my heart in words.

papa’s advice.

It’s been a year. The best way I’ve thought to describe it is the feeling you have when the anniversary of the death of a loved one creeps up. This extreme, overwhelming, constant lump in your throat, sometimes even dizzying grief at the life lost envelopes you. Flipping through photos as The Day sneaks up closer and closer, you find it harder and harder to not talk about and tell stories about that life lost. And yet, beneath this all consuming grief, bubbles of incomparable gratitude simmer even stronger. The thankfulness felt knowing that loved one is Home, and that you got the blessing of knowing them and loving them while they were stopping by in their time on earth, brings you to tears; completely at war with the grief striking you and encompassing you with its cold arms. It’s been a year. It’s been a year.

“Are you in?”, the PA said, unmistakably frantic himself with an excitable fear I’ve yet to be able to describe. Yes. Yes. Thank you Jesus. We were in.

1 year ago today, Dr. Robert Hirschl, PA Patrick Houde, and their teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center saved my life. None of this would’ve happened if Luke and I would’ve settled. We joke about it, but in all honesty, without doubt, had I stayed with the first neurosurgeon in South Florida who questioned me constantly, concluded I had kidney stones, then possibly a cyst, until finally concluding what we all knew it to truly be…had we settled and not followed our guts and pushed for more, I would be paralyzed or dead. Period. He would’ve hacked away at the schwannoma, never realizing it was a neurofibroma, striking my nerves all along the way. Had we not been “those people” and questioned the first opinions, that would’ve been the reality we placed ourselves in.

I’ve been so blessed to have many “listening” eyes watch as this story has continued to unfold. The biggest thing I want to shout to the rooftops til the whole universe hears it is this: The little nudge, the little voice, the little pains you feel…they are YOURS. And they are REAL. I believe you. Now, you believe you. Do. Not. Settle. Be it a concerning new medical symptom, a dream you’ve subdued, a new promotion you’re yearning to throw your hat in the ring for, a person you’ve been wanting to reach out to…do it now. If we had listened to everybody else and denied our guts, I would not be here. Not every situation is life or death, but in all reality, if you’re denying yourself of what your soul is so urgently trying to tell you…are you really living, after all?

Go to the doctor. Be “that person”. Ask the question in the staff meeting. Stand up to the toxic person. Say no. Say yes. Write. The. Book. Whatever it is, please, do it. My papa always told me, and still does, “Always trust that gut of yours, girl. It’ll never steer ya wrong!” Honor the life you’ve been given to the fullest. Trust and listen to your gut. It’s. Your. Life. Your one, precious, earthly life. And it’s yours to make. Stop caring what anyone thinks. Chances are, if they’re judging, if they’re questioning, they’re not going to be with you in the journey anyways. In the high points, the low points, and the corkscrew what in the world is going on points. That’s ok. Their stop is elsewhere. Leave them be, and keep going on your track. It’s going to take you the very best of places.

 

This year has shaken me to the core. It has brought me to tears at the immense beauty of God’s faithfulness and g-r-a-c-e in every single moment. The big ones and the very small. This is Him. All Him.

I want to thank you all. I’ve made and grown so many relationships in this chapter. Thank you for sitting with us in this. Thank you for validating our feelings in this. Thank you for never, ever judging. Thank you for never, ever diminishing. Thank you for praying. Thank you for cheering. Thank you for reading. Thank you for hugging and virtually hugging. We’re grateful for you. Telling my story has made this new normal, with all of its big and small question marks of what is still to come, so much more bearable. I’m not alone. And neither are you. There has been a purpose in my pain. That is all I could ever hope for. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Big hugs. Virtual and real. Always.

KP.

Featured Image: Creative Imaginations Photography

 

scar(r)ed.

When I first started dating my husband Luke, I covered my mouth anytime joy tried to sneak out of the corners of my mouth. This was something I didn’t realize I had learned to do over the years, but it is something Luke caught onto right away. A few weeks into knowing each other, I received the first ever coveted “Goodnight, beautiful.” text from him. My heartbeat quickened and, unknowingly, I covered my shy smile with my left hand. Seconds later, he sent a second text saying,

“Let me guess, you’re covering your gorgeous smile and your green eyes are twinkling. Right?”

