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When Cancer hits home (Part 2)

Cancer, Clickforhope, FamilyJasmine Lopez2 Comments
clickforhope_breastcancershoot-38.jpg

My journey with cancer begins in January of 2015 with a small red spot in the center of my chest.  I remember first seeing it after taking a shower.  Although odd I didn’t think much of it; I was young at only 35, a very active father of two children and considered myself to be in good health.  I thought little of it and went on with my busy life.  Over the next 4 months’ new spots started appearing and as the spots got larger I could feel lumps under the spots.  I was also losing weight and not sleeping well, although at the time I didn’t connect any of these issues together.  In April of 2015 I finally decided to make an appointment with my doctor.  
My primary physician referred me to a dermatologist who suggested a biopsy.  It was a simple procedure done right in the doctor’s office.  It was another couple of weeks before the results came back.  The doctor called on a Thursday afternoon while I was in the office; the results indicated I had a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I was shocked, I had convinced myself that it was just a reaction to something or maybe calcium deposits which I’ve had in the past.  But no, I had Cancer.  
I needed to tell my wife, I wanted to tell her right away so she could tell me it would be okay and we’d get through this.  But the timing was horrible.  My Birthday and Mother’s Day fell back to back on the approaching weekend.  My wife had worked to make plans for my birthday and I the same for her on Mother’s Day.  This news would surely take all of the joy from our celebrations.  I decided to wait to tell her, or anybody else.  My wife tells me I should have told her, and she’s probably right, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything, the kids and Michelle were enjoying themselves so much.  It was a great weekend; my birthday went off without a hitch and Michelle had a wonderful relaxing Mother’s Day.  I even convinced my wife to get a hamster for our daughter from a local pet expo.  
On the following Monday I told my wife the results of the biopsy.  She was loving and supportive telling me what I already knew.  Together we can get through anything.  We decided not to say anything to the kids until we had to.  And managed to go through my entire treatment without ever saying the word Cancer to or in front of our children.

      
The next couple months were filled with more biopsies, tests and scans.  In the meantime, we began discussing treatment options with my doctors.  The two Oncologists I was seeing had a difference of opinion over the exact subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I have.  It was suggested by one of the doctors that I try a “watch and wait” approach.  This approach made no sense to me.  I had been “watching” this cancer spread from my chest to my arms and back for 6 months now and it had been stressful.  I didn’t want to “wait” any longer, every morning I looked in the mirror and was reminded of the worries and uncertainty the future may hold.  I wanted to start fighting back now.  
The doctors told me there was no cure for my cancer and that my battle would be a lifelong one.  I was ready for the fight, I had my family’s support and a positive attitude.  Eventually more testing determined the exact subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that I had & I started Immunotherapy treatments in August of 2015.
I handled the treatments well and the side effects were tolerable.  I was extremely tired the day of treatment and for maybe a day or two following.  I continued to lose weight, at my lightest I weighed less than 130 lbs, and developed joint pain that got progressively worse as the treatments went on.  My legs get very restless as well.

 
The first couple of treatments were the most difficult.  Due to the potential for adverse reactions, the first infusions are done very slowly.  Unfortunately, I still developed a reaction to the treatment.  Shortly after the infusion began, I began to feel itchy and asked my wife if she could scratch my back.  She lifted my shirt and gasped, almost my entire upper body was covered in huge, red hives.   They stopped the infusion immediately and switched over to IV antihistamine to treat the reaction.  Once everything seemed under control they began the immunotherapy infusion again at a slower rate, taking more than eight hours to complete the first treatment.  Treatment days continued to be an all-day affair but they were able to control the reactions during the remainder of the treatments.  
At the end of my treatments I was feeling great.  I even felt a bit lucky, the side effects weren’t horrible, the small tumors had faded away and the large ones were getting smaller every day.  I hadn’t lost my hair or had to undergo any surgeries.  At my appointment a couple weeks following treatment I even heard the words every cancer patient hopes for.  Remission.  Well Partial Remission for me, but I’ll take it.  The tumors had mostly gone away and I was happy, life was good.  My Wife and I with our two wonderful children were ready for move on with our lives.  But we were in for another shock…
In February of 2016 my wife was diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast Cancer.  My wife’s cancer was more aggressive than mine and treatment started very quickly.  In March my wife had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction.  After healing from surgery she began chemotherapy, and following chemotherapy, she underwent radiation which she just finished this past month.  My wife is the most amazing person I have ever known.  All throughout my treatments she took care of me and our family.  And all though her own cancer treatments, she still took care of our family.  My wife is an an amazing mom, wonderful wife and my best friend.  


