Tag Archives: pediatric cancer

Are You Aware? Let’s Talk About It!

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Many months, or many individual days come with awareness titles. Each day, or month respectively, seek to bring awareness to a cause. Something near and dear to someone’s heart. Well, this month – and specifically also this day is no different. Before I get to that, I would like to say something though. I almost wish I could go back to the brand of naivety where I simply didn’t know or understand these things. But, I can’t. And, my prayer is that, after reading this post, you won’t be able to either. I want you to be aware of these things, as nothing will change until we start to talk about them. No stigmas will be removed by remaining silent.

September is awareness month for multiple things. But, near and dear to my heart are two very intensely painful and “special” ones.

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First, September is childhood cancer awareness month. The month we bring awareness to something so rampant, and so widespread – but yet so many people think it is rare. Kids get cancer too. So many children, my daughter included, have fought and died as a result of this monster. So many children fighting this fight every single day. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer knows no race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  If you are interested in standing with us to raise awareness for all those who have, or who continue to battle this monster, we’d love it if you’d consider ordering a special t-shirt – created actually by my daughter and I while she was still alive, this side of Heaven.

Children need hope – especially those who have to fight for their lives in a battle with childhood cancer. What they need is awareness, funding, research, hope and a cure. It all starts with you being aware. No amount of awareness will bring my daughter back, but hopefully fundraising that provides research will provide the potential of new medications and therapies. My heart hurts, and it is my desire that no other parent know this kind of pain. The cold hard fact is this though – there have been no new childhood cancer protocols to save our babies lives in multiple decades. DECADES. the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute (NCI) plays a pivotal role in research, yet only approximately 4% percent of its annual budget is dedicated to childhood cancer. The result is that children are dying every day waiting for promising new treatments that lack funding. Our children deserve more than 4%.

There are multiple organizations (locally, and nationwide) where funds go directly to research and finding a cure. There are also several organizations that directly help the families with a child fighting cancer. If you need help finding a reputable place to make donations to, please ask – either here in comments, or via my contact me page. I’d be happy to help you find what makes sense for you – and will gladly share my own experience in those places who made a difference during our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside my daughter for the three years she fought.

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As we open our hearts, and fight for these little fighters all across the globe, we also need to open our hearts and fight for some other fighters. They don’t fight cancer – but, they fight other demons. You see, September is also suicide prevention and awareness month – with September 10th being Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day. This is a day where the entire world locks arms and stands together, fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide. It is this day and month, that we are more vocal. Talking about it. Giving a voice to those who feel they have none. I have personally been affected by suicide as well. I have lost people I love as a result of their taking their own lives, and have struggled with my own inability to see anything other than the intensely painful moments that just hurt. I have had suicidal thoughts, and I know that I was made for more than just the pain.

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If I were to take (or have taken) my own life when I couldn’t see beyond the pain, I wouldn’t be here to ask you to please stay. I’m here today, asking you to stay. Please stay to be surprised. Please stay for love – to love, and to BE loved. Please stay to know others, but to also be known. Please stay and know that you are loved – that your life matters, and that your life is a story – with chapters, yet to be written. Please don’t take a beautiful story away from those who need to hear it. You are not alone. Not now, not ever. I join my friends at To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) in asking you to stay, and find what you were made for.

So, on this day – and throughout this entire month, will you join me in talking about the topics hard to discuss? Will you reach out to anyone you might see that is hurting? Know that any small act of love, of compassion, of kindness – it might just save a life. If you see someone in pain – for whatever reason, be present. Care enough to not greet their pain with silence. You may not have the right words to say, and it’s alright.

If you are reading this right now, and find yourself feeling hopeless, please know that you are not alone. You don’t have to do this journey alone. Please reach out for help. You are worth it. Your story is worth it. The world needs you to be here. If you need help finding resources, feel free to post here in comments or contact me directly via my “contact me” page. Also, you can find helpful resources on TWLOHA’s page.

If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA.

I don’t have all the answers, and maybe that’s okay. I tell myself this often. I ask you to join me in raising awareness for these two causes this month. Let’s take it beyond just this month – and make it something we talk about regularly. It is only with open and honest communication that we even stand a chance at making a difference, and erasing the stigma(s) that keep us from talking about it – that same stigma that takes lives, and keeps people from seeking help. Let’s be the change our world needs. Let’s talk about it. Let’s do something. Let’s let love lead the way. Always, Remember The Love.

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.

Facing Life After Death – Walking Through Life’s Unbearable Moments

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This child. This courageous fighter embodied strength combined with love. She knew and showed compassion. Though she faced insurmountable odds, she gave the world so many gifts – love, hope, compassion, joy, and so many other beautiful things. She leaves a beautiful legacy of love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.

