My Week of Interviews – And Sharing One with You!

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Mother’s Day was certainly unique this year due of the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, the week leading up to Mother’s Day was interesting as it was full of video interviews and preparations for various opportunities to share my story.

  • I recorded an interview with a local pastor (and friend of mind) for his Mother’s Day message
  • I recorded an interview with my local church that was used for the sermon application
  • I did a Facebook LIVE interview with my cousin, who is a children’s pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania where we talked about parenting during this pandemic
  • And I did an interview with author and speaker (any my personal friend) Sara R. Ward, for a Mothering Strong Under Stress Virtual Summit
  • Then, I found out that an interview I recorded last fall was set to air on Mother’s Day as well. 

I felt like a “virtual movie star!” Haha! Thankfully, in “real time,” I was able to stay in my pj’s on Mother’s Day to watch these things from my family room. Then, my family made me lunch and we had a wonderful, relaxing day together. Yay for pre-recordings!

I wanted to share one these interviews with you today. I am grateful to Mitch Kruse of Restoration Road for this opportunity. I hope it encourages you!

Feel free to share and send me your feedback! I love hearing from you!

Have a great weekend!

Christy

Mothering Strong Under Stress

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Hi friends,

I’d love to personally invite you to this virtual event. I am so honored to be a presenter, but even more, I’m exited to listen to and learn from the other ladies. 

This is a FREE event, and all you need to do is sign up at the link below to receive emails with the video interviews. You can watch them on your own time.

We hope this will encourage you during this crazy and difficult season – and beyond. 

Christy

Mothering Strong Under Stress: A Virtual Summit for Moms
 
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Stressed Out? Need some motivation?
 
In this three-day motherhood summit, you’ll receive a daily dose of encouragement to help you navigate motherhood’s challenges. Through exclusive interviews with six authors (who are moms too!) you’ll learn about mothering strong under stress, finding joy in the unexpected, and raising resilient kids.
 
Sign up and you’ll get all the information you need to access the Mothering Strong Summit on May 6-8.
 
Best of all, you can watch the summit on your own schedule.
 
I’m very honored to be included as a presenter.
 
Sign up here to save your seat:
 

This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain: PART 2

I chuckled at the stranger’s tweet.  The words brought me a moment of joy in the midst of these crazy Coronavirus days. The Twitter user shared that their child had asked if “Daddy had lived through COVID 1 to 18 when he was a little kid.” How sweet… and how sad.

The truth is, none of us have done this before. No one. We are all learning as we go. Each day brings fresh understanding, and new questions. Each morning, we read updated guidelines based on new statistics. Each evening presents a dichotomy of hope and fear.

In the midst of all of this confusion, there are those of us (myself included) who are adding our voices to the sea of those trying to make sense of it all. We write blogs, post videos, make graphs, share photos, and more in hopes to find some meaning and purpose in these days.

And it’s wonderful.

I’m grateful for those who are presenting ideas and virtual help. Indeed these things are a gift!

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I lived through a three-year period of isolation and social distancing due to our toddler son’s cancer diagnosis and compromised immune system. That was 2007-2010. Even though that really was not very long ago, I didn’t have many of the “modern” conveniences that we have now. For example, I wasn’t on any form of social media during those days. I was so isolated and had very little idea what was going on in the lives of friends. I shared about this in my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels:

Social media had not yet taken off, so I did not have Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms where I could keep my finger on the pulse of society and the happenings of my friends. The isolation left me out of the loop. One of my girlfriends, Amy, recognized this and began to send me weekly emails she entitled, “The Society Pages.” These updates made me smile, and sometimes laugh out loud, as she humorously informed me of news she thought I’d wish to know. This ranged from the story of a mutual friend who had recently received a traffic ticket for not wearing his seatbelt in the passenger seat, to news about a girlfriend who was due with a baby any day and her antics to start labor. She was considering drinking castor oil, but hadn’t yet brought herself to do it. I read the list of possible baby names for that little one, details of a remodeling project at our church, a friend struggling with her thyroid, and a couple whose water meter had burst and flooded their garage. And I was delighted to be part of it all, even if just in the reading of Amy’s words. She offered me social media before its time, without the annoying political rants and recipes. These emails filled a need for me, and I loved them. She cared for my soul, and it only took a little bit of time, and an Internet connection.