As if that weren’t all enough, in June my cancer unfortunately relapsed.  After new tests and scans my doctors believe the same cancer has returned.  This wasn’t completely unexpected; my wife and I were prepared for this possibility.  
My treatment will be similar this time, but much longer.  I am currently undergoing treatment every week in an effort to stop and shrink the current tumor growth.  After which I will continue to receive treatments every other month for the next 3 years and we’ll reassess at that point.
In spite of it all, we’re still as strong and positive as ever.  Cancer has been hard on our family but it has made us stronger and for that we are grateful.

When Cancer hits home (Part 1)

Cancer, Family, Marriage, Clickforhope, Breast CancerJasmine Lopez1 Comment
clickforhope give back cancer story

Please share your story:

Early last year my husband was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma.  As a family we were devastated.  We have two small children & a lot going on in our busy lives already, taking on cancer treatment was going to be a hefty task & we clearly worried about the impact it may have on our children.  Thankfully he handled treatment well with minimal side effects & we were able to get through without ever saying the dreaded “C” word to our kids who were two & four at the time.  He was in remission as of August of 2015 & we grew stronger from the process.  I believe now, that it was God’s way of preparing us for my cancer.

I noticed a lump in my left breast in November of 2015.  But after all that my family had just been through, I wanted them to get through the holidays stress free so I opted not to call my physician until January.  A decision I later worried may cost me my life.  In February I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  My surgeon estimated the tumor had been growing for approximately two years & treatment needed to start ASAP.  

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I had bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (tram flap) in March.  I did 8 rounds of chemotherapy, starting in April & completed that in August.  Following chemo, I completed 33 rounds of radiation.  I’ll be on hormone therapy for ten years going forward & have one surgery remaining to complete reconstruction which I am safely waiting until next year to tackle.

Meanwhile, while I was going through chemo my husband became concerned that his lymphoma may be returning. Seriously, right??  Following some tests, his doctors confirmed that he had relapsed or possibly the cancer was never fully gone in the first place as we had thought.  He began treatment again this month (Oct) & will continue treatment for the next three years. 

It’s been a crazy long road & certainly a lot more than we had ever anticipated when it all began last year.  Cancer has given us a plethora of challenges, but it’s made us stronger & we appreciate life & one another now more than ever.  Most would consider us unlucky to both have gotten cancer, we would say that we’re blessed to have one another for support as we face these battles together.

 How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It's changed my life completely! I don't spend time now worrying about the future or things I can't change, it's wasted energy. Instead I focus on today & making it the best it can be. My focus is on positivity & the things that I can work to change for the better. 

 What compelled you to share your story on our blog?: 

Through it all my focus has been to remain positive.  I was encouraged by my friends, family & even my physicians to share my story, so I started a website, positivelysurvivingcancer.com. It's been amazing so far & I've had so many people reach out to me personally through the blog & Instagram. It's just so wonderful to take something so terrible & make something positive out of it. Stress is an ugly thing that can really slow down our body’s healing process, so it important to train ourselves to focus on positivity. I also really believe that if we look our best, we feel our best. Feeling our best is so important through cancer treatment because it allows our bodies to fight that much harder!  I would love to help continue to spread the word about my site & help more fellow cancer warriors out there as they make their way through this journey.

 What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Take it all one day at a time, one question at a time. Be strong & positive, don't let worries or negative thoughts take your strength!

Make Today Great T-Shirt: Hope 25

Blush Maxi Skirt: Marsymo

An Aneurysm Brought Me To My Knees

Aneurysm, Family, ClickforhopeJasmine Lopez3 Comments
“There came a point when I had to decide: will I let this break me or will I let this grow me? And if I'm honest, it had to break me first in order to grow me. But today? Today I survive on faith.” -Alice

 

I can do this.

I say this to myself at least five times a day. When I’m out swimming, biking, or running- training for Ironman Wisconsin, I say it about every ten minutes. 

I can do this

Let me backtrack...towards the end of 2015, while at home with my two girls, I lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. After months of tests and doctors’ visits, I was told that I had at least two different issues – possible partial seizures and an incidental finding of a right PCA brain aneurysm. What this means: about four days out of every month, I feel faint. I feel faint standing from sitting. I feel faint standing from laying. I feel faint just standing.