With regards to being on that floor again – it was quite a mixture of emotions. Each and every emotion you could have, I did. I was angry. I was happy. I was sad. I had joy. I knew deep pain. I knew incredible love. It hurt so much. But, there was so much beauty. I was able to see the love in those walls. Empathy and compassion on the faces of nurses who remember Janet, and who remember the love. I was stopped once, and asked if I was Janet’s mom. That was such a heartbreaking and more than that – heartwarming moment. She was there the night before Janet died, and she remembers. She’ll never forget my baby. I saw another nurse this morning that also knew Janet well. No magical words, but compassionate eyes. We did talk, and it did my heart good. They still care. They’ll never forget her either. My heart needed to feel the pain, but to also feel the love.
 
I kinda think each and every day, all of life, is this way as well. Think about it. As I have said so many times before – I KNOW that I feel the deep pain that I do because of deeply rooted love. If you look at ANY passion or emotion, look at the polar opposite emotion. Usually, you can find them attached at the hip. Weakness is attached to strength. Hope to hopeless. Broken to healing. Etc., etc., etc…
 
I want to encourage you guys with some encouragement that has been life – giving to me. As we all know I stand on the FACT that it is okay to not always be okay. More than that, it’s okay (make that vital) to feel what we need to feel. If we hurt, allow ourselves to feel. There’s that fine line, though, of not staying in that place forever.
 
If you need to know that you are not alone, allow me to be the voice that says, “me too.” No matter what you are walking through, know that you are walking THROUGH it. I know that you may be struggling with the most horrific pain you have ever experienced. Is it the same as my pain? No, not always? But, also, yes – perhaps. Either way, pain (like love) is a universal language. It speaks. Will you listen?? I will. Maybe you don’t need words. Maybe you just need someone to be willing to sit, even virtually, with you in your pain. That is a gift that has been offered to me, and it’s an outstretched arm I also offer.
 
I would also like to offer this tidbit. As a bereaved mother, I want you to know – any of you reading this, it is an honor to walk alongside you on your journey as well. Do I enjoy pain? No. But, there is great healing (for me) in doing life alongside other people. It gives me great purpose to be able to say, “I may not get exactly what you are going through, but it’s an honor to sit with you in this pain,” and mean it. I still consider it a distinct honor to walk alongside parents with children fighting cancer – at the beginning of their journey, or even in their final moments. Does it hurt? Absolutely. Is it hard? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. I said all that to say this, PLEASE connect and reach out. Though I have walked through some very painful seasons, it gives me tremendous purpose to use our experience(s) to share hope, compassion and love with others.
 
So, in the event you ever need help, know that help exists. You aren’t alone, and you matter. You are valued and loved. Please give yourself the ability to feel what you need to feel, to be honest and to give your heart a voice. It is then, and only then, that healing can begin.
 
If you would like to talk to me, I am here. Reach out. If you have a friend who has a friend fighting cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have a wealth of knowledge, and though it sucks, it’s an honor to share experience(s) with those walking through similar life experiences. If you’re just hurting, and your heart needs a voice, I’m here. A non-judgmental, listening ear.
 
To all who continue to surround our family with your thoughts and prayers – know that we are, and forever will be grateful. The love and encouragement you continue to share – there is so much strength found there. Thank you for, forever and always, for you reaching out and being able to #RememberTheLove. It brings me strength, and does my heart good.

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

Have You Been To A Concert That Rescues And Saves Lives? 

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This is a picture taken at a concert that began with “For His Glory” (which is more than just a band, and then followed by “The Great Romance” – who already held a very special place in my heart.

Have you ever been to a music concert that saves lives and rescues people? I have. Two nights ago. 

I had an opportunity that had my stomach in knots. A concert. No big deal,  right?!  In my case, not right. Let me explain… 

My daughter passed away in February after a three year battle with brain cancer. During the first year of her fight – on a cool and crisp sunny October afternoon, Matt Vollmar (Lead singer of The Great Romance -TGR) came to visit Janet during one of her many inpatient stays at the hospital. He sang an incredibly meaningful song, Bigger Than The Odds. The song speaks of A God, who is bigger than the odds. Janet fell in love with that song, the artist who sang it, and the band that plays it. She’d take much pride in requesting and hearing it played on the radio. Every time TGR was in concert anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we made it a point to be there. It would be an understatement to say they meant a ton to us. 

Case in point, Matt Vollmar was one of a small handful personally asked to sing at Janet’s Celebration of Life (funeral) service. He sang an couple of her favorite songs, fitting for the occasion. 

This concert was the first concert I’d been to since she passed away. If you knew much about me, you’d know I’ve been to several concerts in recent years – at least 95+% of them, with my daughter in attendance. She loved music. Music has such a message, and even as a young kid, she “got” it. 

I had virtually no idea how hard, yet how impactful this concert would become. 

If you look closely, these are several of the pictures from the set where these guys/gals played/sang.