So, let me be clear that I LOVE the added connection technology has provided. That being said, there is something I keep thinking about that I want to share. Yes, I’m adding my voice to the din again.

Sometimes the opinions we hear and the posts we see add unrealistic expectations to our lives. 

It’s a new form of peer pressure, virtual pandemic pressure, if I may. We think we should be accomplishing what she is, teaching what he is, upgrading like they are, etc.

In This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain: Part 1, I shared 3 “G” words that helped me during our son’s cancer days; Grieve, Gratitude, and Give. Basically, I shared that I had learned to grieve what was lost, have gratitude for what I still had, and give back when I was able.

I stand by these three G’s and think that the process of grieving, having gratitude, and giving back is a continual cycle we all need to keep working through. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But, I’d like to add 2 more “G’s” to the formula. I think these new “G’s” help give it some added health. If we don’t add these two G’s to the cycle, the gear can get stuck when trying to spin. These two round it out and make it run much more smoothly.

Go on and Grace. 

First, Go on. Live. Simply just keep breathing. I know that many of us are trying to draw every lesson we can out of this time. I confess, this is me. This is a major “pot calling the kettle black instance” for me. I am not one to waste a moment, whether it be good or bad. (Um… my entire first book is based on this idea). I savor and I strive to learn and grow. This is okay, BUT, sometimes we just need to live. We have to go through the moment instead of around it in order to draw from it. 

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, and in a way it felt like deja vu to me. As my daughters cut out paper palm branches and we did an online “Hosanna lesson,” my mind flashed back 13 years ago when our son, now too old for children’s church, was sick and isolated on another Palm Sunday. That day in 2007 we didn’t have an online church service, but we held one of our own at the kitchen table. My husband, son, and I cut out paper palm branches that morning as well. We made it through and found joy and worship in 2007, and we made it through in a different but similar way to joy and worship in 2020. Paper and scissors and a little effort were enough both times.

So, make the best of it today. Live right where you are, sheltered in place, six feet away from others.

Go on. Just be YOU and live in your own way where you are. 

And while you’re going on, give yourself and those around you some GRACE!

If you are a healthcare worker or other essential worker, your life has not suddenly become more still, but has gotten more stressful than ever! We are so thankful for your time and talent. You are amazing! Give yourself some grace if you are doing nothing more than what is essential. You aren’t getting house projects done or playing games with your kids. And that is okay. What you ARE doing is helping many people do those very things you are missing.

If you are working from home and trying to hang on to your job and your laptop while trouble-shooting your teen’s math homework and breaking up a fight over Pop-Tarts amongst your children (speaking from experience here), give yourself some grace! You didn’t seize the moment today? Guess what? No problem. Take a deep breath and try again next time. We are not going for perfection here, we are going for grace. And grace is a much better companion.

We are not failing if we simply make it through this pandemic. No! Simply making it through this pandemic is the goal!

If we don’t capitalize on every moment, glean from every change, or produce something beautiful from every scrap, that is okay. Those things are bonuses! Extras! Wonderful gifts! But let’s not throw out the baby with the hand sanitizer, the goal is to do our best, not be perfect. And grace makes this possible.

Go on, and as you do, give yourself and others grace.

GRIEVE, BE GRATEFUL, GIVE BACK, GO ON, GRACE…

It’s a cycle. Let’s keep it moving individually and together.

And we’ll be ready to face COVID-20 to 100!

This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain? PART 1

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As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our world and our daily lives, I have been reminded of another time in my own life when my plans were canceled, and fear of the unknown loomed heavy. As I’ve reflected on that time, I’ve been comforted by the reminder of lessons learned.

