Things I Teach My Daughter That I Have Not Learned Yet

“Those that can not do, teach.”  That has been the cop out of my life.  I have a degree in elementary education and teaching experience in a million different ways under my belt, but I have most been a teacher as a mom.  Why, oh why, like the Apostle Paul, can I teach without doing it myself?  I am the biggest of hypocrites!  Here is a list of the things that I teach my young daughter that I have not yet learned myself:

1.  Be YOURSELF!  This is such an old, feel good saying but it is so true!  I look at my daughter and she is so amazingly beautiful inside and out and she is trying to figure out who she is and she struggles with learning her own identity and I want so much for her to just be herself!  She loves animals.  She knows so much about them.  There is not a single animal in this whole world that she does not find interesting, and yet, she has learned that some people find many of them gross.  I have seen her pretend to be scared of a spider and I want to say to her, “BE YOURSELF!” but it is something that she has to learn.  I can not learn this for her.  But as I guide her in the journey of discovering herself, I see that just now, in my thirties I am learning who I am.  Who am I?  I am a child of God.  This is the most important thing about me.  I do not really care if that offends you because it is me and it is right.  I am a writer.  Oh, how I love to write.  How many writings I tossed because I did not think they amounted to anything.  I love coffee.  Lots of it.  Black.  I love chocolate.  Dark chocolate.  90% cocoa.  Where have you been my whole life?  I am a wife.  I love my husband.  So much.  I do not deserve him.  He is amazing.  We are one.  I am a mother.  Thank God.  I am a mother.  It is a miracle.  I am an introvert.  This is ok.  Sometimes, ok, a lot of times, I just want to be by myself.

2.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes.  What matters is if you learn from it.  My adorable little girl will trip in public and the first thing she does is look around to see who saw her.  IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT ANYONE ELSE THINKS!  I tell her this over and over.  You will make mistakes.  It is ok.  It really is ok.  Admit it.  Say sorry, if needed.  Then move on and forget it.  Why can I not do this myself?  Why do I dwell on it for so long?  I wonder what people think about me all the time.  Why can I not learn from it and move on?

3.  Do NOT do something to make yourself happy.  Do what is right and it will give you JOY.  That is so much better!  “Sweetie, pick a healthy snack.”  “Let’s get some exercise.”  “Introduce yourself.”  “Say sorry.”  Sometimes, oh so often, things are hard.  Life can just be hard.  But do not approach any situation to make yourself happy, approach the situation doing what is right.

4.  Jesus has never failed me.  The church has.  Christians have.  Family has.  Security has.  Money has.  People have.  But Jesus has never failed me.  Ever.  

5.  A million billion other things.  I am still learning every day.  It is an incredible, immense blessing to be a mother.  I am thankful for my daughter every single day.  I always knew I would love her.  I always knew I would take care of her.  I never ever knew how much I would learn from her!  Thank you Jesus!

The Journey Begins

Christ is my author.  He wrote my life.  God makes no mistakes.  I was first diagnosed with cancer the summer of 1996.  My cancer story does not begin here.  I graduated from high school.  I received my degree in Elementary Education.  I married the man of my dreams.  I had a baby.  Not just any baby.  A miracle baby.  The most amazing little human being that I have ever laid my eyes on.

The nurse laid her on my stomach and immediately all the pains of childbirth disappeared.  She was everything.  Michael Phelps on the starting block.  Chocolate chip cookies in the oven.  The sun rising.  Christmas Eve.  She was the possibility of everything.  I would give it to her.  I was raised in a family with eight children, I babysat, I nannied, I had a degree in Elementary Education and teaching experience behind me.  I thought I had this kid thing down pat.  But when my eyes first fell on her, my whole entire world got flipped upside down.  From the moment she came into our lives, her Daddy and I worked harder, we researched with intensity, we read more, and we did everything to better ourselves and the world that surrounded her.  We were about to learn that we were completely out of control.