I walked in as the first group, For His Glory, was being introduced, and began to share about a cause that they support – a cause near and dear to their hearts. They seek to offer hope, healing, and practical help to people and ministries worldwide. In this instance, they spoke passionately about human trafficking, and connecting them with true and lasting, sustainable hope. The kind of hope that rebuilds lives, and communities. They have a global market, where they sell goods made by these rescued girls, to help them continue with sustainable income. I saw some of these beautiful items – baby bibs, any weather scarves, winter scarves, greeting cards, wooden sculptures, jewelry, etc. Incredible talent. 

Their mission is one near and dear to my heart as well. I was astounded to hear their heart and words in support of this cause. 

As they played, their songs spoke to my heart. I listened, and I cried. It simply couldn’t be helped. They were beautiful tears – not marked with sadness. They were my heart connecting with what felt like the very heart of God. I knew, in those moments, that I had to connect with these people. That is an indoor process at the moment, but their mission is also my mission. I’ll look forward to updating again as friendships form, and differences are made in our world. 

At the completion of their set, it was time for The Great Romance to take the stage. I didn’t know what to expect, emotion wise, but I didn’t have the slightest clue the difficulty level either. 

Look closely. These are some of several shots taken during this concert.

Their first song was a light hearted (one of a few) favorite of Janet’s. I had tears, but I was okay. The next song grabbed my heart, and was one Janet loved, got the meaning of, and was also sang at her Celebration of Life. Disappear. The basis of this song is asking “if I were to disappear, would there be footprints on the floor” – asking if the person wasn’t there any longer, would they leave a footprint on this world – a legacy of something more. At seven years old, my daughter knew she was doing, but she KNEW she would leave a legacy of love. She was and still is right. So yes, that song got me. A few other songs hit a spot, but nothing came close to the deluge of emotions that poured out of my eyes in the form of tears. I lost it. Not on a horrible way, but the tears freely streamed down my face, giant and very real crocodile tears. They were healing while heartbreaking, simultaneously. I was just enveloped with God’s love, but sported a shattered heart – knowing how much that song meant to Janet, and wishing I could watch her beautiful bald self, dancing to it time and time again. It hurts to not have her here – but my God – I wouldn’t trade having such beautiful and love filled memories of a life – seven years of a life – well lived. 
My daughter truly LOVED more in her seven years, than many will live in an entire lifetime – one that spans into adulthood, and old age. She was robbed of so much, but it NEVER put a damper on her smile. When I grow up, I wanna be just like her! Ha! 

To everyone who continues to connect with Janet’s story, and our ongoing journey, I want to thank you for the continued thoughts and prayers. Please and thank you for them continuing! 