Because these lessons were derived from pain and trial, I certainly don’t want to take them lightly or waste them by not applying them when they could once again be relevant and uplifting. Therefore, it is with that heart and motive that I share these thoughts with you.

In 2007, my husband and I were told that our then only child, our two-year-old son, Karson, had cancer. Our toddler entered a three-year chemotherapy regimen involving port chemo, oral chemo, steroids, 22 spinal taps, injections, and more. Karson’s immune system was hit hard, and we therefore had to self-quarantine for months on end. We spent the first year of his treatment in very strict quarantine; wiping down surfaces and hand sanitizing became second nature to us. We practiced social distancing, even with relatives, and we kept in touch by sending VHS tapes of cousins playing and chatting before the days of FaceTime would have made this much easier! I remember looking at my calendar during those years and having absolutely nothing scheduled other than chemo or clinic appointments.

If you had told me, before that dreadful day of Karson’s diagnosis, that I would basically have to cancel my life, I would have told you I couldn’t do it.

If you had told my busy and social self that I’d have to stay home and away from friends and family for the sake of potentially saving someone else’s life, I would have doubted if I could make the right choices to comply.

If you would have told me that many hardships were in my future, the stuff of parenthood nightmares, I may have fallen into the fetal position and begged it not to be so.

And yet, through those three years of pain, isolation, fear, and unknowns, there was goodness too.  There was mixture of tears and laughter, dread and hope, exhaustion and persistence.

And three responses rose to the top of the heap of emotions.

Grief, gratitude, and giving.

I grieved. Oh, did I grieve! I grieved the loss of life as I knew it. I was sad that I would not experience the normal “preschool life” with my little boy. He would not be allowed to have the typical play dates and parties that his buddies enjoyed. And neither would I. I would miss out on many events, and my dreams were shoved to the back burner.

The grief would come in waves. Some days I’d feel in control. I’d be okay. I’ve got this. I can do this. I’d think. Other days, I knew I could not. It was unpredictable and often, life felt surreal. But, I learned to look grief in the eye and call it by name. I didn’t have to like it, but I needed to acknowledge it. How else could I move forward if I did not acknowledge it as a barrier to my healing?

Now, with the changes to our lives and plans due to the Coronavirus, I think we need to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself permission to be sad. I’ve heard of family vacations to Disney being canceled, anniversary trips to Italy sidelined, senior athletic seasons being abruptly cut short. It hurts. These things are heartbreaking and deserve to be grieved. Grief is not reserved for death alone. Grief is valid for any loss. And so I think we should grieve these personal losses, and the changes brought on by this new period of quarantine and social distancing.  If they aren’t worth grieving, were they really worth doing in the first place?

In between the waves of grief throughout our long cancer journey, I also experienced swells of gratitude. I learned to be thankful for things to which I’d never before given much thought.  A late night playing with toys on the family room floor by the light of the Christmas tree with my little boy who was healthy enough to use his imagination and laugh. Friends who took the time to bring a fast food meal to my front door. The fact we lived in a world where our son could have access to medication and benefit from brilliant minds who commit their time to research.

Gratitude was a game changer for me. It rerouted my train of thought from self-pity to the realization of the gifts I already possessed.

Today, in the midst of the chaos of COVID-19, I hope we can all strive to be grateful. We can hope to spread something that is not viral, a new perspective and goal of aiming to find the good in the difficult. To realize the gifts we have in 2020. Internet connections, which allow virtual meetings, emails, video games, and e-learning. What an amazing opportunity to connect and dream together about how to not just survive, but thrive. Our virtual capabilities are now our reality. Thank goodness we have such a wonderful ability! Board games, television, face-to-face conversations with our quarantine pals, phone calls, books. These things are all gifts. Have we noticed how wonderful they are recently? Have we been thankful for them or have we been taking them for granted? And once again, I’m so thankful for those who dedicate their time and talent to finding treatments, tests, and cures for our ill. It’s impossible for me to fully express my gratitude to these selfless and brilliant individuals.