Prior to Madison’s birth, we researched.  We had been given the green light to try to get pregnant. However, with my medical past, it would be incredibly hard to get pregnant and once I was pregnant, it would be incredibly hard to keep the baby.  God had different plans, I got pregnant right away with my little miracle baby.  When Madison was three months old, we visited a genetic counselor.  We were not prepared for what we were about to hear.  We had been told that Madison had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  We had been told that if she inherited cancer, she would have her thyroid removed and that would be the end of the story.  Well, on this day, we held our three month old miracle in our arms as the genetic counselor told us it was not that easy.  She had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  If it was positive, she would have surgery to have her thyroid removed.  However, that would not be the end.  She would spend her life having routine scans, blood work, and the label of cancer hovering over her entire life.

No.  I had given God my life.  I had accepted cancer in my life since the age of 15.  He could not have my daughter.  He could not have my baby.  No God.  This was too much.  He was asking too much of me.

James (my husband, Madison’s Daddy) and I prayed.  We prayed every morning.  We prayed every night.  We prayed during the day.  We prayed together.  We prayed alone.  I was angry.  I was angry at God.  This was my daughter.  She needed me.  I would protect her.  I would give her everything.  I had trusted God with my life.  I had defended my faith to the bitter end and now I questioned everything.  Was it all real?  Was there a God?  Did he hear my prayers?  Could he change anything?  Did he love Madison?  I wanted so much to claim control.  I wanted so much to be in charge.  I wanted so much to walk away from my faith and say, “I’ve got this.”  But I had nothing.  I could do nothing.  I was completely helpless.  I fell to my knees.

James and I placed infant Madison on our bed.  She was laid upon the altar.  We literally fell to our knees.  We prayed.  We begged.  I cried out to God and I begged him for the health and for the life of my baby.  “God, I need you.  You are the only one who can save her.  I can do nothing.”

I learned to pray.

And this is where my cancer journey began.  It did not begin when I was fifteen and I was diagnosed with cancer.  I could have given that.  I could have given myself.  I could have given my life and never trusted God in this way.  It was here, when I had to lay my daughter on the altar and say, “God, she is yours.  She is not mine.  I trust you.  I trust you with my baby.  I trust you with my everything.”

We did not get an answer.  We played with our precious baby.  We cared for her every need and every desire.  I placed her soft cheek to mine and sang softly of the love of Jesus.  I was singing more to myself than to her, reminding myself of God’s promises.  I began to realize that as much as I loved Madison, I was only getting a tiny glimpse of the love that God has for me.  I am his daughter.  He held me in his arms and loved me just like I love Madison.

Why then?  Why would he give me cancer?  If I am his daughter, and he loves me, why would God give me cancer?  I looked at my life as a parent.  I took Madison to the pediatrician to get shots.  She cried.  It hurt.  She had no idea why I was letting this happen.  I allowed it to happen.  Why?  Because I love her.  I allowed this hurtful thing to happen because I love her.  Even though she did not understand it, it was the best thing for her.

I learned just a little bit more of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

Time passed, we continued to pray.  We were waiting on results from the genetic counselor to see if Madison had tested positive for the gene.  It was a simple blood test, but the results took time.  Two months had passed and we still had no result.  One night, as James and I crawled into bed, I turned to James, “She is going to be ok.  God told me she is going to be ok.”  I had not heard an audible voice, but he spoke directly to my heart.  As I started to pray, he said, “OK. I will answer your prayer.  Madison will be healthy.  Now, pray for something else.”  I had not gotten the results from the doctor, but I knew, my daughter was healthy.

Two more weeks passed, then on July 31, 2007, I received the call, “Madison is healthy.  She tested negative for the gene.  She has no more chance of getting cancer than the general public.  You never need to see a doctor about this for her ever again.”

Those were the hardest two and a  half months of my life.  But I learned Madison is not mine.  She belongs to God.  And he is a much better parent than I am.  Not only can he give her the world, he can give her a perfect heaven.

And this is where my journey begins.  This is where I learned what real hurt is.  This is where I learned real fear.  This is where I learned to trust God.  I learned to pray.  I learned I am not in control.

My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have battled an extremely rare form of MEN2A cancer for the last 18 years.  I travel frequently from TN to Duke University Hospital in NC to see doctors and specialists.  I have scans.  I have blood work.  I have been left with Addison’s Disease.  I take lots of medicine.  I have a medical alert bracelet.  I get sick.  I crave salt.  I have scars covering my neck and my stomach.  I have a scar on my arm and on my leg.  My back itches.  I have a husband that loves me.  I have a daughter that needs me.

My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have God.  I have a beautiful life.