Life is tough my darling, but so are you

Life is tough my darling, but so are you. Stephanie Bennett-Henry

You never know how tough and strong you can be until you have a sick child. You want to run and hide. You get angry. You scream. You cry. You feel helpless. You feel fear. You don’t understand all the big medical words.

Confusion sets in. You feel small, helpless, weak.

You fall to your knees. You look to the sky. You pray.

You find strength. You find hope. You find understanding. You find peace.

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Am I Living and Enjoying My Life’s Full Potential?

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This morning I started a new devotional reading plan on my Bible app. It is called Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again. Apparently, this devotional is from the book, with the same title, written by the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green.

Right out of the gate this plan has me thinking already about how I am living my life. I am not just talking about how much I might cuss, or laughing at an inappropriate joke, or asking forgiveness for the road rage I experience from time to time. The part of my life I am thinking about is the legacy of my existence. Do I have the right frame of mind to live my life the way God intended? Happy, loving and giving.

Mr. Green broke out how we think during each stage of our lives. He states we worry about who we will marry or what type of career will we have in our twenties. In our thirties, we ask ourselves how I can grow in my career and will my kids turn out ok? I am in my late thirties, and I would have to agree with Mr. Green because those two items are very top of mind.

When we reach our forties, we start to question if the career we worked so hard for in our twenties and thirties is even the right fit. And wonder why life is so hard? The fifties we start to look backward and forward: “How has my life turned out so far, and what will I do that’s significant in the next twenty-five years?” (David Green)

By our sixties, we began to worry if our bodies will stay healthy and hold up and how often we will see our grandchildren. In the golden years of seventy, we start to look back and ask if everything we’ve done in life so far has been worth it. And more importantly, will anyone remember?

The material things we once held high are no longer relevant in our eighties. We will find our joy in the things you can’t buy.

A phone call from a friend
The touch of your spouse’s hand
A quiet walk observing God’s creation
The presence of your children
The laughter of your grandchildren
(David Green)

What struck me this morning is that the questions we should be asking at the beginning of our lives are the ones we ask at the end. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eighty and regret not enjoying life the way God intended. What makes it hard for me to stop and smell the roses is I am always on the go. It is hard for me just to stop and soak in all the blessings around me.

What’s Your Mojo?
How do you live your life to the fullest? Are you like me and struggle to remember to enjoy life instead of always on the go?

A Mother’s Day Thank You

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It’s Mother’s Day. The time of year we lift the women who birthed, fed, wiped, burped, trained, hugged, cared, and loved us.

We sing praises to the incredible one who carried us around for nine months dealing with aches, pains, heartburn, swollen ankles, puking and wearing pants with no flipping buttons.

We salute the women who thought they were signing up to “just be” mom, but also got hit with the role of, doctor, play date, chef, housekeeper, referee, therapist, and entertainer. Oh and let’s not forget Taxi, ATM, and project manager. (Who else keeps everyone’s activities organized?)

We recognize the women who taught us right from wrong and don’t touch that – it’s hot! And told us that kindness, love, and respect are important, and we witnessed it in action as we would watch mom show kindness, love, and respect to others.

We apologize for those few years we thought we knew everything and you were so dumb and stupid and when we stopped giving you hugs and kisses goodnight and never wanted to be around because we thought our friends were more important.

We thank you for always having our backs, allowing us to stay out just a little longer than curfew, and cutting the crust off the bread. Thank you for making sure we had clean underwear, clean sheets, and clean dishes. For not beating us to death when we would get sassy and talk back or “forget” to take out the trash even after you mentioned it a million times.

We are in awe by the incredible force you are. You had loved us before you knew us. You prayed continually and fearlessly for our safety, health, minds, actions and future. You found blessing in our successes and experience sadness in our failures. You were always there.

Please don’t ever think your hard work and dedication was in vain. You are the backbone of ours lives; shaping us into part of the person we are today.

Mom’s are rock stars!

To all the mom’s biological, step, adopted – Happy Mother’s Day!

A Message To Madison

As the day gets closer, I find myself thinking back to the days you were stumbling around in your ruby red slippers pretending to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Now you are a beautiful young adult. Yet these last few days I see you as the little girl who stole my heart.

How did we get here so quickly? I am pretty sure it was yesterday we were snuggled up together watching the Power Puff Girls. You were defiantly my little Bubbles. And I know it was just last week I was walking you into your first day of kindergarten. I remember dropping you off  and crying in my car on the way to work. You were growing up so fast. And look at you now….graduating high school.