And finally, the third response that rose out of the fire of our childhood cancer journey was the desire to give. Obviously, I first wanted to give all that was needed to my son. I gave him love, syringes full of medication, rides to the ER, and mashed potatoes at 3:00am when his little steroid-filled body craved them. But I learned to not just think of our family and myself, but to see the bigger picture. There were many families on the 5th floor of our children’s hospital who fought cancer just like us. Many had it worse than we did, and my heart broke for them. I wanted to give back when the timing was right, and in the years since we climbed out of the cancer trenches, wounded, but not lifeless, we have given back. We’ve served on committees, shared our story in front of crowded gymnasiums and banquet halls, attended chemo appointments with other sick children, answered the questions of panicked parents who are following in our path, donated our money, and more. And I don’t say that to get credit or recognition. I say this to show you that the desire to give grew out of pain. And it produced beautiful fruit!

In the midst of this pandemic, I hope we can all remember to give. We can remember there is a bigger picture. It’s not all about us. There are many who are weak and marginalized who can use our help. Part of that help looks like us following directions to quarantine and utilize social distancing. Part of that help may be leaving some items on the shelves once we have enough. Not plenty, but enough, so that others can get what they need as well. Some of that giving may be with your own children while they do their schooling at home. What atmosphere are you creating in your home in which they are learning? Is it one of panic, dread, and complaining, or one of hope despite grief and gratitude despite disappointment?

In April of 2010, our son received his last dose of chemotherapy. That too did pass. Now he’s 15, cancer-free, and healthy. We didn’t know this would be our happy ending when we first heard his diagnosis. We didn’t know that someday he’d be a tall, smart, and happy high school student instead of a chubby, bald and sickly child. But our journey did come to an end. We eventually returned to our regularly scheduled life, though we were changed tremendously through the battle. We learned many things, not the least of which were three main responses: grief, gratitude, and giving.

This Coronavirus pandemic will someday be finished as well. We’ll look back at these weeks and months and tell our next generations about our losses and quarantine adventures. This too shall pass. It’s true. And what do you we want to remain? What will rise to the top of the heap when all the dust settles?

For me, I hope to once again find I’ve learned to grieve, have gratitude, and give. Lessons far too precious to waste.

It’s My Book’s Birthday!

Today, after three years of labor, my book has been born! (Phew!)

I’m so excited to announce that my first book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, is now available on Amazon in paperback, and for the Kindle.

You can find it here:

 

Also, I had a book trailer made to give everyone a short glimpse of what the book is about – much like you’d discover from reading the back cover. If you’d like to see it, it is here:

 

 

And finally, if you’d like to follow my writing page on Facebook, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/christycabewriter/

Thanks for your support, reader!

Happy Birthday, Book!

Christy

All the feels.

There’s this phrase that young and cool people say now-a-days.

When someone is feeling really emotional, good or bad, they say they have “all the feels.”

Because I am not a cool person (and my young-ness is debatable, at a week shy of 39), I don’t often (ever) use this phrase. I tend to be pretty traditional. So if something is giving me really strong feelings, I will most likely say, “Wow. I am feeling emotional today.”

But today…

I HAVE ALL THE FEELS!

Deep breath. 

Here’s why.

First off, today is the anniversary of my mom’s death. She passed away 28 years ago when I was a week shy of eleven. Her death was sudden and shocking and has obviously impacted my life.

Feels.

Secondly, after three years of working on writing a book (and doing all that the process of having it ready for release entails- which is A LOT) I sent the Advanced Reader Copies of my book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, to my book launch team this morning (digitally). That means that my launch team, which is comprised of friends and family, is potentially reading my book now. It’s out there! It is a vulnerable and honest telling of my story and it encourages the reader to savor life through heartache, joy, and the moments in between. And, I was able to time its early release with the anniversary of my mom’s death- which is such a special way to honor her life and memory.

