Did you take the path less traveled or did you follow the weathered path laid out by others that have gone before you? In life we have all been confronted with decisions which have taken us in multiple directions and down paths we felt were right at the time, yet the path we chose had obstacles. Obstacles come in many forms and can pop up unexpectedly. There is the unintended pothole which causes you to stumble yet you get up and continue down the path. The trees that have fallen across the path blocking your way until you figure out how to maneuver around them allowing you to carry on the journey. And finally, the unexpected deterioration of the path due to the surrounding environmental elements causing that safe terrain to now present itself as hazardous. This is when some of us feel we have reached what appears to be the end of the road and for many of us, when we just give up and concede.
What do you do?
Turn around and retrieve to what is considered safe and comfortable or do you forge ahead and make your own way? Do you take on the obstacle or do you put yourself in harm’s way trying to get to your final destination? Each person will answer these questions differently depending on their life experiences and the quiet soft impressionable voice and stories replayed in their minds. These strong negative or positive guiding forces were embedded within us all as children and are directing us in ways we are not even aware of and on multiple levels. Therefore, some will retreat and give up, some will push forward even if the path is destructive causing them both emotional and physical harm, some will find a way to turn a bad experience into a successful opportunity, while some will have the courage to let it go and move beyond.
It is the quiet voice and the stories built on our experiences throughout life that direct or guide us toward the path we eventually will choose and how we perceive many of the obstacles on that path.
The voices and experiences which shape who we are or can be, become obstacles as well.
Too many times we listen to the negative voices or let negative experiences stop us from moving forward hence becoming obstacles on the path of life. We start to question our abilities and self-worth. Growing up I too had listened to these quiet voices whispering the negatives and self-doubt which began to take hold and flourish. I fell prey to my own, as Zig Ziglar would say, “stinking thinking”.
In my last post I let you all in on my humble beginnings and now I would like to take you along on the path that led me to where I am today. I would have to say one of the pivotal moments which I know defined me as an individual was when my baby sister at the early age of three was diagnosed with acute lymphatic Leukemia. “Ellie belly” was her nickname. She was so bright on all levels and her infectious smile could light up a room. How could we have known that her belly was swollen like that due to cancer? I remember seeing our beautiful sweet little girl start to wilt away before our eyes. Struggling every minute and fighting with all she had to survive and beat this ugly uninvited guest which had taken over her tiny body. I am blessed to be able to share with you in my mom’s own words as she recalls the experience that would ultimately change the paths that my sisters and I would choose to take in our lives. Here’s my mom’s story.
A Taste of Hell with a New Dawning
On March 27, three of my girls and I entered the doctor’s office. I was going for my yearly Pap test. Kris had a cold. Elena had strange maroon dots on her face and was very pale. I had decided to have them checked first, so that they could leave the room when it was my turn. That day my turn never came. In fact, it seemed like my whole world had collapsed. Elena, my chunky little 3-year-old, with all love, was terribly ill. Her spleen, liver, and stomach were enlarged. She was put in the hospital immediately. I went home with the other two girls and made arrangements so that I could stay with her. The doctors said they would have tests run on Good Friday. I wasn’t home long when the phone rang. It was the doctor. They had run tests on her, and they thought she had Leukemia. My three-year-old, Ellie bellie nice and fat, who always said,” I love you, mommy,” had Leukemia. I grabbed the wall for support. She was so perfect, so pure. I always had a fear of losing her. My mind screamed, “why her?” She was born out of wedlock and I was being punished.
The doctors had an appointment set for her at the clinic the next morning. That night I slept with her. I didn’t want to go, that was the day that Christ died. I knew they would confirm what the doctors said. To me, Leukemia was death! Our arrival at the hospital was late due to the weather. They had the treatment room all ready to go. I was told I could stay with her while they did the bone marrow and spinal tap. From that day forward I began to get a taste of Hell!
She screamed and screamed, and her nose began to bleed. Oh, how I cried. The doctor came in not long after that and said, “She has acute lymphatic Leukemia. Three years ago, I would have told you there was no hope, but now she has a 50/50 chance of living for three years.” They proceeded to give her an IV in her tiny hands. Her tiny veins hadn’t collapsed yet. At the hospital, I had found a tricycle in the playroom, and I would walk beside her holding up the IV bottle. While she rode down the hall she would say, “I’m making me happy.”