My doctors don’t really know what this means since every test except the MRI has come back normal. All I know is, I had an episode that left me unconscious with my then almost three year old standing over me and my six month old screaming after being dropped from my arms. This moment is seared into my brain – and it terrifies me. 

The MRI showed a small ballooning of an artery in my brain directly behind my right eye. The finding of this aneurysm brought me to my knees. For the first time in my life, I couldn't (and still can't) fix the problem. I can’t just keep my head down and power through. I can’t run through the pain. There aren’t studies to read about thirty something year old active and otherwise healthy Chinese females developing brain aneurysms either.  So, at this point, we are playing the "wait and see" game.

To help prevent the aneurysm from rupturing or leaking, I was told to avoid activities that raise my blood pressure. What does that mean? Doesn’t the simple act of living life equate to the rise and fall of pressure?

 And yet, I am training for the Ironman Wisconsin.

Yes, there are obstacles.  Swimming, biking, and running don’t come naturally to me. My body hasn't always been able to go the distance. I’m not fast. I’m not particularly strong. I have terrible knees and joints that seem to add to my pain list with each season of training. But I do all of this because I can. I do all of this because I enjoy setting goals, reaching them, and seeing my progress. 

I can do this. 

Since having kids, my inclination towards setting these physical goals has grown; I want my daughters to know they can accomplish anything they set their beautiful minds to. I want them to see the work I put in, the failed attempts, the pain, and the celebrations of getting there.

With this diagnosis, I have oscillated between hiding and fighting. There are days I am frozen with fear that I will leave my children motherless; leave my best friend and husband a widower. These are the days when I want to stay in bed, I want to stay quiet, I want to watch my girls play and memorize every detail about them. These are the days I want to close my eyes and only see and hear my three favorite people. But then I remember that this life, these loves, they are all gifts from above. And to hide is to squander all that I have been given. 

I can do this.

While I have a deep fear of my aneurysm rupturing and drowning during open water swims, I am doing it. Because my purpose on this earth is to be the best wife, best mom, and best person I can be. And to do that, I need to live. I need to set goals and work towards them. I need to fail. I need to pick myself up. And I need those finish lines. So on September 11, 2016, I will be swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles for my partner and best friend in life, my girls, and myself. Because I can do all things through Christ.  

I can do this.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: My circumstances have forced me to grow in my faith. There came a point when I had to decide: will I let this break me or will I let this grow me? And if I'm honest, it had to break me first in order to grow me. But today? Today I survive on faith.

Why were you compelled to share your story?:  I hope my story inspires my daughters. I hope one day, my story will teach them perseverance, strength, and endurance. I hope they will know I lived my life because of my deep love for our family. And along the way, I hope it touches others to do more and be more.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: We are all braver than we believe and stronger than we think. And despite our situations and circumstances, it takes grit, guts, hard work, and faith to go after our goals. So go after them.

Emery Hope's Legacy

Clickforhope, Family, LossJasmine Lopez1 Comment
"They say losing a child changes you and I would say that's definitely true. I am not the same Skye I was and I don't think I ever will be. And I don't necessarily feel that the new me is a bad thing."-Skye

Please share your story: 

Where do I even begin?

My husband and I have three precious little girls - one is in heaven. We were pregnant with our second and I knew then I wanted another one, he wasn't convinced. It took 3 years to convince him to have our third.

I got pregnant with Emery fairly easily, just like I had both Makenzi and Addison. But somehow early in the pregnancy I knew something was not right. I immediately started having problems very early on. I made it to almost the halfway mark and was in and out of the hospital. There was always something wrong and they couldn't figure out what was going on. The doctors always diagnosed me with a threatened miscarriage and would send me home after a couple of nights in the hospital to just be on bed rest.

Finally around 23 weeks I started seeing a high risk specialist and he couldn't figure out what was wrong either, but could tell something was wrong by the look of the amniotic fluid. He wanted to just keep a close watch on me. I saw him on a Tuesday (after being released from another hospital) and by Friday I was in the hospital very sick. That weekend my water broke and he was going to do his best to keep me pregnant as long as he could. By Monday, we welcomed our sweet Emery Hope into this world at 24 weeks.

She was 1lb13oz and beautiful in our eyes. She was extremely premature. We were told we were in for a long ride in the NICU to be prepared.

Our long ride lasted 23 days. She fought so hard in my pregnancy that in her short time on this earth it was difficult. She had a major surgery because her intestines perforated and she just kept getting infections because of the intestinal perforation. It was all in her body and bless her sweet soul, she just couldn't recover from it.