I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you I am not sure I can describe it in words. I am excited to see where God leads you in life. But at the same time I am sad. I am sad that my little girl isn’t little anymore. I don’t know if this is normal or not, but the last few days I have found myself crying thinking about your childhood. I cry when I think back and see you playing with your Bratz dolls, dancing to Cheetah Girls or watching Polly Pocket over and over again.

I thought about your first Dip N’ Dots. I don’t know if you remember it or not, but we were at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City. Your dad and I took you to see the Wizard of Oz for your 3rd birthday. We shared a bowl of those delicious little ice cream pebbles. As I type this, I can see your little face holding your basket with Toto in it. I think back to the nights I would be doing my homework and you would be asleep on my chest as I typed my assignments on the computer.

You were my little sidekick. Do you remember when I would pick you up from  Andrea’s house I would take you to Quick Shop and you would get a Bug Juice and a candy lipstick? That was so much fun. I never realized it at the time, but those few minutes out of my day have turn into a lifetime of memories.

I can still see you singing The Climb in the talent show and how confident you were. You amazed me that day. And I was one proud momma. And when you were in CYT and was part of Charlie Brown. Another proud momma moment. You were in your element at the time. I am so glad I was there to witness those moments. I am so glad God made me your mom.

I know not everything was roses and rainbows. There were a lot of things that just plain sucked. What makes you so special is that you were the one that made me a mom. So everything that you did first, I also experienced for the first time. Looking back sometimes I wonder how you or I survived. There were some parenting moves I played that didn’t turn out the way I pictured. At times I honestly didn’t know what to say in some situations. And there were other situations where I said too much.

All I can hope is that I have taught you the following things.

Put God first.
You are beautiful.
Be yourself.
Be kind.
Always know you are loved deeply and have a place to come home to.

I am not sure how the next few weeks are going to go. I am going to try to keep myself composed, but at this moment it is going to be hard. Just bare with me. And I am sure you are a big pile of emotions as well. Like I said earlier, when you experience something for the first time, I am experiencing it for the first time as well.

Thank you for being a kick ass daughter. You are going to do great things in this world. You know when you were little, you would click those ruby red slippers and dream of going on a enchanted adventure, maybe somewhere over the rainbow perhaps. Baby, now you can click those ruby reds and go anywhere you want to go. Nothing can stop you!

I love you Madi.

Love,
Mom

 

Goodbye Cancer. Hello Anxiety.

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It has been a long time since I have wrote about cancer. It has been nine months since Mallorie was done with treatment. With only having a monthly checkup on the calendar, one would think cancer would be pretty much a distant memory. At least that is what I was hoping.

The whole time Mallorie was going through treatment, all I could think about was reaching the end. Once she was done with treatment we could move on with life. I wish someone would have prepared me for what happens after treatment. Which to me, is turning out to be worse than the cancer itself.

Mallorie has been feeling unwell for many months. She has been having a hard time breathing. Most of the breathing episodes happen while at school or at night. And ever since she finished treatment, it is like she can’t sit still or be alone. Mallorie has always hated being by herself. Even as a little kid she was always at someone’s feet. She has been to the doctor many times over the past nine months for respiratory issues. Yet chest x-rays, oxygen monitoring, blood work and heart test all show she is in perfect health. So what the heck was wrong with her.

She kept telling me she was crazy. She would cry all the time for no reason. She worried about things she cannot control, like terrorism. What teenager really is so scared about terrorist they don’t want to go to the movies or church because they are afraid someone is going to blow or shoot the place up? She couldn’t shower alone most of the time. Then she had two fainting spells.

I finally took her to the ER this week because she briefly passed out. I wasn’t leaving the hospital until I had a solid answer to what was happening. I started thinking maybe it was due to the scar tissue on her lungs from chemo. All the same test were ran, EKG, x-ray, blood work, but everything came back excellent. Which under normal circumstances would make a mother relieved. Nope, not me. I was confused. I was sure the doctor thought I was one of those mom’s that want their child sick for attention. Her physical condition wasn’t adding up to her symptoms.

When it was time to be discharged, the doctor came in and dropped a bomb I wasn’t expecting. He said all the symptoms seem respiratory and I can see why you would think that. Actually I think we are dealing with anxiety. A light blub turned on. Everything started making sense. I wish I could say I was relieved.