Sunday Christ rose from the dead. That night I laid on the bed with her watching an evangelist. I had always turned those programs off. The man turned to the audience and said he was going to pray for all those watching the program. At that time, it felt as though someone had lifted a weight off my shoulders. Monday came, and we were told we could go home. At home, I notified the church where Ellie went to Bible School that we had arrived home. The Reverend came out immediately and we talked for a while. That day I gave my heart to Christ. I vowed to rectify what I had done wrong and decided to marry Ellie’s father. By the time the wedding day came Elena had so many nose bleeds that she was left terrified and weak. She couldn’t be touched without pain. I left clothes on her for days because to take them off would hurt her so much. She was terrified of the nose bleeds and of going to the bathroom. On the twelfth of April Ellie’s father and I were married. Two days later the sound of her screaming,” I’m bleeding!”, “I’m bleeding “would pierce my ears. Although I frantically looked, I couldn’t see anything as she began to cry. While I was holding and comforting her, she vomited up blood all over me. She was bleeding internally. We rushed her to the doctor’s office. Her blood work showed that her hemoglobin was three and it should normally be twelve. We left there and rushed to the clinic where they gave her two transfusions and two sets of platelets over the next four days. Friday night we watched Julie Andrews and Muppets. She laughed two times, and I cried. Tears of happiness because for one moment she was happy, out of pain, and just doing what children her age should.
My heart was breaking, I could not fix this or take the fear and pain away. I had prayed every day that she’d get better. What I didn’t know was she was getting worse. Her tiny veins had collapsed from the numerous blood draws and testing and finally, the doctors had to cut into her leg for the blood transfusions.
Saturday morning, I sensed a presence in the room, but Elena hadn’t started to cry. I sat up very slowly so that I wouldn’t hurt her. Her eyes were wide opened. I said, “Ellie, Mommy will be careful, so I won’t hurt you.” I slipped out of bed and she laid still and said nothing, not even a groan. I called for the nurse. “Something is wrong.” She went to call the doctor and he was there in ten minutes. I walked out of the room and I heard a voice say, “She’ll dwell in the house of the Lord.” I went into another room and another voice said,” I’ll give you her body if you give me her soul.” Instinctively I said, “Her soul belongs to Jesus Christ.” After what seemed like an eternity, yet only being two hours later, the doctor came in and said,” She’s going to die.” She had hemorrhaged in the brain and he couldn’t get a response from her. He had given her one hour at the very least to live, six at the most, and I had asked him to notify my husband.
My husband arrived at the hospital and began calling the families. I called the funeral home and started to make the arrangements. While doing that I could hear her sweet voice as she would say; “I love you mommy”, “give me a kiss”, “my mommy will make it better.” Oh, the depth of heartache as the thought of losing my baby was now becoming a reality. In between all of this emotion I could hear that taunting voice, “I’ll give you her body if you give me her soul” and it began to tear me apart. Then I heard her voice. She was calling me. My husband thought I was going crazy. I didn’t want to go into the room to face the finality of it all, but we did. We went in, and both kissed her gently goodbye and went to the chapel to pray. I didn’t know what to pray for. She had developed an infection of the brain (encephalitis) and a staph infection in her both her left foot and right hand. Was it selfish to ask for her back knowing the pain she was in? She would return to us not being the same child before cancer. Was it selfish to want her back no matter what quality of life she would have? Instead, I decided to give it all to Jesus.
I Felt At Peace
I felt peace in the Chapel, no voices taunting me, pulling me, but it was time to leave that solace and go upstairs as the family members were starting to arrive. My parents were in the room already. I walked in and looked over at the crib and thought, what else was Satan going to try? I was told that Ellie couldn’t feel anything, pain, or otherwise. The nurse taking notes said, “Talk to her, she probably could hear you.” I held her hand and she wrapped her tiny little fingers around mine. “Ellie,” I said, “You’ll be riding your new bike outside this summer.” While talking to her I still could hear the return of that taunting voice. I looked at her still body and noticed the tape was still on her from her spinal tap so many days ago. I thought to myself “She doesn’t need that anymore.” So, I pulled it off.
When I did, she yelled in pain, and got up on her hands and knees, and crawled up onto me. I cried and once more said, “Her soul belongs to Jesus Christ! You can’t have her!” I must have said that a thousand times or more. I felt I was losing her because I wouldn’t give in. By Monday she was still alive, and the voices were gone. I knew Jesus was around but never dreamed he would miraculously smile upon us. Why would he, I was a sinner?
Several times the thought of how hard it must have been for God to watch his only son endure all that he did. The agonizing pain and suffering a parent feels when their child is dying. “Oh my God, how you must have felt watching your Son be mistreated, suffering, and ultimately dying on the cross that day. Your love for us is so immensely great. I only knew a fraction of what God may have felt and what it was like to be losing a loved one, an innocent child. It is unbearable and I thought I was losing her because I wouldn’t give her soul to the Devil.
One Day at a Time
The doctor came back and apologized to me for telling me she was going to die but warned me she could be good for a couple of days and then pass. I learned to take one precious day at a time. Because of all the emotion and anxieties, I was then put on tranquilizers making remembering all the details and recalling what happened from that day forward hard. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever want to remember the nightmare. The most important things are embedded in my mind and I can’t forget.