They tried everything they could. We prayed so many times during my pregnancy we just felt certain God was going to pull her through this. He did but not on this side of glory.

On a Wednesday morning, they told us the words you never want to hear as a parent "it's time to hold her and unplug her." We had to make the decision to hold her while she was still alive (only by machines) or unplug her and then hold her. I had only been able to kind of hold her the night she was born, so I asked to please hold her while she was still alive so I could feel her heartbeat and feel her breaths (even if it was machines). My husband and I both held her. I held her all morning. When they first placed her in my arms, her stats went up higher than they had been in days. She knew she was in her Mama's arms. I was able to hold her until her last breath. The machines still weren't helping her and she was fading fast. I told my husband "please go tell them it's time. She needs to just go to heaven, so she can be at peace." He did and they unplugged my sweet girl. I had them remove her tape so I could see her beautiful face as she took her last breaths. She breathed two short breaths and smiled the sweetest smile. I know in that moment when she smiled at me she met Jesus. She was finally at peace and in no pain.

My pain had just begun. I had lost my baby. My baby girl. The baby I prayed for and prayed more for than I have ever prayed for in my life. I just wanted her to survive. I don't understand why God took her from me. I never will. I just know I never got mad at Him. I trusted His decision even if I didn't understand it. I wanted her here and I still want her here with me. I found Hope in the Lord through my Emery Hope. I know one day I will see her again and what a sweet, sweet day that will be.

It is still raw for me. Emery has only been with Jesus for 3.5 months. I long for the day I can see her again. My arms ache and my heart breaks in a way I've never felt before. But God has gotten me through my toughest days. I have never felt His presence in my life more than I do now. He comforts me just as He said He would.

I miss her so much I can't even put it into words! But I am so thankful for the promise the Lord gives us. I want to continue to share my Emery with the world, and bring people to Jesus.

How has your story help shape you into who you are today?:

Losing Emery Hope has brought us much closer as a family and brought us closer to the Lord. It makes us stronger and even when days are tough we have each other.

They say losing a child changes you and I would say that's definitely true. I am not the same Skye I was and I don't think I ever will be. And I don't necessarily feel that the new me is a bad thing. I realize how short life is, I love harder, I cling tighter to my husband and my girls, and I realize these precious girls God loaned me He can take back in the blink of an eye. It will forever be in me and I will forever miss Emery.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us today?:

I want to share my story to bring Hope to others that have lost children. I want them to find Hope in the Lord's promise. I want to share her story. I am proud of my sweet Emery Hope, even if I don't have her here to show I want to share her story and how she brought so many to their knees praying and that she continues to work miracles by me sharing her story. I want people to come to know Jesus.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

I won't say it gets easier. In all honesty, it does not. I miss Emery more today than I did the day she went to be with the Lord. I find my strength in Him. I hope and pray that those who face losing a child like I did find Hope in HIM. I pray they go to Him for comfort and for strength. I know without Him I would be lost more so than I am now without Emery.

I would hope people that are facing a NICU roller coaster wouldn't look at our story as the final outcome. In some cases, babies pull through what Emery did fine. The NICU is an amazing place. It's not a place I loved being but I've never been around more caring and thoughtful people.

I pray that people don't feel their life is over when they lose a precious baby. It's hard and it's difficult. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her. But I have Hope in my Lord and I know that one day I will see her again! We will be reunited and I pray that if anyone does go through losing a child they find comfort in knowing that truth.

I continue to share my story and my journey on my personal blog - http://www.butterfliesandpinksunsets.com . I want our journey to be shared so people can get help and comfort through our journey.

FAMILY | The D Family

Clickforhope, Family, Adoption, HomelessJasmine Lopez1 Comment

Please share your story: : It’s been 22 years that Trevor and I have been together. Many of those years have been beautiful and abundant, but many of those years have been difficult and lean. In just the last ten years we have lived in three states, wrestled through a tough financial crisis that left us temporarily homeless, experienced many frustrating hours and days of disconnection with our adopted son, had countless late night conversations with each of our kids as they wrestle with life, faith, and friends. There was even a season where we thought our marriage might fall apart. There have been many moments of heartache, but we were never without hope.