The Letter I Wish She Could Read

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To anyone who may read this – this is going to be a letter I write to my 7 heart old daughter Janet. She passed away three day before Valentine’s Day, 2016, after a three year fight with brain cancer.  I have no idea how long this will be, but I have so much on my mind. You don’t have to read it – but do please feel free. I am not going to edit or even change grammar or spelling errors because, frankly, I don’t want to. I’m writing on/from my cell phone, and so God knows (and so do several of you) that I’m probably going to say any number of things that might not compute! I love you all. Thank you for being here. And for all you love, support, thoughts and prayers! 
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Oh, precious Janet! I love you so much, sweet girl. I will always and forever #RememberTheLove. Like I told you before you took your final breath this side of Heaven, we do miss you like crazy – like there’s no tomorrow! But, just like I followed that up with this then, I will now say that we are okay. The reason we’re okay is because we have each other. We still have you here with us, just only in our hearts. 
I’m not going to lie – sweetheart. This has been the hardest I’ve ever felt. Some days are so much harder than others. You know what I’m learning? That’s just the way it is. I do know this, though. If you were able to, you’d give me a gigantic squeezy hug. You did those the best. You’d tell me it’s okay, and you’d wipe away my tears. I know this. Sorry. I’m just missing you. 
I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, life, and even God. I think you’d be proud. I hope so, at least. God knows I’m also not perfect. But I know you’d remind me how much you love me and no matter what, that wouldn’t change. I said that to you all the time – and you picked up on or, and knew when to say it to me. 
I’m so so sorry we couldn’t do more to save you. I know it’s not my fault. But I still wish. So much. I just feel so broken. My heart hurts so much sometimes. I hate this pain, and how much it hurts. But them I remember that it hurts so bad because we shared so much love. The love you shared with me will forever be in my heart. 
I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I know how much music meant to you. It makes me smile. 
Guess what else? If you were sitting beside me, I know we’d talk about this. I’m learning a lot right now, especially about God, and my faith. Also about love, and compassion – and this messy thing called messy grace. I learned so much about this thing called messy grace at an incredible place – a blog written by my friend Steve. There is also a really neat messy grace community Facebook group that are just a bunch of people that love people just where they are. That helped me too! They just love people really well, and they share so much of this messy grace with everyone. I mean it, Janet. EVERYONE! I bet that would make you giggle. Just all this talk about messy grace! Hehe. 
I wanna tell you a little bit about the things I’ve been thinking about and realizing. I’ve been telling Jeremy and James this, so I’d tell you too. 
I’m starting to see just how much God loves us. I’m finding out a lot about my own faith in God. I know, you’d smack my hand if I told you I wanted to punch God in the face some days. I’m not doing to lie, baby. It makes me so mad at Him sometimes because you weren’t healed here on Earth. But, I’m so so so happy that you got to meet Jesus. I know that even just hours before you took that last breath, you smiled because you knew it was almost time. 
Anyway, I’ve decided to live my life in a little bit different of a way. I’ve decided it’s time to own my faith. What that means I’d I know what things I believe, but I just realized I didn’t always know why. Do you understand? I know you do. I don’t want to have what’s called blind faith. I just mean that – you know, when a person is blind, they can’t see. Well, I don’t want to believe things with my eyes closed. I want to believe them for myself – not because someone else tells me to. It’s more important than that. 
One of the biggest things that my heart needs, and wants other people to understand, is love. Love can move mountains. I bet that would make you laugh – silly mommy. But live is such a big thing. I know you knew that though. 
The world we live in right now needs so much more love. One thing going on right now is so many people aren’t showing people love very well. I know, you would ask why, and it would make you sad. Baby, it makes me sad too. 
One thing going on is the LGBTQ+ community. I know, those letters sounds silly. What those letters are talking about are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus is for all the other things in between. Lesbians are when girls like or love and want to marry other girls. Being gay is like the same thing, but with boys who like other boys. Bisexual is when a boy likes boys and girls, and also if girls like girls or boys. Transgender people are people who feel like they were born in the wrong body. They might be a person who was born with boy parts, but has always felt like that was a mistake. And even sometimes girls are born with a vagina, but they always feel like they were supposed to be a boy. Queer is kind of hard to explain. Not really, I don’t guess. It just means anything but straight. Straight people are when a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man. But, when a person is queer, they can like it love anyone. The Q also can stand for questioning. For a lot of people, there is a time when they start to question and explore who they think are nice and that they might want to get to know better and maybe love. 
This community is in the news a lot lately. It makes me sad, and I know it would make you sad too. One thing that makes me sad is that people don’t treat people very nicely. I think you’d be super proud to help me with this next thing. I know how much loving people means to you. You would want to help me love people well. ALL people. 
See, you know we go to church. I have figured something out, sweetheart. Not our church, but so many different churches aren’t doing very well in how they love people. I know, you probably can’t understand that! It’s crazy! Cause, God wants us to love every single person – even if they look different, or live different, or if they marry differently. But so many people don’t love people like that. They only love the people they understand. It makes me sad about this LGBTQ+ community because they are very special too. The Bible does talk about homosexuality (that is when two people who are either both boys or both girls love each other and want to be a family) and says in some places that it’s wrong. A lot of churches even tell them that they can’t be a Christian because of the way that they love people. 
I’m going to tell you this. I don’t really believe that’s true. I know there are a lot of people who may not like that I say that. And they may not believe it. Some may even get mad. But, I think they can come to Jesus and all Him (like you did) to come into their heart and be a part of their life. What happens after that is between that person and God. I’m not God. (I know! That’s funny for me to say!) But, I’m not Him and I can’t really tell you how He will act or react. But what I do think is that He will love them very well. You know how I feel about God, and when people want to know Him more. He welcomes people right where they are. That is what I think. 
I want to help people, all people, even in the church to love all people well — not just the people that they agree with. See, I’ve told you this so many times. As people who love Jesus, (we call them Christians or Christ followers) we are asked (by God Himself) to be like the hands and feet of Jesus. Kind of like if Jesus was here, we should act how He acted. Even to people we don’t think deserve love. When Jesus was alive as a person on the earth, He would be deleted with so many people. He loved people well. He would even hang out with really sick people, people who would break the law, and even really mean people. Just like I told you a lot, Christians need to act like Jesus because sometimes we’ll be the only Jesus they might ever see. We need to act like him, and treat people like He would. It makes me so happy when people really do that. 
So, I just think everyone, even and especially Christ followers, need to be known by how we love people, not by all the things don’t like. It’s all about the love, and I hope so many more people can start to #RememberTheLove. With ALL people. 
Janet, I love you more than The World – to the moon and back. Your Daddy, James and Jeremy also miss you so much. We all do. People we’ve never even met love and miss you! Oh, and I was looking at some special notes that your friends from school wrote to you when you were here, and even some notes from every single kid in the first grade work you. That miss you so much too! Evie. I know how much you loved her. I do too. Her whole family is just amazing. Every time I see Evie, I get a great big squeezy hug. She always tells me how much she loves you, and misses you. Do you know how happy that makes me? I’m so happy she likes to give me hugs. Oh, did you know, she cut off her pretty long hair so she could donate her hair to another little person like you were. I know why both of you got along so well. I hope that we can stay friends with her whole family, forever. Me and Jeremy got to go with her to get her hair cut. I will share pictures here after I make sure her mommy doesn’t care. 

