Each and every one of us is covered in scars. We carry them emotionally, physically, spiritually. It’s a badge that shows what we have been through. It’s a sign of both our weakness and our strength.
Olivia had many scars. She had one on the left side of her head from her surgical brain biopsy when she was first diagnosed with cancer. This picture was taken when she was still in the hospital post-surgery.
Olivia also had three different scars on her chest from port surgeries, including an original placement, a new surgery when it flipped just a few weeks into treatment, another surgery to remove it when she was in a brief remission, and a final surgery to place a new port when her cancer came back with a vengeance.
Then there were the scars you couldn’t so easily see. Olivia had a strength that radiated from her being. She took on each challenge with a smile and determination that you would never expect from such a young baby. But she had a hard time sleeping. The chemo and medications made it difficult for her to sleep overnight. She had horrible reflux from all the treatments. She had a hard time eating hard foods, such as crackers, and she had an incredibly difficult time drinking from a cup of any kind, which made it necessary for her to have a feeding tube placed. She also never crawled or walked or had any real independence of any kind, despite living for 20 months. She also had a lazy eye and a difficult time seeing and she had difficulty using her right side.
And there are scars that remain in Brett, Wyatt and I as a result of going through Olivia’s brain cancer battle by her side. Physically, I am left with a neck that easily cramps up from many months of standing above her and pushing through her feeds using large syringes that had been cleaned and re-used way too many times. Emotionally, I cry at the drop of a hat. I am fearful that I will lose another child. I am forever sad and a different person because I knew her, loved her and lost her.
Wyatt is terrified of separation. It has taken many months to work through it, and he’s getting better, but he has a major fear of us leaving him and not coming back. This is because of being dropped off numerous times with grandparents when we had to be admitted to the hospital yet again during Olivia’s treatment. And also because one day he went to sleep and never saw his twin sister again.
Brett is also sad. He’s changed. Broken-hearted. It can be very hard for any of us to get close to people because the pain of losing a child is so tremendous. It is spirit crushing and all-consuming at times. You have a desire for friendships, but at the same time know that unless someone has walked in your shoes they will never understand.
Have you ever seen someone who seems distracted? Maybe disinterested? Like their mind is in some other place entirely? It is easy to judge them and assume they are full of themselves, or lack compassion, etc. But maybe they are bearing scars you just can’t see. Maybe they lack focus because their heart is hurting so deeply that their mind can’t see anything else. I can’t tell you how many times I have probably come off as being rude or uninterested or unfriendly. It is never my intention. My heart is just covered in scars you can’t see.
Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. All proceeds benefit our neur-oncology research team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. You can learn more and donate by visiting our website at www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.