Today the most beautiful thing happened to me.While working in the surgery waiting area at the James Cancer Hospital, I tend to see a lot of scared faces. As each family is facing their own battle, I find myself relating my personal experiences to their own quite often.

The facial expressions on the faces all seem too familiar. But there was one family that stuck out to me a few weeks ago.
As I sat behind my desk, I saw a mother and a father sitting in the chairs directly in front of me. They were younger parents and I knew that they were here for their daughter who was having surgery that day. As the day went on I continued to watch the fear fill their faces. All I could think about was how my parents just sat in this same waiting room, filled with fear, while their young daughter was in surgery.
I then got up from behind my desk and went and sat next to these parents. I introduced myself to them and we began to talk about the situation I just went through myself and how it was all too familiar. I reassured them that each day everything gets a little easier and that if they needed anything at all while being here at the James, they knew just where to find me.
As the weeks passed by I did not see the family from my waiting room. I prayed that everything was going okay and that the fear they felt that day was slowly turning into hope and strength just as it happened to me.
Today, I was walking down in the lobby of the James during my shift and noticed a stray wheelchair sitting outside the main front doors. As I went out to get it and bring it back in, I turned my shoulder and the mom from the waiting room greeted me with a huge hug. There, standing next to the valet parking station, we began to talk about her daughter and how tonight she finally got to go home. The mom asked me to please follow them to their car out front where her daughter sat wrapped in a blanket in the front seat, ready to go home. I met their daughter and asked her how happy she felt to finally get to leave. She smiled and expressed how excited she was just as I recall feeling a couple months back. As I shut the door to their car, the mom hugged me again. She told me how it was just “meant to be” to run into them on their last day, just as I sat with them on their first. The pain that I saw in her eyes on day 1 was gone. She had a smile on her face and hope in her heart. As the family sat in their car, I watched them pull away. With tears in my eyes, I smiled.
This is what life is all about.

6 thoughts on “Beautiful 

  1. Derek August 14, 2015 / 6:59 pm

    Hi Elli,

    I just saw your story on CNN’s website. Wow. You’re an amazingly strong woman, and such an inspiration. And with all you’ve been through, you’re still humble and happy with the cards you’ve been dealt. People like you really help to put the world’s petty complaints in perspective. I truly wish you all the best in your life. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, and thanks for sharing your story!



  2. rabin August 14, 2015 / 7:40 pm

    you’re beautiful and charming


  3. Lori D. August 15, 2015 / 4:12 am

    Dear Elli,
    I saw a bit of your story on CNN and had to check out your blog. I am so glad I did! I don’t know if you quite realize the impact your story will have on people yesterday, today and for a long time to come. Quite simply, I have chills—it is clear to me that God has MAJOR plans for you and your family! It is clear to me that you will continue to make a difference and that nothing is without purpose in this life. Or at the very least, bad things–yes, even traumatic or tragic things can be used for GOOD!
    I wonder if you have much time to read? If so, might I suggest you pick up a book entitled “The Hardest Peace” by Kara Tippetts. She fought a battle as well—a different one from yours–and though some would say she lost that battle, there is victory in her story too.
    I have faced my own challenges. They are a part of being human, part of the boarding pass for life I suppose. I accept them–but I have let them limit me and leave me discouraged and at times broken. There are lessons to be learned here even for me. What has happened to me in my life does not define me–I define ME, GOD defines me. What I DO with what has happened to me is what’s important. You are a shining example of that my dear. Thank you!
    Lori D. (Maine)


  4. Gail Hawes August 16, 2015 / 1:25 am

    I also saw your story on CNN and for the first time, am posting on a stranger’s blog. I myself am two and half years out from cancer surgery, and God willing, caught it all early and done with it. People like you are so important to people like me. Many people might think that a teenager couldn’t possibly be mature enough to lend that type of solace and support to an older person who is experiencing a fear they have never known in their life, but I know better, as does the family in your blog post from July. My biggest support through all my fears was a 16/17 year old girl who had grown up with my girls. She is a survivor of childhood AML, an unusual leukemia for someone so young. She gave me a feeling of peace and hope any time I talked to her. People like you are a gift to the rest of us. I’m sure you will go far in achieving your goals. You already have proven and accomplished more than many will in a lifetime. Yes, some things are just meant to be! Thank-you for sharing not only your story, but sharing yourself to help others.


  5. Holly August 16, 2015 / 4:29 am

    Hi Elli,
    I hope all is continuing well for you. I just read your story and am so glad that I checked out your blog. I couldn’t stop reading since I had a similar experience. I, too, had cancer in college. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease (lymphoma) in February of my sophomore year at Penn State. I stayed home for the remainder of spring semester for surgeries and treatment, and then returned in the fall. It was also pretty weird the way things happened on the way to being diagnosed, and I know that the only explanation is that God’s hand was involved. I, too, was the strong and positive one during that time, especially with my boyfriend who was still on campus, 2 hours away from me.
    I read a book called “Love, Medicine, and Miracles” by Dr. Bernie Seigel. He was an oncology surgeon who saw that a supportive and caring doctor helped to make terminally ill cancer patients well. He also defined what he saw in the true survivors. That book really resonates with me. I fit his definition of a survivor, especially when the definition was not what I had expected. Did I see a positive purpose to my getting cancer? Yes…I did, I even welcomed the extra time it allowed me with my family back home. Especially, if you are considering pursuing a career in medicine. It is a classic and one that has stayed with me over time.
    I have to say that I am 49 years old and have led a full life. My cancer has not returned and I don’t think it will, although I would occasionally panic if I felt something was wrong, knowing how I could be “perfectly fine” one moment, on my way to Florida for spring break, to having my life change in one doctor’s visit. I also have some consequences from my treatment. But, all in all, although I would never wish cancer on anyone, including myself, I am grateful for what it gave me, it served a purpose, and my faith grew stronger.
    I am also grateful for your blog posts as it helped me to remember that part of my past clearly once again and to remember the gifts it gave to me, the silver linings, that are still with me today.
    You will have some ups and downs, but somehow I know that you’ll be OK : )


  6. Ephra Wilcox August 16, 2015 / 10:14 pm

    A friend shared an article with me today and I am amazed at how similar your story is to my Sons! I think you two would really enjoy talking to each other. Jarom’s surgery was in May of last year, the tumor had spread to the base of his skull. His carotid artery was removed, pallet and vocal cords paralyzed and other things. I am amazed at how similar your two cases are. Jarom’s surgery was done at the Huntsmans Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City UT. If you would like to contact my son and discuss your cases just email me and I will give you his email address. Jarom is doing really well now and was so strong throughout this trial just like you. Both of you are amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

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