Growing up, I was your All-American Catholic school girl. I rocked the plaid uniform, penny loafers, went to mass and stood in line (well sometimes). Beginning in middle school and especially in high school, we were required to do service hours. From soup kitchens to mission trips, girls raced to finish their hours at the end of the year. It was so engrained in us that we had to do it, I don’t think we gave much thought as to why we did it.
In my teenage mind, it felt like a chore to get to the soup kitchen or after school programs, but leaving always felt so good. The high of giving back. My senior year, I gave back in a big way, going on mission trips and various other volunteer activities. I really began to love it, but it soon became a distant memory as I went to college, leaving behind the structure of Catholic school.
Today, my life is a different story. All I want to do is give to others. I want to pay it forward and help others like people in my life helped me. This passion has mainly existed in the eating disorder and positive body image realm. But since Marjorie’s early birth and now her fight with cancer, giving has taken on a whole new meaning. Now, I am no longer the one giving. I am on the receiving end, which is extremely unfamiliar territory.
I use the word ‘overwhelmed’ a lot in my posts and updates. It is the only word I have when it comes to describing the outpouring of love and support. And it really doesn’t do justice to the feeling in my heart.
Last night Jordan sent me a photo of gifts and cards from my Kappa sorority sisters. They had sent presents to Marjorie’s big brother. Upon seeing the notes they wrote, I burst into tears. How did I get so lucky? Why me? Why am I surrounded with such extraordinary people? Why did God put all of these amazing people in my life?
They weren’t questions of guilt or sadness, but sheer confusion. Both in the NICU and here on the Oncology floor, I pass room after room where the patient has no parent or visitor. My heart breaks and I wish I could go love on them. In fact, my best friend, Shannon, actually tried to go love on one lonely patient until I literally pulled her out of the room, reminding her it was against all rules.
But that is my Shannon, and so many other of my friends, they have bleeding hearts like me. I have come to love and treasure my bleeding heart. I love how I develop relationships quickly. I love how I have a passion to get to know people, their stories and their hearts. I love how I attach to people and they attach to me. But most of all I love how they attach to my family and my Marjorie.
The outpouring of love, notes, gifts and donations have been, again – overwhelming. I have not talked about the donation piece because it was something that, frankly, made me so uncomfortable.
My sorority sisters tried to start a GoFundMe account when we were in the NICU, but I refused. I could not accept money when I saw so many NICU families who had so much less than we did. We are certainly not wealthy, but we can get by.
After Marjorie left the NICU, we got hit with some hefty bills. Then in the blink of an eye, the C-word came into our lives. This time my KKG friends were adamant. And the ring leader of it all, Elizabeth, is a force to be reckoned with. She did not take no for an answer.
I agreed to the GoFundMe under one condition: the funds were to only be used for Marjorie IF we needed them and that everything we did not used would be donated to other children fighting this horrible disease. But I have to be realistic and honest here: this journey and this fight is not a cheap one.
Jordan took the reigns in getting a bank account and financial details set up in Marjorie’s name. I did not have the brain power to do any of it. It was not until this week that I have had time to really sit down and process it all in my head…the money, the t-shirts, the fundraisers. It is all so…you guessed it: overwhelming.
During those countless service hours years ago, I never realized the difference I was making. Yes, I knew I was doing good things, but the impact often felt empty. How can I solve homelessness or world hunger?
There is a quote I recite in almost every talk I give: Be the change you wish to see in the world. I love this simple quote for so many reasons. We don’t have to solve world hunger to make a difference in someone’s life. The change starts with us.
The life I lead today is one of change. I work every day to change myself for the better and hope that through my actions I am able to help others. I am being the change by loving my body and myself, by loving others, by treating people with kindness, by giving back and now by receiving.
Some of the most touching notes I’ve read were from parents whose children I met while they were in treatment at Veritas Collaborative.
“For all the love, support, and encouragement you have given my daughter and so many others, I pray that you get that back in multitudes during this time. Know that moms you’ve never met, including me, are sending our love, hope, and faith to you and Marjorie. Much love, sweet mother.”
I never set out to receive. I set out to give and pay it forward. I wanted others to receive. But now I get it. I really get it. I get the whole amazing circle of giving and receiving. Because what is the point of giving if you can’t learn to receive as well?
Therefore, please know that I accept your prayers, messages, gifts and donations with humility and love. I soak in every message, flower, balloon and dollar with love and awe. My heart’s gratitude for your support has kept me going these past two and a half weeks.
My goal now is to raise as much money as possible so that next time we walk these Oncology halls it isn’t for Marjorie’s chemo, but rather to give a big check to a family in need.
Humbly with love,
These are just a FEW of the incredible acts of love and support…