Every day is wedding day.


Today, I want to make mention of these people – who have stood by us in great times, bizarre times, and hard times. Who make us laugh, bring purpose to our lives, and who we could not be ourselves without. These are words for them:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

-Elizabeth Kubler Ros

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…because love wins.

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17 things I learned in the 17 years since I was diagnosed with childhood cancer.


March 11, 1998.

We never forget the days that change our lives. We never forget the moments that change our lives, as a matter of fact. I had one of those on that day. I haven’t forgotten it. I never will.

I had been walking with a limp for about 3 weeks. I was a totally healthy, vivacious, excited little girl. Here’s a picture!

Age 6. :)

Age 6. 🙂

See? Right? Totally healthy. But that knee pain I had wouldn’t go away.

On March 11th, 7:35am, I was walking to the school bus. About halfway there, I fell down. There was a serious sharp pain in my left knee. I remember thinking I didn’t want to look dumb (classic 3rd grade thought process) and it hurt. A lot a lot a lot. The bus was waiting, and it was a shorter distance to get on the bus than to go home, so I got on the bus. I went through my day, limping along, trying not to walk. I have no idea how I was even moving at all.

We had an appointment scheduled with my family doctor that afternoon. When I walked into the office, he told me that he hadn’t seen anyone ever limp like that. The reason? My femur was shattered. The reason?

Bone cancer.

I was 7 years old. I played basketball and giggled and tried to avoid going to sleep at night.

Cancer?

CANCER?

The next day started 49 weeks of chemotherapy, the removal of my leg and a procedure called Rotationplasty (You can learn about that here.) and way too many sharp needles, anesthesia and brokenhearted moments than I can consciously remember or that I should have had to go through as a human being, regardless of age.

So, in honor of the days that I have lived (happily) since then, I want to share with you 17 things that I have learned since March 11, 1998.

1. Life is short. 
Not in the cliche, “Yeah, people say that all the time…” way, but in the “Don’t wait until someone you love is dead in a car accident before you figure this out.” way. Seriously, it can all end right now, and you need to not worry what everyone thinks of you or feel bad when people don’t like you. Choose the way you want to live those short days and then do that. Live, please.

2. Kids die. 
And it sucks. It sucks way worse than someone who has lived to 80 years-old dying. I’m not saying any one life is more important than another, but I am telling you that burying my best friends (4 of them) by the age of 12 is horrendous and wrong. It’s so so so so wrong. Parents should not have to live all the years their kids were supposed to without them. Which leads me to…

3. There is a pathetic amount of money allotted for childhood cancer research. 
I had 49 weeks of poison (chemotherapy) that potentially ruined my heart, potentially took my ability to have children, and certainly made me throw up burning vomit way too many times. The saddest part is that it’s been 17 years and kids today are still taking the exact same awful drugs. With an 80% survival rate. (Which I would say is definitely much lower than 80.) And they haven’t figured out why a lot of my friends never lived and I did. There aren’t many people who took this stuff and grew into adulthood, so there’s not really a way for me to know what my future related to this stuff will bring. Please help. Follow this facebook page and do what it says: TheTruth365.

4. Haters are gonna hate.
There is a saying that goes something like, “In the world people are going to hate you, and people are going to love you, and none of it has anything to do with you.” People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed. (Thanks, Frozen!) So be graceful and don’t worry too much.

5. God is everywhere. 
You just have to let yourself listen. Even when the truth hurts. Especially when the truth hurts.

6. Illness isn’t terrifying.
Sometimes it is, I suppose, but for anyone who is the friend of someone with a chronic or serious illness, don’t leave said person or family alone. And don’t be upset if they want space or you say the wrong thing. But answer the phone at 2am, expect nothing, give real hugs, and be willing to be whatever they need.

7. You should love yourself. 
There is a complex that tends to come after someone has been through a near-death experience which includes putting everyone else first. And then putting everyone else first until that person is basically dead from never paying attention to themselves. So it’s good to take care of yourself. Paint and laugh and don’t let people use you. You deserve the best too.

