I’ve been wanting to come here and write for weeks and I just couldn’t do it.
It seems that is it is out in the open now, that my niece, Ashleigh, has stage 3 brain cancer. She is all I think about these days. She and her new husband, Brekan and her core family, Cassie (my sister) Bob and Robert.
My family all sleeps, healthy and sound. I wish I could be more like my wise niece… brave, confident, positive and strong. She is all of these things while balancing a grace of the present and the importance of relationships as a sister, daughter, friend and now wife. She is the definition of awe. She is the definition of love. She is the definition of grace. She is the definition of FUN!! ( I have never danced so much as I did at her wedding!!)
Tomorrow, she will be admitted to the hospital at UVA and I am glad she will be there. It sounds like she is in the best possible hands. So… tomorrow… she goes in for pre-op and her surgery is on Tuesday. I read her blog on her caring bridge site and she confidently writes with her faith, trust in the doctors and the endless love she gets from her new groom and family. It takes my breathe away. What she will have to go through to get rid of this cancer is unimaginable… doable, because she is Ashleigh.. but unimaginable. I wish I could take the pain for her. It is not what a 28 year old should be doing. But she handles it with more grace and determination than I can comprehend.
Is it the result of unconditional love of her parents and brother?
How she was born?
The love of her life lifting her to new heights?
I think it must be the tapestry of all three. She is truly amazing.
At her wedding a month ago, I sat there with all of my sisters and their spouses. Chris stayed home in Colorado with our three boys and I never missed him more. I watched my oldest sister, Cassie, the mother of Ashleigh, be escorted down the aisle and then wait for her husband to walk her daughter down to marry Brekan. I all but lost it. My Dad, a row behind Cassie, stood with his phone taking picture after picture of his first born, while she watched her first born walk down the aisle to be married. I watched as my Dad zoomed in on my sister’s profile. It was essence of what it means to be a parent as you watch your child have a milestone moment. It was love. Pure love and awe.
It’s too much!!
My step mom has fought Multiple Myeloma for 12 years. My step sister, Chrissy, is battling stage 4 breast cancer…. and now my niece… it’s hard to catch my breath.
It’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard to not be angry. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines completely helpless. It’s hard to not feel guilty. It’s hard to let a minute slide by that isn’t “all it can be”.
And, I am fully aware that it’s not one ounce as hard to walk in my shoes as theirs. They are all so strong and inspiring!! I can’t begin to imagine.
I sat in that church with my sisters by my side and my parent’s in front of me. It was a huge moment. We were all together for the first time in 10 years.
Ashleigh was radiant and so in love with her groom; one couldn’t help but smile.
The minister did such a great job of making the day about love. He had us all chanting #lovewins! It was magical and I knew that was the phrase that would carry us all through. It was the phrase that would/will carry Ashleigh through her brain surgery, radiation and chemo, as well as her marriage that was starting off with the most tremendous love and challenge. #LOVEWINS
(in all honesty, right now, snot and tears are flying all over my keyboard……ugh)
There really aren’t the words to express….
I don’t want to be a downer. All of these amazing women have learned to embrace the best, to live with all that comes with cancer and make each day count. All of these woman have faced the scariest and most vulnerable. All of these woman love with laughter and zest!
This weekend as I sat on the streets of Fort Collins painting for Streetmosphere, I was lucky to meet so many wonderful people. Streetmosphere was something I challenged myself to do and expected to hate it. The opposite has been the case. I love it. I love connecting with the variety of people who stop to chat. The lesson here is to share your love. Share your love for what you love to do and ask them what it is they love to do. Share you love by listening to the homeless person who shares his/her story and stop to look them in the eye. Share you love with the curious children, who stop their parents to ask questions and treat those questions as if they were the best questions ever asked. Share your love with the woman who thanks you for making something beautiful in a world that is hard, cruel, random and yes, stunning. Share your love with all around you because it is true…#lovewins .
I have the greatest of hope in Ashleigh. She is a beacon of light. She is strong. She is wise beyond her years and she, as my sons’ cousin is the greatest example of a life well lived. So, please on Tuesday go out and do something you LOVE! Share a photo to #kickash or in the comments here, so she can see and gain strength in healing in your love of life. Please send love and light to her in Charlottesville this week. Please take the time to tell those you love that #LOVEWINS and that all relationships are important. Please know I am ever grateful to have this platform to write and connect. We can all make a difference. Ashleigh is showing us that.