Just like when she was diagnosed with cancer, I had know idea what to do or where to turn.  Anxiety doesn’t seem like a bad thing. At some point everyone experiences some form in their life. It’s usually brief and disappears as quickly as it came on. For Mallorie it is consistent and always present. What a horrible way to feel.

I am no therapist (she is going to start seeing one) but I am going to bet, knowing her since birth, she has always had some form of anxiety and cancer just raised it to the surface. Cancer is such an ass. We were supposed to be done and moving on, but now we have to deal with the traumatic mental baggage that comes with cancer.

I started doing some research on anxiety and how to be a caregiver of someone with such an illness. What sucks is that everything I have been doing and saying to her thus far, is exactly what a caregiver should not be doing and saying. Talk about feeling like a jerk.

Today I am just tired. Tired of the worry. Tired of wondering what is going to happen next. Parenting is hard enough under normal circumstances. All I know is I want to be the safe place for Mallorie and learn to understand how to deal with this. I struggle with patience and I have to focus on being more in control of that virtue.

If you have some positive insight on anxiety I would love to hear it. I am not about to even pretend I know what to do.

She Just Kept Swimming. The Final Chapter Of The Team Mallorie Story.

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For three years I have been thinking of the time I would be able to write this post. As much as I love words and creative writing, nothing I say here will ever show my love and appreciation for the support we had during Mallorie’s illness. It’s finally over and my heart is still moved by the compassion so many brought to our family.

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It is time to close the chapter on Miss Mallorie’s cancer journey and move on. I am a strong believer in moving on when the time is right. Now is that time. But as our family moves on to a cancer free life, we will not forget the journey, because the journey made us stronger.

The first text I made when Mallorie was in the hospital that night was to Daniel and Rachel Mahannah. I wanted to let Daniel, my boss at the time, know I was not going to make it into work that next day. His wife, Rachel, called me immediately (she is a nurse). She is so smart. She was asking me questions that I had no idea how to answer because we weren’t 100 percent sure what was going on at that time. She comforted and prayed for me. Even though I was afraid, I had peace.

Some of the early times of Mallorie’s diagnoses are sort of a blur. So I know I am going to be leaving some really good stuff and people out. So forgive me. But besides all the support of family, there was a group of dear friends that were always there for me. Becky, Amy, Megan West, Megan Hopper, Tami, Tanya and Brad.

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I have been trying to think of ways to let them know I still think about their kindness, prayers and support to this day. Having them come to the hospital day in and day out to bring us food, a good laugh, NERF guns, hugs and support can’t be justified by words. They took time out of their busy schedules (Megan and Brad West about to pop with her first child) to make sure we were ok. Guys, I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for Mallorie and I (and Madison). You are a blessing and your hearts are so big. Your kindness will never be forgotten. 

crosshairsThank you Crosshair Press for the book Overcomers. Thank you for using your talents to help our family. 

I do believe there are people brought into your life to just love you. That is Rick and Carla Siler. Rob and I have known these two amazing people for many years. I have always been fond of Rick and Carla, but when Mallorie got sick, these two were immediately up at the hospital and their kindness and blessings to our family is unmeasurable. Rick and Carla, I love you both so much. Thank you. 

The Ritter and Sandy Ledbetter were another family that went above and beyond the call of duty shirtsduring our journey. From bringing Mallorie a Christmas tree to brighten her spirits, to managing a t-shirt drive to help with medical expenses. This family is one I treasure. Ritters and Sandy, you all are amazing. You helped us in more ways than you could ever realize. Our appreciation goes deeper than that Christmas tree. Thank you for everything. And thank you Harris family for bringing ornaments, smiles, and hugs. 

And Hairwe can’t forget all the peeps who shaved their heads in honor of Mallorie. Let’s see if I can remember everyone. Glen, David, Kristin, Bryan. I am sure I am forgetting someone. What an honor and Mallorie was so tickled. Thank you. 

 

Jonie Miller gets a shout out for our Zumba fundraiser. Mallorie was to sick to attend, but it was a blast. Oh and the “homemade” scones. I need you to make me some more of those. You know you’re my favorite Mrs. Lady! Hugs! Jonie

During our many, many hospital stays, we got to know the nurses on the Wesley Peds and Peds Sedation floor like family. These guys are true angels because they see the absolute worst. If it wasn’t for the peds team, I am not sure what we would do. From the grumpiness, tears, cries of pain, to great listeners, sharing laughter and someone to talk to in the middle of the night, these women and men are the lifeline to recovery. Thank you for being wonderful. We shared this journey together. I will never forget the old beach scene room. You rock! 

