I’ve spent a lot of time lately looking back on the past years and sitting back in awe of all that’s transpired. On that day in July 2009, my husband and I got married. We had every hope in the world for this new journey we were beginning together. We imagined a life together in Reno with great careers and beautiful, healthy children. God had different plans and because of that our lives look completely different then what we pictured that day. And we are also both entirely different people.
In reality we would move to Wyoming just one year later thanks to a difficult economy in Nevada. And I would put my career goals on hold so that I could support my husband’s future.
It also wasn’t in the cards for us to have perfect, healthy children. After losing our first baby to an ectopic pregnancy, we got pregnant with twins. And just 4 months after their premature birth, our sweet daughter, Olivia, ended up being diagnosed with brain cancer. Her life and her battle changed me forever. And it changed my husband too.
Watching your child fight for their life and exhibit strength you didn’t know was possible in such a tiny person is truly life-changing. We no longer mattered. It was all about saving her and trying to keep our family together at the same time.
For 16 months we mostly lived out of suitcases and traveled back and forth for treatments, MRI’s, and doctors visits. We had very little alone time and basically completely forgot how normal families live.
When Olivia died on October 22, 2013, we weren’t sure we would survive it. Life had been all about her for so long that we just couldn’t fathom how to be without her.
Then her twin brother, Wyatt, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes the day after her funeral. He was incredibly sick with diabetic ketoacidosis and it was enough to shock us back to life. It needed to be all about him. And once he was out of the hospital our new life started to begin.
Olivia has been gone now for 2.5 years. In that time even more has changed. We moved to a new city. And we added a new member to our family, our little boy Landon. So much has changed that it feels like our life with her was a lifetime ago.
We’ve reached the stage with our boys that we have been able to focus more on our marriage again. We get to spend more time alone together and we’ve even began to re-discover the things we liked doing before babies and cancer and develop new traditions as a family. It’s been truly wonderful. But also bittersweet. We never stop missing her. We are learning to live without her and to find some real joy again, but the ache in my arms has never gone away and I know it never will.
So today I simply sit back in a bit of shock and awe. I’m thankful for my husband and the fact that after going to hell and back we are still standing. I’m thankful for my wonderful little boys and the joy they bring me each day. And I am forever thankful for the 20 months and 3 days I got with my Olivia girl and for the lessons her strength taught me.
We love you sweet girl. Forever and always.
Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research. You can learn more and donate at www.oliviacaldwellfoundation.org.