It's OK, We Can Still Have a Happy Time!

January 8, 2020


I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations and how curious they are.

Nearly every celebration is a commemoration of an event that changed everything in your life. It may have been the day you got married and started a new life as a couple, or the birth of a child who changed EVERYTHING about the way you lived your life before. 

In our house, we just enjoyed the biggest celebration of the year where we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. He is indeed, the greatest event of all because His presence in our home and lives has changed EVERYTHING!  

But the celebrations in our house never end and today we are celebrating Willie’s new birthday!

January 8, 2013 changed everything for us as it was the day Willie received his bone marrow transplant. I can still recall the mixture of fear, anxiety, dread, faith, and hope that I felt that day as I watched the new cells drip into his body. We had NO IDEA what to expect at that time and had been warned that 1 in 3 people who get a bone marrow transplant wouldn’t live past the first year. I prayed so hard that he wouldn’t be on the downside of the statistic. 

We had to live at Stanford for the first 100 days and anxiously watched every symptom while constantly praying it would work. Surviving 100 days after receiving new cells is the first hurdle in the bone marrow transplant world. I remember feeling a slight relief as he sailed past that milestone, but knew we had many more before he was out of the woods.  

The next victory was at the one-year mark when he wasn’t having any obvious rejection signs and was doing relatively well. The struggle at that point became a mental battle and the effects that the chemo and radiation had on his brain chemistry began to exhibit, but he persevered. As the months turned to years, my anxiety and fear began to decrease. The thoughts that his cancer would return began to disappear with each year of good health, and by the time he reached the final milestone, they had completely vanished.  

At 5 years post-transplant he was considered “cured”.  

I let this word lull me into false security and a belief that we had won the hardest battle we would ever have to fight. Life was good! 

Having a child was an opportunity that I thought cancer had stolen from us, but we had been blessed with a perfect and wonderful baby boy through the amazing technology of IVF. Willie had regained great mental and physical health and we were living the dream, making plans for our future and he even bought a boat! 

Then he relapsed in August 2019 and we hit the brakes so hard on our road of life that I’m sure there are skid marks for 3 miles.  

And yet, we keep celebrating because nothing has really gone wrong here!  

This is our path, our plan and everything is happening exactly as it should.  

A few weeks ago, Willie got some white blood cells from his original donor. These are the cells that fight off Leukemia so the goal here is to keep the cancer from coming back. It was such a simple process this time that it was almost laughable. There was no need for chemo, radiation or pre-treatments because 99% of his cells are his donors. He simply got an infusion of the bubble-gum-colored cells and we carried on with our day.  The process was MORE complicated for our donor than it was for him and we are ever grateful that she is willing to put aside her own needs to LITERALLY give of herself to save my husband’s life.

We will always and forever LOVE you, Shirley! 

My son, Beau, is my favorite teacher as he says the most profound things. At 3.5 years old, he has a better understanding of life and relationships than I ever will!  Whenever we experience something that may be considered disappointing, he will take my hand, look me in the eye and say “It’s OK Mommy, we can still have a happy time!” 

A few nights ago he had a tummy bug and threw up during the night. As I wiped his face he said to me “Mommy, I hate my barfs and wish they would stop coming out of my mouth.” 

I shoved down a laugh and tried not to smile at his obvious discomfort, then he continued, 

“But it’s OK Mommy, we can still have a happy time.” 

Today, as we celebrate Willie’s “New Birthday” it will be a celebration different from other years.

Yes, it is still a commemoration of the day that EVERYTHING changed for us and a day that we honor and remember the magnificent women who has saved Willie not once, but TWICE! And even though he’s not out of the woods of treatment, and there is no clear path of what our future looks like, I am not plagued with doubt, worry, fear or anxiety because I know we will still have a happy time! 

Some of the most happy times of my entire life have happened in these past few months of trials that were bigger and harder than anything we’ve done before. We need the contrast of darkness to understand the light and I am grateful for what I have learned as I have stumbled in the dark.  

In honor of Willie’s new birthday I extend a wish to YOU: 

Whatever you are dealing with; whatever sadness, injustice, loss, grief, fear, pain, anxiety or loss of hope that you are currently experiencing, please know that it’s going to be OK.  

You can still have a happy time!