Thank you Angela Sailsbury and family for putting together the best 5K in the history of 5K’s. 

The WIRE was a big part of Mallorie’s life at the time of diagnoses. We can’t forget the awesome support she received from her church family. Now tWIREhese students are going to be freshmen! Thank you WIRE and WIRE Small Group Leaders for your prayers and support. 

 

 

Thank you, Connor Richardson for shoveling our driveway when Mallorie was sick that first winter. You are such a sweetheart and a great friend to Mallorie. 

danielMy NewSpring family. During my absence taking care of Mallorie, running her to appointments, chemo and labs. You were supportive and made sure we were taken care of. I know my absences created more work for others and I am forever grateful for the grace and kindness I was shown. 

I started a Team Mallorie Facebook page so family members could keep up with Mallorie’s treatment. I was overwhelmed by the support. Team Mallorie has over 3,700 followers. And these followers were hardcore when it came to support. At one point, we received so many messages, I couldn’t keep up. So to our Facebook friends, thank you for sharing and liking her story. Your prayers were a tremendous inspiration and definitely felt. God bless. 

baileyBailey Bean, thank you for staying by Mallorie’s side during her hospital stays. I can remember you missing school to come to spinals and surgeries. And when you would come over and just sit with Mallorie while she slept and had no energy to do anything. What a true friend you are and we love you! 

 

And who could forget Jake Stemo?Jake and Mallorie His single “Making Me New” helped Team Mallorie in so many ways. Jake and Micah, thank you for sharing your love of Jesus and music. It was an inspiration to our family. I listen to that song from time to time and I still feel warmth, love and peace. You both truly make my heart smile. 

I have to give Richard Sawyer some props. He prayed and asked about Mallorie almost every day. Thank you, Richard, for being a man of God and caring so much for our family. 

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Thank you to all who came and visited during Mal’s hospital stays. The stuff animals, blankets, hats, toys, coloring books, iTunes gift cards, food, prayers, and hugs were so appreciated. 

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One challenge Mallorie had was missing so much school. I can’t thank Andover Middle School enough for how they worked with us to make sure Mallorie stayed caught up. The teachers and staff are one of a kind. It is an honor to have our kids part of this school district. School

We had so many organizations reach out to us during this journey. I can’t begin to name them all, but we are grateful for the love and support.LLSTo all the people who donated hair in honor of Mallorie, thank you. 

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Now to my outstanding family.

Rob was the glue that held our family together. He kept the fRob and Malort afloat when I was at the hospital. I wish he knew how badly I ached to be at home, but couldn’t bare to leave Mallorie most days. Rob, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being amazing behind the scenes. You kept the laundry up, food on the table, cats fed, Logan bathed, and always had a warm hug waiting when we would come home. I love you memeXOXI! 

Mom, thank you for taking off work and spending time with Mal overnight while she was in the hospital. I know it was hard because you lived so far away, but you always brought much-needed relief and love when you came. Thank you for running with me late at night to the store to get Mallorie fruit because she was carving it. Thanks for listening to me vent and share my fears and frustrations. You are my rock. 

papa leeMallorie’s Papa Lee and Debbie would rotate in and out during hospital stays so we could work. Debbie would spend hours taking care of Mal. Thank you both for helping take care of Mallorie. 

Madison, thank you for your patience and staying strong. I know at times you felt like I abandoned you and I am sorry. Thank you for taking Mallorie to labs and helping out while she was sick. Just one more reason you are one amazing young lady. mal and mad

 

For thnanae most part, when I needed time away for the hospital, Kim (Nana) would take the shift. That way I could come home, see the kids and Rob, shower and just try to do some “normal” stuff. Kim has taken Mallorie to labs and chemo appointments. She has been the other half of this adventure. Kim, thank you for stepping up and helping take care of Mallorie. I know you have missed work to take Mal to chemo and hospital stays. Having your help made it so much easier. You should get Nana of the century! 

My dad and Suzie travel a lot doing ministry work. dadBut when they had free time, they were here. They also prayed continually for healing and recovery. Their dedication to pray for Mallorie and our family is the best we could ask for. Dad and Suzie thank you for praying and being there when you could. 