Early in our marriage Trevor and I made a declaration to set the course for the legacy of our family. Our faith and our foundation were not to be shaken and we trusted God to direct our steps and align us with the right relationships and opportunities. We even created a family mission statement to help us stay the course. Our family mission anchors us and serves as a filter we run our decisions through. It sets us firm as we hold on to the values that we have chosen for our life. It gives us something to talk about at the dinner table and it’s even prompted us to start an organization dedicated to empowering families and equipping students for the future. When times are good and times are tough we are constantly reminded of the the plans that God has for our family- to live wholeheartedly by loving passionately, serving humbly and persevering courageously. As we continue to grow and move closer toward to seeing the fulfillment of our mission, we are encouraged to be here and to know we are not alone in the journey.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: As we look back on our story we can clearly see God's finger prints and as a result our faith has grown stronger as we have experienced unconditional faithfulness to our family. Our marriage has grown much deeper and more intimate as we've overcome real trials, and through that process clearly identifying what is really important to us - leaving a legacy. We've been able to understand our kids better and hopefully provide the love, encouragement, support and opportunities to thrive in this world. Our story is about the process of learning and accepting who we are, who God is, learning how to love others, and searching for truth and happiness in this mysterious life.

Why were you compelled to share your story??: We feel it's important for other families to know there is hope when it seems like the path is unclear or when everything is falling apart. Neither marriage nor raising a family is easy, and there is no instruction manual. By identifying personal values, dreams, and obstacles early in the building of a family will set in motion the actions necessary to find fulfillment, learning how to shape our future, in large part, by the values and mission we choose. Our story gets pretty messy at times, but having a clear goal in mind, we can celebrate and appreciate all the good times and the bad times, and we know we wouldn't be the people we are without each of those experiences.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Make a decision. When all is said and done, what is really important to you in this life? What do you want to leave as a legacy? Once you determine those objectives, stay the course, persevere and do whatever it takes to see those things come to pass. Cultivating strong relationships and a strong family takes time, energy, mistakes and tears. Just remember to love passionately, serve humbly and persevere courageously and you'll be fine.

A huge thank you to Heritage for allowing us to photograph in your amazing space!

Infertility | The H Family

Family, Infertility, ClickforhopeJasmine Lopez1 Comment

Please share your story: : Brandon and I have been married for 7 years this August! About two years into our marriage we decided we were ready to try for our first baby. After about a year of struggling to conceive we decided to see a doctor about why it might be taking so long. I come from a family of 6 kids and never imagined that we would have trouble conceiving. Little did we know at that appointment that we would struggle with infertility for three more years. We did testing, treatments, and finally after four years of disappointment, heartache, and lots of growing we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into our family. Dash was a baby bathed in prayer well before he was even born and we knew that God was designing one special little man in our waiting. Even though the journey was long and hard, now that we have him we would have waited many more years if that was what it took to have our little man in our arms. His name represents the "dash" in our lives... because it doesn't really matter when you were born or when you die, its how you live your life and what you did during the "-" that really matters. And we believe that our little Dash has an amazing life to live and know that he's going to do big things for the Lord.

How has your story shaped you into who you are today?: The biggest thing we learned through our journey is how important it is to trust God's plans, even when they don't make sense. See on paper having a baby 4 years ago made perfect sense. We had great jobs, savings, a home, things seemed just right for starting a family! Then we left our jobs, spent our savings, and moved across the country and ended up pregnant... the timing seemed so off! But God continually showed us and still does that his plan and his timing are perfect! I still struggle with remembering that when we face hard times but I just have to look back at his faithfulness and look down at Dash to remember how truly good God is.

Why were you compelled to share your story?: Infertility can be a scary word and one that is not talked about much. By sharing our story I hope to reach those struggling with the questions of why can't we start a family? And let them know they are not alone.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Trust God's plan... even when it seems like your hopes and dreams couldn't be farther from coming true. Also, talk about it! The support I got from family and close friends helped me get through some really hard times.

FAMILY | The G Family

Family, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story:

Family.

It’s such a simple word, yet, it carries so much meaning. It’s a word that has the ability to stir up all kinds of feelings and emotions with just its mention. For some, it brings up a sweet sense of nostalgia full of warm and loving memories.

It’s home. It’s love. It’s safety.

But for others, it’s a painful reminder of all that was lost and broken. Of everything that was not as it should have been.

It stings. It hurts. It disappoints.

In my life, I have experienced both. Once by birth, once by the grace of God.

The family I was born into was broken from the start. My parents were already treading rocky ground by the time I was born and just a few months later, they were  divorced. As a result, I never really knew or understood what true togetherness looked like. I had no idea what it meant to be a family.