You always knew how much you were loved though. So these special people like here in your page (who I love so so much too) also pray for our family all the time. I know I’d make it somehow, but you being in Heaven is even bearable because of all these friends and all the people who love us, and who pray for us. I know that makes you happy too!
I guess I will stop writing now. I want you to know how much I love you, and I always will. I miss you, baby – but I’m smiling now. I’m so happy that even though you were here with us on earth for only seven years, I’m so proud to be your mommy. You James and Jeremy make me so happy. I’m smiling right now because I remember so many really happy and special times. I love you! Forever!

A Time And A Season For All Things

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This picture is one I haven’t always as freely shared. It, however, is a beautiful moment in time. A moment that I have come to cherish so much more than words could ever explain. This little girl blessed lives, mine especially, in tremendous ways. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her smile, hey love, and her “squeezy hugs” she so lovingly shared. I shared the following on her page, and I’d like to share it here as well. I feel these words are important enough that ALL people need to hear them.

I haven’t been silent here on Janet’s page because I wanted to – more because I needed to. Life just kept happening in a way that I had to take a step back, reflect, and just be. I know this is an incredibly beautiful community. A place fill of so much love. You all understand the concept of what #RememberTheLove really means.

Friends, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of brokenness also as to why the absence. As you can imagine, life isn’t ever again going to be what it once was – full of her bright, love-giving smiles and hugs. This, alone, breaks my heart. But, that’s not to say that life doesn’t hold incredibly precious moments.

I will say this also. Both Janet’s life and also her death have taught me powerful lessons on life and love.

You see, I’ve often mentioned the value of another person’s time and the true gift that it’s friendship. It is simply irreplaceable.

I’d like to share a “case in point” example of this scenario in action. What I want to showcase is that – though there is pain attached to these memories and events – there is also an incredible amount of comforting love.

In the months and even years leading up to her death,  so many people surrounded us in love. As those years turned to months, and the months then turned to weeks – a different kind of people, new and deepening friendships emerged. The last two weeks were beautiful in so many ways. People we never expected became close, like family. They were welcomed with open arms. Desperately needed in those final moments. And, they were there.

In the weeks, now months since Janet passed away,  there has become yet another shift. I have come to realize that some of those friendships were built for just a season. That season, and sadly nothing more – whereas, some of these same friendships have stood the tests of time – and also including death and grief.

There have been many who uttered words that I’ve found myself only wishing they meant – I’ll be here for you – any time, day or night. But, even in those times, I sit back and breathed it all in. I take those (sometimes painful) moments, and I remember whatever season someone said this to me in – thankful again for whatever part they played in our story.

I will tell you this – it is for these reasons that I don’t as often say these words to people. When I do, you can rest, assured that I mean what u say. That kind of offer won’t ever come with an expiration date. Perhaps this is because I know the intense pain of needing someone who once filled a very special place – it maybe just because I love people and see the inherent value of human life.

Whatever the case may be – I want to thank you for the part you’ve played in our journey – before or after Janet passed away — even if you are one who (consciously or otherwise) walked away when you didn’t know how to handle things. This (inaction) doesn’t define the purposeful and special times we did share.

You be you. There’s no-one more qualified to play your part. Just also allow me to be me – learning and growing, grieving and loving. That, after all, is what so much of life is about. To live and be loved.

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And, friends, I meant every word – both there, and here. It is with sincere gratitude I say thank you for sharing and walking through this life with me. I cannot do it alone.

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A Time And A Season For All Things

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This picture is one I haven’t always as freely shared. It, however, is a beautiful moment in time. A moment that I have come to cherish so much more than words could ever explain. This little girl blessed lives, mine especially, in tremendous ways. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her smile, hey love, and her “squeezy hugs” she so lovingly shared. I shared the following on her page, and I’d like to share it here as well. I feel these words are important enough that ALL people need to hear them.

I haven’t been silent here on Janet’s page because I wanted to – more because I needed to. Life just kept happening in a way that I had to take a step back, reflect, and just be. I know this is an incredibly beautiful community. A place fill of so much love. You all understand the concept of what #RememberTheLove really means.

Friends, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of brokenness also as to why the absence. As you can imagine, life isn’t ever again going to be what it once was – full of her bright, love-giving smiles and hugs. This, alone, breaks my heart. But, that’s not to say that life doesn’t hold incredibly precious moments.

I will say this also. Both Janet’s life and also her death have taught me powerful lessons on life and love.

You see, I’ve often mentioned the value of another person’s time and the true gift that it’s friendship. It is simply irreplaceable.

I’d like to share a “case in point” example of this scenario in action. What I want to showcase is that – though there is pain attached to these memories and events – there is also an incredible amount of comforting love.