My mother and sister had stayed for a week to help relieve the strain. I prayed and read the Bible to pass the time. Each day her blood was checked by what I nicknamed the “vampire”. Her tiny hands looked like pin cushions but each day her white count, hemoglobin’s, and palates went up. I thanked Jesus. She started to move, roll, and wore all of her remaining hair off. Her IV was taken out and she started to crawl. The tube in her nose was now being used to feed her and a couple of days later the tube was taken out for five hours. During that time, I tried to feed her with a spoon. She didn’t respond well to it and I became frantic. I knew the feeding tube would have to go back in if we could not get her to eat. I went to the Chapel and prayed because I knew I could not do this on my own. I needed God’s strength and guidance. Later I returned to the room with a Coke and as I was drinking it Ellie stretched out her tiny hand and yelled “baby, baby “and stared at the can. I took a straw, loaded it up with Coke, and dripped it into her mouth. She was able to swallow liquids which allowed the tube to come out and they were able to begin to feed her with a bottle. Although I am not sure if it was the pain throughout the cancer and procedures, hemorrhaging and infection in the brain, or maybe her attempt to block out this experience, but she returned to us as a baby with no memory at all.
Everything that was happening seemed so unreal, yet it was real and Jesus, my savior, was helping me through it. I realize that this was a miracle. Ellie being confined to a crib was able to only crawl back and forth, but I noticed she would never stop for the bars and would bang right into them. I would watch her and when she would get close, I would yell out a warning, so she’d stop before she hit the bars. It was determined that the area she had hemorrhaged was in the vision portion of her brain and I was told she could not see and that was why she kept hitting into the bars. I prayed, “Oh God, if she is to be a testimony of your kindness and love, she would be considered incomplete.” People would say, “Sure, Jesus saved her life and now she’s blind”. “What kind of miracle is that?” I had to ask him to give her back her sight because if Jesus can give her back to me, he can do anything, and this is what he ultimately did.
Ellie was given a mobile, the type all parents are given to be hung on top of the baby’s crib. She had been restless that day and I thought reading to her would help her settle down. A nurse came in and asked, “What are you doing?”. I answered, “Ellie is restless, I’m reading her “David and Goliath to calm her down”. She had left the room laughing as she felt my attempt was in vain because they had also thought Ellie could not hear. Elena sat up and reached for the mobile. I stared in amazement with tears streaming down my face as I watched her study it for a while, then tear it apart. When the doctor would come in, Ellie would play her own masterful game where she would ignore him. He would snap his fingers and bang on the steel drawers, but she wouldn’t budge. Hence, he thought she was deaf. She seemed fine when we were alone, and I insisted she could hear. The doctor said, “She is reading your lips mom.” By the 14th of May, Elena and I left the hospital for home. Two weeks later she was examined by a specialist who discovered she had “tuned out” her doctor and although there was some damage it was minimal. She could hear! I thanked Jesus again as she was defying all the odds and now could see and hear.
Four Months Later
Today, four months later, Elena, now with sandy blonde hair, who couldn’t walk when we first came home. Is now riding her trike outside, eats hamburgers, and going to church on Sunday. Soon she will again say, “I love you, mommy.” I believe in Jesus because of my personal testimony as I experienced a taste of Hell and had a miraculous new dawning. He was walking beside me every step of the way and I was never alone.
And Today. . .
Ellie is now 47 years old and we are blessed to have her in our lives. She has taught us so many life lessons. Lessons in having faith, courage, determination, understanding, and having empathy for what a person may be going through. I look at people differently and with the wonderment of what their story is. You never know what another person is going through so always be kind and don’t be so quick to judge. Let your heart be filled with wonder and ask yourself how you can serve and help them today. This experience has forever affected each of my family members and guided the career paths that we would eventually choose. We all took a direction toward healthcare and caregiving in one form or another. I truly believe it was because of that initial life experience that my ultimate journey went the way that it did.
My mom would pass away at the very early age of 58 from complications from polycystic kidney disease and vascular disease. My father had died eight months prior due to a massive heart attack at the age of 60. My parents didn’t get the chance to enjoy their children or grandchildren, let alone meet their great-grandchildren. What I wouldn’t give to have more time with each of them, hence my journey down the path of prevention and oral systemic functional medicine in dentistry. We have the opportunity to change the quality of a person’s life and in some cases even save it. Life is so very precious and what a gift we all have been given. The education I have gained along this path I believe should be shared or it is truly wasted. I also believe that when God opens a door that no man can, you need to walk through it. Embrace that opportunity and realize he uses the experiences that come along to help guide us in the direction of our true purpose. Look for the good in every situation and know even when a door closes or your path changes, it was not meant to stifle you but to move you in an upward and forward direction. Embrace every minute of your life, believe in yourself, allow yourself to recognize the magnitude of your inner potential and self-worth, and never give up your integrity along the way.