Feels. 

Third, I unveiled my book cover and the release date to the general public on Wednesday of this week. I posted the details on social media and asked my launch team to help me share it before the book releases (which they have already started to do!). The book releases in just over a month, on April 25th, and will be available on Amazon, both in paperback and for the Kindle. In the weeks to come, more will be shared on this website and on social media, including a book trailer (a short video teaser about the book) and endorsements.

Feels.

Fourth, our family has been asked to share our son, Karson’s, cancer journey at two fundraising events for the children’s hospital which diagnosed and treated him, Riley Hospital for Children. We share Friday evening at a university, and Saturday evening at a high school. My husband, Kraig, Karson, and I will all speak together and our girls will be with us.

Feels.

So, you can hopefully see why I have given my uncool self permission to use this young and cool phrase. All the feels, man. I think it is merited in this situation. I will try to limit my use of it to this weekend, and then go back to my “I am feeling very emotional” verbiage. Thanks for understanding.

Here’s a glimpse at the book cover. More to come!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Cover Reveal!-2

One of those days.

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Yesterday, before the sunrise, my oldest child stood in front of his middle school peers and shared his story. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) group meets once a week in the cafeteria before the first bell of the school day. One Wednesday each month they combine with another middle school FCA in town. They join their groups together for fellowship, fun, and free breakfast.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Karson was asked to share about his cancer. How he fought leukemia from the age of two to the age of five and-a-half. How before his peers met him in their Kindergarten classrooms and the elementary playground, he’d spent most of his days too sick to play with other kids.

How he’d received over three years of chemotherapy. How he was given steroids that made him crazy with hunger and then how he was required to fast for spinal tap procedures. How he ate more in one day as a toddler than most teenage boys do in two. How his medicine made him feel itchy, and yucky, and isolated. How he not only survived it all, but now is tall, and happy, and healthy.

He’s here.

And he’s willing to share at an FCA meeting on a cold, dark, Wednesday morning.

And my husband, who helps lead FCA and heard our son share, told me later that Karson’s message had two main points.

1- God loves you no matter what you’re going through – even if you don’t have it figured out.

2- We can have hope and joy because Jesus made it possible to spend eternity in Heaven.

And I can’t see straight as I type this because of the tears in my eyes.

Because I remember the days of being up before the crack of dawn too. Not for FCA groups, but for loading into the car with a very sick little bald boy who needed to go the hospital to get chemo to help keep him alive. How some days my knees could barely hold my own weight as I watched those spinal tap procedures and blood transfusions. How we didn’t know if he would live. How we didn’t know what the long term effects of his treatment would be even if he did. How we were told he would likely have stunted growth, learning disabilities, and coordination issues. And how we fought, and loved, and prayed.

And now I hear of him standing there; tall, and smart, and smiling. Telling his peers of the true hope they can cling to in this life.

And the tears run down my cheeks as I take it all in.

He’s here.

Yesterday was one of those days.

One of those days when you feel like you see the light pierce through the darkness.

When you remember that the sun will rise again.

Temporarily derailed.

I walked through my kitchen this week and the sight I beheld across the room into my family room caused me to stop dead in my tracks. My body’s physical reaction is difficult to put into words. It was mixture of nauseous and weakness along with a heightend sense of adrenaline.

Cue the emotional and dreadful music.

Hold your breath.

Wait for it.

Thomas and Friends was on my tv. My 6th grade son was laying on the couch covered in a blanket and staring at the screen.

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Granted, this may not sound like your typical horror scene. I don’t think the little blue train with the happy talking face has been a villain in many settings. He and his colorful train friends are actually quite cute and sweet.

But it’s not them, it’s me. I associate those talking trains with something else. Something painful. Something sad.

