I don't remember either of my parents bragging about, but I do recall on almost every occasion my dad saying, "Well, she didn't have much of a choice but to grow-up at a young age." While he is not entirely incorrect, I do believe some people are inherently intuitive. These people experience considerable trauma throughout the years and it enhances their ability to simply get it when others cannot.
When I started Gracie's Gowns, I not only had the ability to understand all the medical terminology, procedures, medications, equipment and more because I was a volunteer EMS provider for a decade of my life, but I understood the emotional side of the medical field. It was silly of me to think that experience would be what hit it all home, because that didn't happen for several years. In 2013, my son was officially diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, now I added being a parent to a special needs child to my experience...but while I felt more connected to the families we serve, there was still a huge mountain between me and them. I have never once believed that the mission of Gracie's Gowns was pointless, or that an impact was not being made...because I saw it every day. The early mornings, late nights, and countless number of hours poured into my organization was not in vain by any means, but I simply didn't get the whole picture.
The summer of 2016 brought some of the greatest news ever - that was when I received the phone call saying I personally had be selected by a committee to be one of the 2016 L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth. The next few months was a whirlwind of phone calls, newspaper articles, Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, and a surge of gown requests. It was amazing until we were sitting in our local emergency room that October. The medical director that signed off on my release as a medic walked in to give me, my fiancé (husband now), ex-husband, and my son the results of x-rays taken of his chest.
When someone says a doctor walked in with the look of something's not right, it isn't a joke...you just know they are processing how to tell you the bad news, all while holding your breath praying, and praying you're just tired and over reacting. A shadow was seen on the x-ray, right where I felt something different after he had fallen over a chair at church. The next seven weeks of our lives were turned upside down last minute doctors appointments all over the state, a continuous stream of phone calls, lab work, procedures, and referrals to specialists. Each doctor mentioned the dreaded c-word...cancer...specifically, osteosarcoma. No one could rule it out, and everyone stated a biopsy needed to be done to determine what we do next. I didn't realize it then, but this would change everything for me professionally and personally.
Giving his medical history, medications, signing yet another set of surgical consent papers, repeating his date of birth and full name to everyone who walked in the room, watching him be wheeled through the OR doors knowing everything rested on the results...kissing his forehead and letting go of his hand, praying out of desperation that he knew I loved him and hated all of this for him, and that I was sorry.
Watching the clock...and the moment our last name was called and my heart jumped to my throat when his surgeon came through the doors...he didn't have any readable expressions on his face. I can't even remember all of what he said anymore, because after he said David was okay, and that pathology's quick read determined it wasn't cancer, but rather a fibrous dysplasia, I was so relieved all I wanted to do was cry as I held him...that didn't come for another hour or so, but I'll never forget seeing him in the PACU, waiting for him to wake-up on his own.
I tell people all the time, you don't get it until you're in it...and it's the truth. I handle the Facebook page for Gracie's Gowns, I publish the website, write the newsletters (which is not my strong suite by any means), and am the face of the organization, but each child...is the heart of it. I could scream at the top of my lungs why our mission is vital to children and parents around the world, but until someone has walked through such a situation with their own child...they won't actually get it. We can pull at heartstrings all day long, we can share testimonials and photos, but it just isn't the same. It's like a special club that everyone knows exists, but no one wants to join.
We're in it, and we get it...and while it sucks, it's become apart of who we are...and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.