By: Melissa Heffron, Wish Mom
At the very moment your child receives a life-threatening diagnosis, life, as you know it, ceases to exist. As you slowly start to digest the conversation that you had with the doctor, you gradually find yourself falling into an unimaginably scary, deep, and never ending abyss. You start questioning everything – science, yourself, the environment, God. You wonder how you’re going to put one foot in front of the other, let alone care for the rest of your family. In your deepest despair, you silently debate whether or not anyone would care if you stayed in your room and never emerged.
Prior to my daughter’s illness, I was never one to divulge any personal information or ask others for help. My family was my business, and I never thought it was anyone else’s responsibility to assume. However, I quickly learned that the brutal task of undertaking a horrible illness was not one I could tackle alone. As much as I couldn’t physically handle it on my own, emotionally, I was also far too under-prepared to independently manage it. As a mother, I was handed the impossible job of holding my daughter’s hand through every painful, unimaginable, scary, and uncertain procedure. I was expected to hold my emotions in check as she screamed in pain, cried from isolation, or vomited from another sickness. On her own, Superwoman would have failed at this task, so I certainly did not have a chance in succeeding alone.
Kyla’s illness required that every ounce of my energy be focused on keeping her alive. I have two other children, one being an infant at the time, so I obviously had other obligations, but for the most part, my life revolved around keeping Kyla safe. I became a robot with the glaring discrepancy being that I quickly became both physically and emotionally exhausted.
Luckily, beauty emerged into our lives just as we were nearing rock bottom. Family, friends, and acquaintances offered to help us after hearing our story. People took it upon themselves to organize dinners, send care packages to the hospitals we were at, donate money, register as bone marrow donors, and even donate blood. I was fortunate enough to meet other mothers in similar positions as myself, and we provided each other the much needed understanding and an outlet to vent our frustrations to. Nurses and other staff showed Kyla so much love and affection that I often forgot we were in the confines of our hospital room.
We also saw beauty personified when we took our Make-A-Wish trip to Walt Disney World. For once, we forgot about an illness and instead lost ourselves in the most magical place on earth. For one glorious week we dreamed big, enjoyed every last attraction, stuffed ourselves silly, and most importantly, celebrated the whole family’s triumph over the worst stage in our lives.
However, the most beautiful event to occur from Kyla’s illness is one she actually holds with her today. A selfless, German man agreed to donate bone marrow to a child he had no connection with. This beautiful gift afforded my daughter a second chance at life, and equally as important, provided my family a chance to remain intact. All of these beautiful things played a vital role in Kyla’s treatment and her long recovery.
One of the most important lessons I learned and will take from our journey is that illness truly does cultivate beauty. Humankind has a natural way of embracing the sick and vulnerable. We were lifted onto the shoulders of countless individuals, which allowed us the chance to not only survive, but thrive.