When was the last time you waited for something....but never actually knew what it was or if it was ever going to happen?
Twelve years ago that was me. I sat on our southwest patterned chair in a messy puddle of emotions. Clouded by fear and anxiety, I only found hope in one thing. God was going to use my cancer diagnosis for good. He wouldn’t bring me to this fiery brim of hell and leave me to die. He carried me through the valleys and the fires, just as the Footprints in the Sand poem reads:
"One night I dreamed a dream.As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand.I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it."Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way.But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave youNever, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Now, I look back and see the one set of footprints. The last 12 years had a purpose. I can actually clearly see each of our struggles and and know why it happened.
I was being refined. I was not yet ready. I had many things to learn. I had to learn about business. I had to learn to trust. I had to try my life long dream of being a stay at home mom. I had to support and care for my mom during her own cancer battle all while keeping my opinions to myself. (which was near impossible - I may have failed a couple of times- just a couple.) I have been stretched and bruised and tried in ways I didn’t know were possible. I had to learn to dream new dreams. I had to learn to believe in myself. And along the way, I developed a deep burning desire to do more with my life.
Those footprints, the one set that carried me through the struggles, have brought me to where I am now. A place in my life that I NEVER could have imagined or, if I am honest, NEVER believed I could do. And here I am. A little in awe. A lot scared. But fully ready.
A few weeks ago, I stood in a living room with my “people’ and told a story. My "Why" story. Friends and family gathered together because I asked them (read: fed them, served them drinks, and begged them) to join me for a photo shoot and toasting of the upcoming launch of my company, By Your Side. All of them knew that I had started a company with a jewelry line and all of them had read my blog. But the reason why, the back ground, what the company was about, only about 6 people really knew. I have never ever felt more vulnerable than I did leading up to this "party shoot." But I knew it was time. And now it's time for you readers, friends, followers, customers, survivors, supporters to know.
Here's the inspiration, my why.
"Ten years after I finished my last chemo for breast cancer, I sat with my mom during her first chemo treatment for breast cancer (crazy -- we know. ) In the chemo room at just in front of my mom’s station, sat a young woman who was also about my age (25-40 - YOUNG). She had just finished her chemo and was gathering herself before she walked out. She was tired. She was fighting. She looked like she had done this a few times. She also noticed my necklace that said “Be Brave. Do Good.” (I was wearing this AND my "Brave is beautiful" t-shirt. I clearly needed all sorts of inspiration on this surreal day.)
She told me how much she loved it. I explained that I did 6 months of chemo too. And as horrific as it is, just continue to be brave and strong and she would get through the toughest parts.
She left. My dad and I sat and waited for the drugs to run through mom's veins.
Four hours later when we were leaving, I saw her sitting, alone, on a bench outside the hospital. Four hours after chemo. Alone. My heart split in two. Chemo sucks. You feel like crap. And four hours on a bench by myself would have truly been a nightmare.
After getting in my car, I got out. I couldn't stand it. I took off my necklace and placed it around her neck.
I said, "You are not alone. You will survive. Be brave. Be strong. God’s got this. You will be ok."
Unsure if I was serious, I reassured her that I wanted to give this to her. And remember that every time she wore it to be brave and trust she would be ok. I just wanted to give her a piece of hope.
Each time my mom went to her chemo appointments, this girl was there. Every time. Wearing her necklace.
I know that when she put that necklace on each day, she remembered that someone was thinking about her and her journey. She had a little more hope than she did before we met. She was no longer alone. She now had someone walking by her side.
This woman and her necklace is the inspiration for By Your Side.
I have the opportunity to use my experience as a patient and caregiver to unite, support, and give hope, which is the anchor to our souls. (Hebrews 6.18) Not only have I had opportunities to share my story, I saw my "Why Me" question answered.
This is why Jennifer. Your cancer was not a curse, but a journey of grace and hope. Now, now you are to get out there and share it.
By Your Side, is a collection of jewelry that supports and gives hope to those who need it most. Knowing that we are being held up by amazing women, men, children, makes the battles and the journey so much easier. By Your Side jewelry, designed with ropes and knots, symbolizes that together we are made stronger. We love you. We walk with you. We will wear this necklace or bracelet for more than your one doctors appointment. We will wear this with you long after your struggles have ended. You will wear it to your appointments. You will wear it when you have to be brave and strong and have another round of chemo. And when you wear your jewelry, you will know that we are wearing ours right along with you.
By Your Side is the long lasting alternative to casseroles and flowers. We will be there with you in the beginning and the middle and at the end. Our jewelry will carry someone through their journey with a little more hope. And give friends the opportunity to stand with them and say we are wearing this jewelry with you because we love you.
As I have relived my battle with cancer through my mom’s similar path, the thing "I was waiting for but didn't know existed" was made crystal clear to me that day outside of the hospital. I am meant to share my story of grace and hope through jewelry and community. I hope you have an opportunity to share your story with someone. And maybe even discover your "why me" along the way.