“How are you?” This is a question that we all ask other people many times throughout the day. Everyone expects a simple answer of “Great! How are you?” I know that I am just as guilty of not really wanting to hear what the other person has to say. And even more, I am guilty of not sharing a genuine response.
No one wants to hear that you are really struggling. We live in a culture of easy fixes. We want to slap a band aid on the pain in life, rub some dirt on it and move on.
I have put on a brave face for as long as I can remember. I was able to dig deep within myself and smile through the toughest of days during Olivia’s treatment. I have done that even more since she passed away. And sometimes I really do feel happy. I can still experience joy in life to some degree. There are happy days. Happy moments. But then the weight of losing her is right back.
I have seen things and experienced things that no parent should ever have to go through with their child! I have held my daughter down while she was poked and prodded. I have watched her be put to sleep by an anesthesiologist as she cried, desperately wanting me to come and rescue her from their grips. I have had to hold her down as my amazing husband put her feeding tube down her nose because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And worst of all, I held her in my arms as she passed away at just 20 months and 3 days old. I buried my baby girl before she ever reached her second birthday.
These experiences and terrible pains have shaped me into a different person. I am not really whole anymore. I can find happiness at times with my husband and our boys. I can feel joy in sharing good times with friends and family. I can even experience peace at times, knowing that my daughter is in Heaven with Jesus. But I am really not okay. And I never will be. That is another thing that I can put onto the list of things that childhood cancer stole from me.
Now in just 7 short days, we will be celebrating Wyatt and Olivia’s third birthday. Instead of watching them run around together at the pool with their friends and blowing out birthday candles, I will just see my son. I will imagine her being there. I will think about her all day long. I will smile and laugh all day and then probably cry myself to sleep that night. Once again, I will be anything but okay.
Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. All proceeds benefit our neuro-oncology research team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. You can learn more and donate by visiting www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.