The same lanky preteen boy who now lays on the couch fighting pneumonia was once a toddler diagnosed with leukemia. We spent over three years watching this boy get chemo treatments and we lived in isolation. Our most frequent companions were the colorful trains from Thomas and Friends. James, Percy, Gordon, Thomas, Edward… I can still quote many of their friendly British lines.

But it has been over six years since our son finished chemo and he is now a happy and cancer-free middle schooler. He’s active in sports, does his homework, and rarely sits still.

That is until this week when he caught a nasty virus that decided to settle in his left lung and cause him to miss several days of school. It’s pneumonia, but it’s not cancer. It’s “one of those things” that he probably caught from the germ smorgasbord known as public school. It is unrelated to the cancer. It is going to be okay.

But as I walked through the kitchen and saw him sick on the couch not caring enough or possessing the energy to change the channel when Thomas and Friends came on PBS, I stopped and took notice.

Not this again. Please!

After I caught my breath, I took a picture on my smartphone and texted it to my husband. He understood its meaning without much explanation.

“This makes me sick too,” he replied. “But remember how far we have come and that this is not our norm anymore.”

Yes. Another quote I want to commit to memory.

This is not our norm anymore. Time has passed. Change has come.

Our son is healthy. Our God and brilliant doctors helped to heal him.

It took me a few minutes to calm my heart rate and sooth my nerves, but the moment and the perspective I gained have stayed with me.

Sometimes, remembering where you’ve been brings gratitude.

Sometimes, seeing how far you’ve come brings hope.

Sometimes a little blue talking train can remind you that healing does in fact come with the passing of time.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where writers are encouraged to write on a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: HEAL

 

Our Reality (TV). 

  
We are not exactly “camera ready” people. We’re far from glamorous. Very far. We’re just a regular, plain, run-of-the-mill family. 

 But we’re willing. 

And it appears that’s almost as good. 

Willing to tell our story and then simply showing up when we’re called. We’ve tried to make that our practice. 

Recently we were asked to share about our son, Karson’s, battle with leukemia. How he is a survivor, and the amazing research being done that has helped make this our version of reality TV. 

The camera man and reporter met us outside on a 90 degree day. I started to melt from the heat and could feel sweat rolling down my back before we even began the interview. My husband, Kraig, had driven straight from an appointment with our eye doctor where he’d had his pupils dilated. After being asked to remove his sunglasses for the filming, Kraig squinted his way through the next hour and we laughed at his expense. I got emotional about the topic as I answered the reporter’s questions with honesty and openness. This all made for a less than perfect shoot. 

But that doesn’t really matter. 

What matters is that we were able to share our story.

That maybe another family out there who is currently in the trenches, watching their child fight a serious illness, will see a glimmer of hope. 

That maybe some more attention will be given to pediatric cancer research. 

That maybe someone will feel a little less alone in their struggle.

That maybe gratitude will trump the pain. 

That maybe this will be the boost someone else needs to share their own story. 

That maybe willingness and showing up is even better than perfection and glamour, after all. 

______________________

Here’s the link to the news story: 

Survivor Guilt: Turning Guilt Into Hope

Today, February 9th, 2015, marks the 8th anniversary of our son Karson’s diagnosis with leukemia. Eight years. This date is always a mixed bag of emotions for us. We feel pure elation for where we are today, and yet the moments of shock and sorrow we felt 8 years ago are still very raw and tangible. We celebrate how far we’ve come, and we remember because it’s important to never forget where we’ve been. 

I wrote a blog article about the “survivor guilt” that I sometimes feel and how I’ve been challenged to turn that guilt into hope for others. The Riley Children’s Foundation was kind enough to share it on their blog today in honor of Karson’s diagnosis anniversary. You can find it on the RCF page here. Or, you can read it on my personal blog below. 

Here’s to hope! 

 

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I tilted my head back until I felt my neck muscles had reached their limit. I was getting the best view possible as I watched my son attempt to scale an almost 30 foot climbing wall at our local YMCA.