What. The. What???

Puzzled as all heck, I glanced around my apartment wondering how in the world he would have known something about me I didn’t even know about myself (also wondering if this incredible, seemingly normal man I had already known would be my husband was somehow in my apartment creepily staring at me…). Nope, thankfully, the latter was false. The next time I saw him, I noticed he had put a green heart emoji alongside the monkey covering its mouth emoji next to my name in his phone. To this day, my name is still listed the same in his phone. The monkey and myself, however, are no longer as similar as we used to be.

Not even a month after my spinal tumor resection spinal fusion surgery in November of 2017, one of my family members offered to buy Mederma for my still bloodied and stitched scar, so I could use it as soon as the scar had closed up completely. God love them, they were really trying to be helpful. But to both of our shock, I instantly and abhorrently rejected the offer.

What?! NO. I don’t ever want to lose this. This is part of my story now. I want it with me. Forever. Wedding day and all.”

The scar that snatched me out of my “normal” life forever, the one that caused pains I still cannot begin to wrap my head around, the one that left a big question mark on what the future will look like for the rest of my life, I was suddenly very protective of. Hm.

Flash forward 6 months later and we are looking at Our Wedding Day. I have lost majority of my muscle mass since the surgery. The body I worked hard for (and, might I add, did not appreciate nearly as much as I wish I would have…) the body that tried my wedding gown on pre-tumor and looked womanly and bridal… was no longer there. Needless to say, things fit differently. My seamstress had to adjust everything quite a bit-so much so that the low back I adored so much had to be taken in, now covering my scar. I was heartbroken. After my final fitting, I called the family member who so lovingly offered to pick up some Mederma and expressed my sadness. What she said I carry with me every day.

“Kel. It’s still there. Forever. With you always. Wedding dress and all.”

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Sorry, monkey emoji, but I don’t cover my mouth when I laugh anymore. And y’all, sometimes, I really should. A cackle meets a goose meets a 5 year-old giggle, and you have my all consuming laugh. In our journey together, Luke slowly but surely healed that “scar”. I now laugh freely, always a bit too loud, but nonetheless unapologetic, and smile all the more freely. To me, the scar of someone from my past shaming me for my smile and laugh, teaching me to hide it from the world, has now evolved into my free-flowing laugh and grin. It’s not gone. It’s still here. Forever. With me always. But it has very much evolved.

The scar on my spine is just like all of our visible and invisible scars: it tells a story. But it is ever-evolving. People ask me when I will ever be OK again. But the truth is: now. I will never be who/what I was pre-tumor. I will never be who I was 10 years ago, or last year, or even yesterday. But I have decided to be OK. Aren’t we the boss of ourselves, anyways? The other day, my best friend who has known me since 1st grade, asked me if we forgot to get a permission slip signed for this craziness that is adulting, because CLEARLY we missed SOMETHING. Yupp. I’d have to agree with her on that one.

Our scars, physical, mental and emotional, are always with us. But if we allow them to evolve, they can begin to tell a far more hopeful story. And maybe, actually, certainly, that hope will be felt and heard by someone whose scar may still be tender to the touch, covered up and shamed away unknowingly. Maybe their scar has calloused over so much they don’t even believe it is there. Who knows. What I do know is, everyone you interact with, even the most difficult ones of all, are scar(r)ed. And when we try to hide it and shame ourselves/others around us about it, we are only causing more of them; to ourselves and those around us.

Now as I said earlier, I don’t know who qualified me to be an adult. I am very under-qualified, but hi, my name is Kelsey, and I am here anyways, trying my best, right alongside you. I don’t know much. But what I do know is, being scared of our scars is prohibiting their evolution into a really bad ass (sorry, Mom) story.

Rock. Your. Scars. You have been through some horrible physical, emotional and/or mental things to earn those scars, but you are here nonetheless. Whaaat? Work it. And think on it. And decide to be OK about it. And I promise, that scar will turn into something you strut, not something you are scared of. Forever. With you always. Ever-evolving story and all.

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Photo: Creative Imaginations Photography

Dress: Chic Nostalgia Bridal

Ring: Heidi Gibson Designs