My mom, a severe alcoholic at the time, moved to another city soon after the divorce and left me with my father. Although it was the best choice for me, I missed my mom tremendously. There were weekend and summer visits but none of that time spent seemed to satisfy the craving I had for my mother’s love. She was lost in her addiction and incapable of being the mom I needed her to be.

My father, meantime, was married and divorced three more times. His job required him to travel extensively so he was only home a couple of nights a week. I know he was doing his best to provide a good life for me, but what my dad didn’t realize is that I just wanted him.

His time. His attention. His care. His protection. His love.

By the time I was a teenager I was very independent and self-reliant. Not because I wanted to be but because I had to be. With my mom out of the picture and my dad out of town most of the time, I was left to do as I pleased. I went where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go there and I didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. If I didn’t feel like going to school then I didn’t go, and no one was there to make me. I had the freedoms of an adult but I was just a kid. It may seem like a teenager’s dream but trust me, it wasn’t good.

I needed rules. I needed boundaries. I needed a family.

Thankfully, God already knew that and out of His incredible grace He had a plan to provide me with a second family. And I’m not talking about any kind of regular average family. I’m talking about one of the most amazing families I’ve ever known. That’s exactly how our great God works. He always gives us more than we could even think to ask for.

I met the Taylor family through a volunteer opportunity at my church when I was 14-years-old. It wasn’t long before I started babysitting for them and immediately fell in love with their three children. When they realized my dad was gone most of the time, they began inviting me to spend the night at their house. This became a regular occurrence until I eventually moved in. I loved every minute with them!

For the first time, I got to experience what it was like to be in a real family. To sit down and have nightly family dinners. Together. To have someone who cared if I did my homework or not. To know I wasn’t on my own anymore.

I was soaking it all in. Every moment.

I listened as the kids were read stories and tucked in bed at night. I watched as two parents loved their children well and loved each other deeply. And I learned what it meant to be a mom and a wife and a follower of Jesus. It was exactly what I needed and more.

God was good. So so good.

Fast forward to the day I became a mother. I looked into the eyes of my sweet baby girl and felt a love I had never felt before. It was strong and it ran deep. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for this little person. I was hers and she was mine.

But in the midst of my joy, a sadness started to creep in. I wasn’t sure my own mom felt the same way about me. Perhaps she did but alcohol had robbed me of ever knowing it. Regardless, the damage had been done. She had missed so much. And it hurt.

That’s when God began to work.

God showed me how the lack of a relationship with my mom had left me with a gaping hole in my heart, full of sadness. Lots of sadness. I realized I would never get to experience all the things little girls should experience with their moms. There would never be any hair braiding, tea partying, make-up playing, bedtime story reading, boo-boo kissing, or comforting after a scary dream. The opportunity for those seemingly small & mundane parts of the mother/daughter relationship were lost in the past and could never be retrieved. The wound was deep and it ached to my bones.

I knew there was only one who could heal it.

The process was slow and it was painful. Many tears were cried and many prayers were prayed as God lovingly walked me through the broken areas of my heart. Little by little he put the shattered pieces back together. My heart started to become whole again. The walls I had built began to come down and love started flowing in. With its current came the ability to forgive. I began to see my parents through God’s eyes. No longer was there anger, resentment, or sadness. Only love.

But that’s not the end of the story.

God isn’t just our healer, He’s also our redeemer.

My mom started reaching out to me when I was about 21-years-old. She was trying to get her life on track and part of that meant she wanted to salvage our relationship. I cautiously and slowly welcomed my mom back into my life and it was really nice to reconnect with her. A few years later I got married and became pregnant soon after. That’s when I finally gave my mom an ultimatum – Quit drinking or never know your grandchildren.

She went to rehab a few weeks later.

That was nearly 7 years ago. My mom has been sober ever since. Not only is she sober but she also loves Jesus. God has completely changed her life and I couldn’t be more grateful to get a second chance with my mom. She is such a blessing to me and an amazing grandmother to my children.

My dad and I are also very close now and I have such a deep respect for him. He may not have done everything perfectly but he did the best he could do at the time. He is an honest man who has sacrificed so much for me to have the life I have today. For that I am thankful.

Despite the difficulties, I can honestly say I’m very grateful for the life God has given me. I could have never imagined I’d be where I am today with a loving husband and two beautiful children. Now it’s my turn to decide what the word ‘family’ will mean to my kids. I’m certainly not the perfect mom but I’m doing my best. I can only hope the seeds I’m planting in my children today will become their warm and loving memories of tomorrow.