I know nothing about climbing, so I was not there to offer advice, but to cheer Karson on and to take pictures. So, when Karson stopped about three quarters of the way up and let go of his grip, with both his hands and his feet, I wasn’t sure what to do or say.

He hung there, suspended in the air, by the rope and harness that was being carefully anchored on the ground by a trained staff member. Karson’s body drifted slowly from side to side as he shook out his hands and repeatedly said, “I’m done. I can’t go any further. I’m too tired.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I let him quit? Had he pushed himself to his limit? I really didn’t know what to tell him because I’d never been in his position and I didn’t know how he really felt.

But, the trained climbing expert who was calmly holding onto Karson’s rope and steadying him in mid-air spoke up. “You can do it!” he said. “Don’t quit. Come on man, you have strong legs, you’re tall, you can do this. It’s not much further. “

At first Karson shook his head and looked at me for permission to give up. I deferred by looking at the climbing expert who was still yelling out words of encouragement.

After a few moments, Karson turned back toward the wall and grabbed on with his right hand, and then his left, and then he found places to anchor his feet.

The climbing expert started to shout out specific commands.

 “Right hand blue.”

“Left foot yellow. That’s it.”

“Now left hand green. You can reach it.”

And though it may have sounded like a game of Twister, this man was telling my son how to get to the top of the wall, one colored fake rock at a time.

And Karson did.

I liken this experience with Karson to another we’ve faced in his lifetime. Cancer.

His diagnosis with leukemia at the age of two was a wall that stood in front of us and stretched higher than we could even see.

The climb took years of maneuvering through chemotherapy treatments, steroids, hair loss, weight gain, isolation and spinal taps.

There were times in the midst of it all when we let go of the wall and swung helplessly in mid-air without an ounce of energy left to go forward.

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And it was during those times that I heard the voices of others who had already climbed this wall and who had successfully made it to the top. Families of other children who had fought leukemia and other cancers encouraged us by saying,

“You can do this. You are strong. Karson is strong. God is good. Keep climbing.”

Then, as we’d turn our faces toward the next trial their words would become even more specific.

 “We remember the loneliness of isolation. We’re here for you via phone of email whenever you need to talk.”

“Oh, that drug was the worst! Are you experiencing that side effect too? We can relate. Here’s an idea we found that brought some relief.”

“Our daughter had the same issue with the spinal taps. You’re not alone. We’re praying for you.”

Do you see what these survivors, these “experts” in the steep climb against cancer, were doing?

They were helping us get to the top, one excruciating moment at a time.

And we did.

Karson finished his three years of chemotherapy in 2010 and he remains cancer-free to this day. He’s a healthy, strong, ten-year-old who can now go the YMCA and climb a wall like any other 4th grader.

But the problem is, sometimes I feel guilty about our success.

It may sound crazy, but as the years have ticked by and Karson has continued to thrive, I sometimes feel the “survivors guilt” trickle in. It’s second-hand survivor’s guilt, really. But it stings just the same.

And at first, I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

The feelings of guilt caused me to be silent and not share about our success fearing I may cause pain to others who were struggling and who weren’t as fortunate.

But my silence was detrimental instead of helpful.

Lately I’ve been reminded of the gift that I can now offer to others who are facing a difficult climb.

The gift of hope.

I may never have climbed an actual climbing wall, but I have maneuvered through mothering a child with a life-threatening illness.

I’ve been there.

I know what it feels like.

I can help guide others toward the next goal and over the next hurdle.

And so instead of allowing my survivor’s guilt to render me speechless and idle, I’ve been reminded to shout to those who are on the wall in the midst of their battles.

I need to turn my guilt into hope for someone else.

It’s what others did for us, and their encouragement helped us finish the fight.

Now it’s my turn.

I won’t allow my survivors guilt to silence me. Instead, I will turn that guilt into the gift of hope for someone else.

And together, we can keep climbing.

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