Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guest Blog Series - A Test of Sisterhood

A close friend of mine unexpectedly lost her twin sister due to complications from cancer.  I asked her to be a guest blogger today.  Please read her journey below.

A Test of Sisterhood  -  By Courtney Waller
            I watched in awe as Kim ordered a second pouring of the $11 glass of white wine. I rarely spent more than $10 on a whole bottle. She was in town for her annual Christmas visit. This was our one chance to go out alone. ‘Is this how cancer survivors live?,’ I remember thinking. Kim ordered the meal and drinks that she wanted that night. She had decided to put her MFA in Creative Writing to great use and write a novel. I was honored when she suggested we do the project together. In April, Kim, our parents, my husband and our two children were planning to go to Disney World for a family vacation/celebration. We were also making our plans to visit the Dominican Republic together, just the two of us.
            Kim celebrated the conclusion of her radiation treatment a few months earlier with friends in an all-inclusive Miami resort. I was invited but did not go.  How could I take time off work that time of year?  How would I pay for the flight from Atlanta to Miami?  We could always have our own celebration later. Kim had survived Hodgkins Lymphoma. We had time—at least that’s what we thought…
            A month after our night on the town, Kim called our home to ask my husband Jacquay for iPhone advice. We joked about the “real” reason she called: to wish our son a happy third birthday. Somehow, Kim had managed to send the gift on time but hadn’t remembered the correct day to call. No one could talk to Kim McCoy without responding to her contagious and genuine laughter. That night was the last time I’d ever hear my twin sister’s voice.
            At 3:19AM, the following day, I found myself staring at the large red numbers on the alarm clock, unable to sleep. Two hours later, our father called to let me know that Kim was in a Florida Emergency Room with pneumonia. Unexpected calls from my parents still make me nervous. By the end of that day, my parents, husband, his mother, several of Kim’s friends and I had made their way to the hospital at various times throughout the day by plane and by car. My children were now in the care of my father-in-law. My mother-in-law wanted to stay with us longer, but was needed to help with the children. As a nurse who specializes in treating cancer patients, she was able to help my parents decipher the medical talk and what we could expect next.
Kim’s ex-husband visited the next day. I tried to warn him of Kim’s condition over the phone. However, the sight of her attached to machines and unable to breathe on her own forced him to stumble backwards. That was also the day that a nurse informed me that Kim had coded around 3:00 AM Saturday morning—the same moment I was suddenly awakened and unable to sleep.
On February 1, 2012, my twin sister Kim passed away peacefully in the hospital. I held her right hand. Mommy held her left while Daddy stood close by with my husband at her feet. Her illness was the result of a rare infection related to her cancer treatment. We were both thirty-three, just a few months shy of our next birthday and now a lifetime away from all of our plans.
To this day, Kim is always on my mind. Dealing with the pain of losing her is a continuous part of my life now. I struggle not to dwell on how unfair this all seems. Yet, tears cloud my vision as I write this post. I am thankful for the thirty-three years we had together. At times, the memories of peace and her joy that I felt visiting her in the hospital confuse me. I know she waited for us to get there. I know she waited for me. We began our lives together as tiny cells in our mother’s womb, invisible and undetectable. Even now our bond may be invisible to others, but it is so very real and tangible to me. 
Courtney and Kim

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just For The Fathers ...

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.”

Someone recently said to me: “All Dads are good. Some just never learned to be a man.” I found this simple statement so impactful—and upon reflection, so true. It can be interpreted in many ways. This made me think of my biological father and his inability to be there for his children. There are many things that happened in his life that contributed to his absence. As an adult, I can now understand and accept that he was a good person but just never learned to be a man…

With Father’s Day fast approaching, thoughts of strong men from my life run through my mind. My grandfather comes to mind first. Affectionately called D.L. by his peers, he was known to be a very wise man. As I was growing up, he stressed the importance of living by “The Golden Rule” long before I even understood what this meant or entailed. It took many years for me to grasp the true meaning, but I can remember his voice saying it like it was yesterday. “Always treat people the way you would want them to treat you.” I would call my granddaddy everyday as a child and read to him. He would listen to every word. He would also let me read as many books as I wanted to him each time I called. (Really, I could read 20 books, and that amazing man would still be on the other end of the phone listening!!) My granddaddy told me I was special and would say, “You’re going to make it happen!” I would light up each and every time I heard those words. They still ring in my ears today, and it boosts my confidence whenever there is doubt.  He is truly missed…

“The greatest thing a FATHER can do to his children, is to love their mother.”
~ Anjaneth Garcia Untalan

My dad, the man that raised my sister and me as his own, was truly heaven-sent. Witnessing the way he has loved my mother has truly been a gift. He has been by her side through everything and has never missed a beat. The lessons he taught me helped mold me into the woman I am today. My dad had four girls and wanted to make sure that his daughters were independent. He was a true entrepreneur and not afraid to take risks. He can certainly take the credit for how hard I work at being a serious business woman…also unafraid to take risks. Life is way too short! He’s the best PaPa my daughters could ever have.

This Father’s Day I want you to reflect on the many men that are present and enhancing the lives of others. Today let’s celebrate the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and godfathers. We love you and we need you!! Happy Father’s Day!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Over 5500 Views!... Thank You!

My friend Courtney sent me a quote the other day:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  ~ Anias Nin

It moved me…It got me thinking about the many conversations and emails I’ve had over the past few months—the numerous calls saying, “I followed up on my mammogram appointment because I talked to you.” Or “I can’t believe you are sharing this. I went through the same thing, but I didn’t share it with people I don’t know.” And “I’m so proud of you. You are inspiring.”

I recently realized that I have stood in my own way when it comes to accomplishing the goals I set out to accomplish.  (How many people can relate to that?)  A lot of times when we do something that is effortless to us we don't think of it as a talent.  It usually takes a lot of feedback from others to build up our self-confidence enough to believe we can make big things happen.  I believe that, in any situation, your attitude about it is everything. Throughout this entire journey, it was extremely important for me to keep constructive, encouraging people and positive energy around me. Just the thought of helping someone else through my words is touching. Life is about taking risks and stepping out on faith. I believe that now more than ever ... 

At one point, someone asked me, “Weren’t you afraid of what people might think?”
It wasn't just the question.  It was paired with a look of "I can't believe you are doing this."

Well, if I went through life making decisions based on what others think, I would be crazy. When faced with the difficult decision such as the one I had to make, there would have been so much more at risk if I had chosen to do nothing. Then after going through all of this, I found myself in a place where I felt like this experience has to have a purpose.  (It was a powerful feeling that wouldn't go away.)  I couldn’t just go through all of this and then simply move forward like nothing had happened. It’s still a vulnerable and personal decision to share my story, but sharing for me right now has a purpose. It helps me heal and strengthens my spirit. I am reminded everyday by the positive feedback and comments (most of which I receive privately) about this blog and my journey.  It's a great feeling to have had over 5500 views already!   To everyone who has taken the time to not only read this blog but also to respond with words of support, I would like to say thank you. Your messages motivate me and encourage me to continue. I know that I am forever changed by this experience…

I would love to know about an experience that happened in your life that forever changed you! Please see this blog as a platform of sharing, inspiration and healing.

(to be continued…)