In the months and even years leading up to her death,  so many people surrounded us in love. As those years turned to months, and the months then turned to weeks – a different kind of people, new and deepening friendships emerged. The last two weeks were beautiful in so many ways. People we never expected became close, like family. They were welcomed with open arms. Desperately needed in those final moments. And, they were there.

In the weeks, now months since Janet passed away,  there has become yet another shift. I have come to realize that some of those friendships were built for just a season. That season, and sadly nothing more – whereas, some of these same friendships have stood the tests of time – and also including death and grief.

There have been many who uttered words that I’ve found myself only wishing they meant – I’ll be here for you – any time, day or night. But, even in those times, I sit back and breathed it all in. I take those (sometimes painful) moments, and I remember whatever season someone said this to me in – thankful again for whatever part they played in our story.

I will tell you this – it is for these reasons that I don’t as often say these words to people. When I do, you can rest, assured that I mean what u say. That kind of offer won’t ever come with an expiration date. Perhaps this is because I know the intense pain of needing someone who once filled a very special place – it maybe just because I love people and see the inherent value of human life.

Whatever the case may be – I want to thank you for the part you’ve played in our journey – before or after Janet passed away — even if you are one who (consciously or otherwise) walked away when you didn’t know how to handle things. This (inaction) doesn’t define the purposeful and special times we did share.

You be you. There’s no-one more qualified to play your part. Just also allow me to be me – learning and growing, grieving and loving. That, after all, is what so much of life is about. To live and be loved.

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And, friends, I meant every word – both there, and here. It is with sincere gratitude I say thank you for sharing and walking through this life with me. I cannot do it alone.

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Just To Write – Sharing What Is On My Mind

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I am going to do something different this evening.  I am just going to write.  I don’t have anything specific on my mind, or that I need to get out, so to speak.  So, I am just going to write.  Unedited.  What you see is direct from my brain.  Buckle up  and enjoy the ride!

One of the biggest things on my mind right now is life.  Life, in general. I have a lot of time to sometimes just sit back and ponder the meaning of life.  I sometimes wonder if this is all there is to life, and it bothers me.  Then, I might feel a little bit guilty. Why?  Look around.  I have a husband and three amazing children – not to mention a multitude of extended family – and a network of amazing friends.  It takes thoughts like that to remind me that I am surrounded by so much love.  Life indeed does suck sometimes.  There is always more to life – but even if there isn’t – what I have right now is pretty special, and worth truly living for.

Living.  There have been days recently where I’ve just wanted to pull my hair out.  Truth be told, that might be a little difficult right now, seeing as how I recently shaved it in honor and support of my daughter who is six years old – and bald, fighting cancer.  But, back to my recent crazy days.  There have been moments where I have been feeling quite overwhelmed.  By everything.  Coping with life.  Coping with her having this returned cancer. Dealing with feeling inadequate to handle everything.

It’s then that I realize that I DON’T have to handle everything by myself.  I don’t.  You don’t.  NO ONE SHOULD.  You see, there are multiple factors I have on my side, making life more than worth living.

First, I have a God who is larger than life.  For some reason, He loves me.  He always has, and He always will.  The neat thing about that is that I haven’t done anything particularly worthy of Him.  Just because I am His child – that’s why He loves me.  It’s an awe-inspiring thought.  To know that I can not do everything right, make mistakes and just not live life “perfectly” so to speak, and KNOW that He is always going to be waiting with open arms…that is powerful to me.  To just know that no matter how broken I may feel, He is always ready and willing to pick up the pieces and create a masterpiece.  He is someone who understand every single part of my life.  The good and the bad.  The ups and the downs.  He gets it. And, He loves me.

Secondly, I have family.  I’ll talk about friends in a minute, but first I’m going to share how blessed I am.  I got to thinking what life would be like if I weren’t here.  No, this was not me contemplating suicide, it was me taking myself out of the equation, and wondering how things would be different if I just ceased to exist.  Let’s talk about that precious child fighting cancer.  I’m her Mama.  There isn’t anyone else in this world who can play the role I do.  I am with her every step of the way.  Her Daddy is too, but I’m primary when it comes to taking her to appointments, blood draws, etc.  I don’t resent it.  It makes me happy that she needs me.  Then, there are my boys.  They are tremendous.  I love that we have an open line of communication.  There is not any topic that is barred from conversation, and they know it.  I would like them to be able to talk to me about anything.  I want to be a part of their lives, not a distant dictator as a parent.  I love my children more than I can put into words.  Then there is my husband.  We have been married longer than we have a teenage boy alive.  Things haven’t always been perfect in our marriage. There have been times I have questioned so much.  However, though not perfect, always worth fighting for. God has given me a love for this man unlike anything I can put into words. Even through tough times, I have never forgotten the initial reasons that brought us together, and the love that connected us in marriage.

After family, there are friends. You know, some friends are as close to me as family.  Friends make me smile.  I’d like to take a moment to talk about people both online, that I’ve never met – and that I may not ever meet in person, and people I know in real life.