George and Mal

Everything happens for a reason, and I think the reason Papa George retired was to be Mallorie’s chauffeur to chemo. He retired a few months before Mallorie got sick and because of his unselfish love for that girl, he was the one, once she hit the maintenance phase of treatment, pretty much took her to every appointment so we could work. These two have a special bond and I couldn’t think of anyone better to help take care of her. So George, thank you. Thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty. Your help has allowed us to work and provide for our families. And of course, Mallorie loved you taking her to treatment because she always got food afterward. LOL! Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

RosenDr. Rosen was Mallorie’s oncologist. Best there is. He is so patient and kind. I would call him in the middle of the night and ask tons of questions and he would always smile and answer. Dr. Rosen thank you for caring for Mallorie. She is better because of your knowledge and expertise. We are so lucky to have you as a doctor, but also as a friend. 

Kim Rosen, where do I begin? You and Mallorie are so kim rosenclose and I am thankful for your relationship. I can remember in the beginning of treatment, she hated coming in for chemo, but she looked forward to seeing you. You made this experience as fun as it can possibly be. You are also a rock star! 

 

 

brosHere are the two little brothers that missed both their sister and parents when we were taking care of Mallorie. Thanks boys for being troopers. 

 

 

 

As I sit on my couch concluding this chapter, I chuckle because it is the same couch I sat on when I was in despair trying to figure out what this cancer was and how are we going to make it through this?

It’s over. This part of our journey is complete. After I received the news from Dr. Rosen that Mal is healthy, I thanked God for two things. The first was for his love, grace and healing. Second, was for putting the right people in our path to be successful and win this battle.

God had this from the beginning. And from every single person who prayed, supported and treated Mallorie, God had that worked out too.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Mallorie’s battle was rough, but not all horrible. She’s stronger. She’s braver. She never gave up. She just kept swimming.

The End.

 

Get Ready For A Beautiful Surprise

13221662_10208455825367183_8776283273778658298_nI never knew I could care so much about the life cycle of a butterfly until it was told by first graders. Today my son was part of his first-grade play called, Becoming A Butterfly.

The play begins on a warm day in early spring. A tiny egg is laying on the leaves. Fred, the frog, is keeping guard of this little egg, keeping the birds from eating it. The birds are hungry, but Fred is persistent on allowing this egg to be left alone because something beautiful shall come from it.

Egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly.  

As I watch this performance, my heart was full of joy. Logan looked so cute as Fred the frog and he said his line perfectly, “Get ready for a beautiful surprise!”  To me, this little play meant more to me than the story of a butterfly. It was symbolic for how fast our children grow up.

Like Fred, when our babies are born, we want to keep them safe and sheltered. Then as they grow, we give them a little more freedom. Then before you know it, they are spreading their own wings and flying away, strong and beautiful.

The boy did an amazing job with his three lines. And he wore that frog costume with pride.  I can’t believe my little dude is going to be in second grade.

I am so honored to get to be his mommy.

A Boy And His Thoughts

Toilet Boy

It is so funny what the boy thinks is awesome. He loves WWE, skateboarding, Star Wars, Xbox, Sponge Bob, YouTube, Roblox, and Happy Meals. I don’t think there is anything that comes out of that kid’s mouth that doesn’t either make me laugh, smile or completely melt my heart.

This morning while I was getting around, he walks into my bedroom and says, “Mom, I can wipe my own butt now and I am a good reader.” 

That had me busting up laughing. It amazes me how his brain works and how he categorizes things.

It is true though. He can wipe his own butt now and is a good reader.

Bragging moment:
Yesterday when we received his report card, there was a slip of paper included that stated he is a Star reader and reading at a 2.3-3.3 level. He is in first grade, but he can read anywhere from a second grade third semester to a third grade third semester.

That makes me so happy because I didn’t enjoy reading until my adulthood and to know he is good at it and somewhat enjoys it is an excellent start for his education.

I try to place how he became so advanced in his reading abilities. He did attend preschool and did well in Kindergarten. My guess is it’s my awesome parenting skills and allowing him hours upon hours on the iPad. (Insert sarcastic tone here.) But it is probably because he has such an amazing school and wonderful teachers.

Now for the butt wiping part, we’ll give daddy the credit for that one.