8. I am handicapped. 
Lots of people are. In fact, we all are – face the fact. We all have something really wrong with our broken souls. And I think that’s a really important thing to remember when someone can’t help themselves and you have the opportunity to love them.

9. It’s not easy to talk about pain. 
I’m a professional speaker, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to talk through the agony that I experienced. There’s this fine line between people wanting to hear the truth and people thinking you’re asking for pity by sharing what you’ve felt. Pay no attention to those people. If you have pain, talk about it. If they choose not to listen, they lose.

10. People won’t always leave, and they won’t always leave you.
There’s my greatest fear. Now you know that. (Yay vulnerable!) I’m sure this grew from holding my friends’ hands while they died and thinking I would never be fully understood again, but in the years since that and some wonderful people in my life, I have learned that people won’t always leave. And I have learned that some people really really want to stay and love me if I let them be inside my heart. Give people a chance.

11. Healthy food isn’t just a fad. Tubing 2
Having a life threatening illness was pretty awful. But it also benefited me in great ways. Because I don’t like toxins because of that experience, I avoid them. And I am pretty particular about taking care of myself with what I put inside my body. And I know I live a more full, happier life because of it. Eat less Doritos and more broccoli. It’s worth it!

12. Downtime is not wasted time.
I laid in my bed for a really long time when I was sick. Like, about a year. And it’s clear that that time has not been wasted, even though I was doing nothing for 49 weeks. You’re human. Slow down. Life will come to you.

13. Sometimes hope just doesn’t feel real. 
There will be times in your life where you can’t hope. Where you realize that the thing that you have been hoping for for so long just isn’t going to happen. And that’s okay. Give up, cry, get mad, do whatever you need to do. Just because we don’t think there is hope doesn’t mean there isn’t. And it doesn’t mean that the days won’t get brighter again. They will.

14. Tie your brain to your heart. 
If you want to do something that really helps people, don’t just dream. Figure out what skills you need to tangibly do the work. For example, if you want to travel the world and feed homeless, start learning languages now. If you want to start a business, learn how to start a business. And then put your heart into your intellect.

15. Don’t take boredom for granted. 
I remember being 15 and telling my parents I was bored. But then I realized that I may be bored because my life is just okay at that time. And it’s not falling apart. And that means there’s goodness – and that’s not boring at all.

16. Bad things can still be bad years later, but they don’t have to rule you. 
I realize that there are some things from cancer which totally left me with PTSD. That’s the reality for my life, and I’ve accepted it. That’s pretty lame, but so are tsunamis, and I haven’t been through one of those. And some other people have to accept them in their lives. So it’s okay to not like things that happened to you. But that doesn’t mean they are in your now, or that they will take you down. Nah, there’s always healing, and always growth. And you’re good now. Just learn and live.

17. Jesus loves you. Jesus
I have tried this one out. I have searched the depth of my heart and society many times. I have watched people die, kids without parents in hospitals, and kids around the world who have no medical care and die just because of that. And there is still love – and love is the currency we should really use. Jesus is the only way to God, and there is one God, and He is Jesus’ father. And you know what? Whether you know it or not, He loves you. And He’s going to come back. Don’t wait to talk to him until your life doesn’t make sense anymore. Someone will always, always love you.

Here’s to 17 more years!

Love to you all.

…because love wins.

Christmas – when there’s no peace in your world.


I plenty of Christmas shopping this year. I had a great time, filling my cart with gifts for some of my closest and best friends and relatives. I also spent a lot of time in between my shopping watching other people. People were sad, or crabby. Or looked so stressed. And so I thought I would write a little about that.

The Christmas that I was in the hospital getting chemotherapy probably was the best Christmas my family has ever had. It probably should have been the worst one, but I was blessed with parents who knew how to make us a family no matter where we are. We didn’t have a lot of presents because our money went into medical bills. And we didn’t have a way to make a Christmas dinner, because we were in a hospital. But we had each other.

For many years from my teens through college, I was depressed. I guess I didn’t know that I was – I was just so tired all the time. But there were quite a few Christmas days when I was not the happiest camper. In fact, plenty where I was just sad – there wasn’t a reason. But those weren’t bad holiday memories either. Because I had my family.

