Meet: Melissa

“Being Her Mama Has Made Me Strong”

“When life flips upside down, you can either hang there and accept it or fight to flip it back. I chose to fight. Yet, I didn’t make that choice right away. No, there was a solid few months of self pity, followed by anger, then fear, and then eventually, and quite surprisingly, strength.

This is important, because we often think that we have to choose an emotion and react immediately. We can only be strong, angry, scared, silent, or happy. Yet, in reality, we are typically feeling all of these things, all at once.

We have become experts at displaying one emotion at a time, swallowing all the others down. While there are certainly situations in which you need to keep some hidden, I believe trying on all of those emotions made it easier for me to finally choose to fight and fight hard.

So let’s start with my go-to first emotion, and the beginning of my story, self-pity.

My month of self pity began in a tiny room, with a man I can barely remember, saying words that I did not hear.

I was too focused on my sweet, little pig-tailed princess, who was laying cradled in my arms, resting after a long scary day. I watched my tears fall onto her tiny cheek, and gently swept them away.

I’m sorry to say, but your daughter has a mass. It’s decent in size and from our images, appears to be a tumor. At this time, I hate to say the ‘c’ word, but it’s possible. We are going to need to do some more testing and…

That is it. That is all I heard.

Frankly, my entire month of self pity is pretty fuzzy. People say that I was strong and that I was a mama bear, but inside I was numb. Gone. And, I just kept looking at my sweet two- year old’s face and thinking of life without it.

I was crying in closets, showers, and bathroom stalls. I was going through the motions necessary for Scarlett, but I was devastated, and felt like I was trying to hold onto something that was slowly slipping away. In fact, the first night in the hospital room I laid awake watching her every breath. Unable to shut my eyes, I climbed into the crib with her.

I was afraid that I would wake up and she would be gone–that I wouldn’t remember her smell, touch, or the sound of her little snores. I am so thankful for the sweet night nurse that peeked in and understood. Later that day, I was given an adult bed so that I could soak up every moment.

A few days passed, and we began to get our bearings.

I remember talking to my husband and using the typical “Why her?”, “Why us?” lines. Yet, after walking the halls, I quickly stopped expressing that sentiment, because “why any of us?” Still, those questions turned to anger.

My month of anger: I guess it’s true what they say, you don’t realize you are living the good days until the good days are gone. Although, I will say that I was actually aware that they were good, and I was pretty damn happy. Still, I didn’t realize HOW good.

I had a wonderful job, amazing clients, the perfect work-from home career, and a new routine that was feeling so secure that my husband and I decided to start trying for baby number 2 (after a fabulous Disney vacation that was just a few short weeks away).

As you can imagine, that career? Gone. That routine? Gone. That Disney trip? Gone. And, that baby? Gone.  Still, I could swallow all of those losses, because I hadn’t lost my daughter.

If I am being honest though, there really isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t miss my career, my clients, my old house, and my future baby. So, sometimes I snap over little things.

I yell at late doctors, complain about delayed scan results, scream about insurance issues, and become infuriated with the medical team’s inability to look at her chart BEFORE coming into her room. Yet, I know deep down that they are just doing their best and frankly have far sicker kids to care for. They would never do anything to purposely upset our family. I’m just on edge, probably because I am now terrified and trying hard to hide it.

My month of fear: I say month of fear, but really, this emotion hasn’t left. This headline should really be ‘continuous never-ending month of fear.’

Yet, I am working on it and I truly only had one crippling month of no sleep, no appetite, no emotions, fake smiles, and never letting my child out of my sight (even to shower) mode.

Still, I will always fear scan days, overreact to comments like “I don’t feel good,” and fight my brain to push thoughts of a relapse away. I have seen the life I could be living and I have felt the emotions that come with it. Due to that, I will always fear this monster and the only thing I can do is accept that.

My month of strength: I began to feel stronger when I decided that I was finally ready to accept my new life, fear and all. I needed to embrace the cards I was dealt.

For me, that meant helping others make it through what I feel like we barely survived. After all, I realized that we are the luckiest, unlucky people I know.

While, my daughter and family have been to hell and back, I know there are far worse hands to be dealt. I see those babies in my support groups, hear those mamas in the hospital hallways sobbing, and watch those tired nurses and doctors put on a brave face. I know we are lucky. Well, I know that now at least.

So, I channeled all of those above emotions and put it towards a new career, new routine, new memories, and a new goal of helping other families.

Feel Better Fashion was born and through it, I can now support families in need and provide them with products to help them embrace their new normal. Something, that I struggled with for so long.

Today, I am 9 months into my journey as a mom to a long-term sick child. I shared my story, because I want parents to know that it’s okay to struggle and feel every emotion along the way.

You deserve to take the time you need to adapt. Just don’t be afraid to change in the end. I created a new me, a new normal, and I am stronger because of it. As we say in our Feel Better Support Group, “The first hurdle is getting your child to feel better. The second hurdle is getting yourself to.”

All My Love-Melissa

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