If you had told me last Monday that our world was going to be nearly shut down just one week later I would have laughed it off. I would have said no way and moved on with my day. But yet today I sit here in disbelief as I navigate trying to understand this completely changed world, running a business from home, homeschooling my children, minimizing my fear, and maintaining my faith.
It’s truly amazing how drastically life can change.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a life-altering, word-shaking moment in time. The first for me was the day I heard, “your daughter has cancer.”
For months I had seen that things were “off” with my baby girl. At first I thought her premature birth had created some developmental delays. Then as she began having seizures I started to think she might have epilepsy.
As difficult as either of those diagnoses would have been I made peace with them in my mind, resigned to the fact she would be okay and I would navigate how to take care of her no matter what.
But then the cancer bomb dropped and just like that my hopes and dreams for my only daughter blew right up in my face.
The doctor was talking to us about surgeries, chemo, radiation, life expectancy, infection precautions, compromised immune systems, etc. It felt like I had lifted right out of my own body and was watching this horror happen to someone else. There was NO WAY this was real life.
But it was.
The doctor left, the lights turned out, my kids went to sleep, and then I laid in my hospital cot and sobbed. Everything had changed so suddenly and I was terrified.
What would this diagnosis mean for my daughter? Would she survive this? What if she doesn’t survive – how could I survive a loss like that? How would we navigate life with twins when one child was battling cancer? How would we make ends meet? How could we afford these medical bills?
There were countless what ifs and even more worst case scenarios to imagine.
But in that dark hospital room in the middle of all of my fear I made a choice. I CHOSE to surrender my fear and put it in God’s hands. I CHOSE to trust HIM in this incredibly dark and uncertain place. I CHOSE to wipe my tears and take it one moment at a time.
Those choices didn’t make me stronger than anyone else. No, those choices were the result of realizing that my only chance for survival in the midst of pure chaos was to trust someone who already knew how it was all going to turn out.
Over the next 16-months of Olivia’s cancer battle we did adapt to a brand new normal. We kept our social distance and went to great lengths to keep illness out of our home and away from our medically-fragile daughter. We learned to appreciate the simple moments and to have more fun at home without relying on the outside world, this included things like setting up a playground in the backyard, playing with bubbles, and having dance parties in the living room.
We adapted. It wasn’t easy and there were days my anxiety was still enough to knock me over, but we survived and sometimes even thrived in the midst of all the chaos.
I wish I could tell you that Olivia’s treatment worked and we had a happy, healthy ending, but that wasn’t our reality. Olivia would lose her life to cancer at 20 months old in October 2013. Her death would change me and my life drastically in the years to come.
But I DID survive even the loss of my only daughter. I DID survive the diagnosis of her twin brother with diabetes the DAY AFTER her funeral. I DID survive the end of my first marriage and becoming a single, working parent to two little boys. And after all of that survival and unimaginable heartbreak I will tell you that life has reached a beautiful place. In the past several years I met the love of my life, got remarried, and have been raising my two wonderful sons. I have also had the tremendous privilege of creating real impact in my daughter’s name through her foundation. And I have found true joy and peace for perhaps the first time ever.
Today I am scared about the state of our country. I’m worried about the impacts COVID-19 will have on the health and well-being of citizens around the world. I’m worried about the economic nightmare taking place and what that will mean for countless business owners, employees, nonprofits, private contractors, and families. But even in the midst of all of this darkness I am going to CHOOSE to surrender my fears to the One who knows just what to do. And I am going to CHOOSE to take it moment by moment and breath by breath as we navigate this new world together.