This year, I’m not depressed, I have bouncing, happy kids in my family. Everyone is alive. And we’re together. And that matters. Yeah, there are gifts, but no one ever remembers what they unwrapped – they remember how they felt.

As a Christian, it’s really easy to remember our family and friends in our Christmas celebrations. But what about the people who don’t feel like celebrating? What about the people who just lost a child to cancer? What about the person who is mentally ill who’s been abandoned? Can we take our peace to those places, or do we close our eyes and look away, because there’s no joy on earth where there’s deep sorrow and grief? What about the people who aren’t together with anyone? Christmas for blog

Maybe you’re that person – who isn’t feeling the peace on earth this Christmas and you don’t feel comfortable just showing up to church. It’s okay. You don’t have to be anything more than you are. Just like Love came to the earth to bring us all peace, I hope that you know that there are people who think of you – and who may just show up on  your doorstep with cookies and ask if they can stay awhile.

Maybe you’re the person stressed buying gifts. Maybe it’s time to get rid of gifts, and start being the gift. I promise your stress will quickly become peace. Because no matter what, peace did come to earth. And because of that, we’ll never have to be without someone who loves us so.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. Merry Christmas.

…because love wins.

hksad

A wordless night.


ImageI’m sitting on my couch eating Cheez-Its. It’s quite glamorous. It’s quite perfect. A water bottle. This laptop. The air has a perfect quality about it. In this place, I am content. I am in the silence, and with my thoughts. And there’s almost a tangible peace about the way I’m in the middle of life. The day isn’t over but the past is gone. And the future is ahead. There are a lot of words swimming through my mind that can’t really come out as English. They’re the parts of our souls that are silent on the outside but sparkle, scream, and come to life inside of us. The ones that exist when we look into a newborn baby’s eyes, or when we realize we’re grown enough to take care of our parents. 

My mind fades to the agonies of this world. The cancer, and the fear, and the learning disabilities. The government, the car accidents, the world that most see. The hugs that end too soon and the pain of deep grief. And I sit and think of what these people think they cannot be. 

I know that agony. I know the pain. I live in the same world as you. There’s nothing remarkably special about me, other than that I have hope. People sometimes look at my life and think I’m faking this joy. Or that it’s magic that I got here. That I dance around and sing and introduce myself to new people because I want something for myself. But that’s not it at all. 

I have Jesus. it’s Jesus that sits with me, makes me content, picks me up when I’m throwing up from chemo or when my best friend just died. It’s Jesus who teaches me to love and holds my heart when someone in my life slams closed the door. I’ve been with children gasping for air as they die of cancer. I’ve watched countless people be divorced and their children run to alcohol to solve their problems. And it breaks my heart. It absolutely does. But Jesus is the reason I can run to those broken hearts and be there. 

If you don’t know what the heck is going on in your life, or if you’re wondering if cable is really all there is, or you haven’t stopped to ask any questions about what life is, there’s a serious solution. His name is Jesus. He died for you, and you don’t have to come with any words. He is love, and He knows you. And He literally has been waiting on the front porch step for so long for you to come home. And He’s the answer. 

I felt the need to write this tonight. So I’m guessing it’s for you to know that there is hope. And that there is a way to live a life filled with joy a midst this crazy, sick, messed up world. I’m not naive, I know what life is about. Let yourself be weak and send me a message. I want to help you actually enjoy your life. 

I’m here for you and Jesus loves you.

…because love wins.

Glow


Glow

So many lights on in this city,
but people still walk in the dark.
I watch them as they’re passing by me.
I hide the truth inside my heart.

Cuz I’m afraid to lose control.
I’m comfortable.
But there’s something in my soul,
they need to know.

Shine, shine, shine tonight,
it’s time to let it show.
Burn bright;
light the fire that leads the way to Hope.

The Maker of the stars
lives in our souls.
We have His light,
so what are we waiting for?

Get out and glow.
Glow Glow, GLOW! 🙂

A city on a hill can’t be displayed,
until we take our faith;
set it ablaze.

It’s time to glow. 🙂

…because love wins.