Don’t EVER think that “just” online friendships are worthless.  They mean so much.  No matter what, online relationships are very real.  I’ll talk about them first. Through online platforms, Twitter, Facebook and my daughters prayer and support page (also on Facebook) I’ve been able to connect with people all over the world. Literally.  All over the world.  That’s neat.  Just connecting with other people is important.  Creating friendships “across the airways” has been incredible.  There are people on my daughter’s page, for instance, that I value their friendship so much.  They have shown so much love and caring.  They take the time to let her know, and to let me and our entire family know that we are loved, and that they care how she is – and how we’re all doing.  It puts a smile on her face, and on mine to see people comment and just surround her with support and love.  There is no question in her little head that she is loved.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Real life friends.  I also know I couldn’t do life without them.  One very specific place I’m surrounded by friendship is at and through my church.  From the moment I walked in the doors the very first time these three years ago almost, I felt truly at home.  I walked in the front doors with lots on my mind, and weighing on me personally.  Like I have said previously, I am diagnosed bipolar.  I say that to just say this.  I was not at a great place, mostly mentally, when I first started going to my church.  However, I was welcomed with open arms, with no judgement, and regardless of what my story was.  That, my friends, was life changing.  Because of the welcoming atmosphere, I was able to connect – both with the people, and with God. Even at the beginning of this fight with childhood cancer and my daughter, I knew they were with me.  They freely admitted that no one at  the church had gone through this, but that they were going to walk with us through the process. They have done just that.  In short, they have been friends.  True friends. Through all that makes up life.

Speaking of connecting with friends,  I’ve mentioned how I’ve recently felt quite overwhelmed.  It’s almost as if all the emotions that come along with being bipolar and having a kid fight cancer – as if all the emotions of these two things have combined forces from years previous and come back to sneak up on me…saying, “here I am…deal with me now!”  It is during these times that I have learned the value of reaching out.  I haven’t always been one to reach out.  I’ve been one to hide, keep to myself, and not let anyone else in.  Why?  I don’t want people to know the “real” me for fear of what they’ll think when and if they find out what makes me tick.  I’m learning that if someone thinks negatively about me after knowing who I am, then fine – I didn’t really need them anyway.  That may seem harsh, but it’s true.  If someone can’t accept you for who you are, you can’t go and try and change yourself to fit the mold.  Doing that will just chip away at you, taking more and more of you with it each time.  Be you.  Be transparent and be authentic.  Doing so isn’t always easy.  It’s vulnerable.  But, it’s worth it.  Creating relationships based on reality is worth it every time.  Like I said, during the times where I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, I’ve learned the value in friendship.  In calling someone and just saying “I’m not okay” or “I’m hurting. Would you please pray with and/or for me?”  That’s hard to do.  But, it’s necessary.  At least, it is for me.  If you’re honest, you’d agree – you need to always have someone by your side that you can call on to just say that things aren’t going okay right now.

As such, it has become imperative for me to remember that it’s okay to not always be okay. I am a Christian.  Which is awesome.  However, accepting Christ into my life to lead the way doesn’t mean that suddenly life will be a bed of roses, with no troubles or struggles.  No, just the opposite.  It means you are human, but even so, God will give you strength to walk through whatever life throws your way.  I know this to be absolute fact.  It’s just that sometimes I don’t always keep my eyes on Him and Him alone.  Through the struggles, I see myself, and my own inadequacy. Of course I’m inadequate.  I wasn’t created to do life alone.  I wasn’t created to do life without Him.  I truly believe that God created us to be community people – to not walk through life alone.

I guess I needed to write all this for myself as much as for any of you who have taken the time to read.  I want you to know this.  You are not alone in this world.  You don’t have to be alone in anything you walk through.  Know that.  I want you to remember all these things I’ve needed to remind myself of.  No matter what your situation is, you are important, and your life has value.  Even when you can’t see it, look around you.  See the people you interact with, and that count on you.  You may not be able to see it, but your impact is great.  More people than you realize love and support you.  You may just need to allow them to do so.  I know people have constantly wanted to help me, and to just be a friend. It wasn’t until I was able to reach out and just be real – authentic – transparent, that I could see true and deep friendships.  I encourage you to do the same.  You are worth it.  Your story is important, and it is still being written.

If you have made it this far, know I’d love to hear from you and know what your story is all about.  If you are feeling alone, or just need a friend, feel free to reply in the comments or to connect through the “contact me” page.  Even if you are having a great day and just want to remind the world to smile, feel free to connect.  I also want to say that I value your thoughts and prayers.  Clearly this isn’t the easiest time in my life.  And that’s okay.  I’m not doing it alone thankfully.  Thank you to everyone who will take the time to pray.  It means so much.  Let me know how I can pray with and for you as well!

