She is not my only why . 

There are so many people – so many families whose lives are turned upside down, in an instant – with two (not so) simple words: childhood cancer. To hear the words “your child has cancer” or “your child has a brain tumor” are game changers. They will (and should) change perspective and priorities in a huge way. Life as you know it will NEVER be the same “normal” again. Life will change. Death may happen. And that part so royally sucks. 

They are now also my why. Every family who hears those words. I fight for my daughter, and I fight for all the families affected by pediatric cancers of all kinds. 

My daughter died. My hope and prayer is that no other family, ever, has to endure this painful kind of journey. 

Pipe dream? Not forever. WE have the power to change things. It will not happen overnight. But, it WILL happen. The key is, we must advocate for our children. They deserve so much more than the 3.8% of federal funding for pediatric cancer research currently alloted. 

Please join me, Ronnie, and all those with hearts that bleed gold, in raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research (not only for a cure – but also to be able to pinpoint cause, and thus prevent the cancer) and share hope with the world. 

#RememberTheLove