Bridging The Gap Of Faith And Reality

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To anyone reading this, I want you to know this is going to be a transparent look at the way I think. My reality is an interesting one, and I have had a lot of opportunities to examine just how I relate to God, and to what makes up the reality of life. The overall theme of this entire blog is where faith meets reality. I’d like to create a word picture and share my heart on how this looks in real life.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know two are true about me – I have been diagnosed (years ago) with bipolar disorder, and my daughter is fighting a rare and aggressive brain cancer that once was gone and has now returned, having returned and metastasized to multiple locations down her spine.

Alone, either of these things provide enough reason to question God, and ask a multitude of questions. Together, however, things can be unbearable at times. It’s what happens during these times that define how I see the world, and even how I react to the world around me.

Let me level with you. Things have not been easy lately, incredibly difficult at times even. How do I respond though? I recognize that the God I say I know and love truly is in control. I continuously strive to do things and live within His will – knowing it is the perfect place for anyone to be. The thing is this though. His will and my will are often not the same. They may differ only slightly, or there may be huge differences. The question I always have to look at is if I truly believe the things I say about Him. This is the place where the virtual rubber meets the road.

As for me, I make a conscious decision very regularly to remember these things I have come to know as the truth. I know that God is still good, that He is still in control (even when I’m not), and ultimately He IS in control.

Let’s talk about bipolar disorder for just a moment. That is a title, a label that describes why certain things are the way they are for some individuals. Things are difficult to imagine, unless this is something you have personally walked through in some capacity. I recently heard someone I love and respect say “these people” referring to people who deal with mental illness, bipolar disorder specifically. It was a negative connotation stemming from personal experience with someone who chooses not to take care of them self, and in so doing hurt innocent people who surround them. Being lumped in with “those people” initially bothered me. However, it also made me realize that there is something altogether different about the bipolar person who doesn’t care, and the one who does. That alone is one reason I choose to take care of myself, and to seek help when help is needed…and believe me, it IS needed more often than I’d like to admit. However, as such, it’s okay to not always be okay – it’s just what I CHOOSE to do, or to surround myself with, during these times that either breaks me down or builds me up.

This is the same concept that goes hand in hand with watching your own child fight aggressive cancer not once, but twice at this point. It hurts, and the emotions that go hand in hand with this are unimaginable. People often tell me they cannot imagine what we go and walk through just daily. That’s good. I don’t WANT people to have to understand.

Imagine being told that your child has cancer. That’s difficult, to say the least. Imagine, then, the joy that goes along with hearing that the cancer is gone – no evidence of the disease. Imagine the cancer being gone, and treatment being complete. There is unimaginable joy that goes along with these scenarios, let me tell you.

However, try to not understand the emotions that go along with hearing that the cancer is back, this time having spread. Add to that, that one part of treatment is aimed at curing the disease, while the follow on part of treatment is aimed at being more palliative in nature – helping her live with this as long as she can. That, my friend, it’s a hard thing to hear, hard facts to swallow.

Where does God and my faith come into play here? It all goes back to that moment where I either trust God, or I don’t. I recognize that, without a miracle that only can come through God’s hands, my daughter’s long term survival isn’t fully expected. It’s hoped for, but in medical eyes, Just not a realistic expectation. I know, without a doubt, that God can supernaturally heal her – with or without medical treatment.

I KNOW that He is able. However, for whatever reason, He doesn’t every single time. I’ve walked this road with other families who have children who have valiantly fought but completed their fight on this side of Heaven. They die before they’ve had a chance to really live life. Watching other families – ones filled with incredible faith and never-ending hope for healing (while on earth) for their child – is incredibly difficult. To know that God is in control, and that He has the capability to heal – but doesn’t always doesn’t make it any easier when He doesn’t. For whatever reason, God’s plan often doesn’t look the same as the plan we’d choose if given the option. No one would wish death from cancer on anyone, let alone an innocent child. However – the reality is that it does happen…and more often than anyone realizes.

The fact of the matter is that God IS still good, and He still loves me (and you) when it’s hard to see or to feel it. To realize that He is in control and that His plan is the best isn’t always easy, but it IS ALWAYS worth it.

I will not ever stop praying and hoping for total and complete healing for my daughter – and for all fighting cancer – until there is no longer a reason…until cancer is completely cured once and for all, or until she is in Heaven – – at which time I will forever seek that cure for others. I will never give up the faith that God IS in control, and my prayer will remain that this whole situation is in His hands and that His will is for her to live a full life, one completely free of any cancer or disease. That is, and will remain, the reality I hope and pray for for her…and all the others fighting this monster. Thank you for being alongside us on this fight.

If this post has spoken to you – for whatever reason – I’d like to know. If you just need a friend, or a listening ear, I’d be honored to play that part in your story. Please feel free to post below in comments, or to message me through the contact me form. It’d be an honor to connect.

Similarly, I am sincerely grateful to each and every person walking with us on this journey, even when it’s just plain difficult to walk. For all the kind words, and all the prayers, I’m forever grateful.