I was 35 and balancing motherhood with a rather great career doing everything I loved in one capacity or another; sales, marketing, training, project management. And then my whole life changed in one day. My younger son (Emmett) was diagnosed with a chromosome disorder at 8 months of age. I didn’t know what that meant until a doctor spelled it out for me.
He was expected to never walk, never talk, never feed himself, never toilet by himself, never care for himself independently in any manner. He would require several medications a day, not sleep through the night, and function more or less mentally and physically as a baby. He would require constant one-on-one supervision so as to not be injured. Caring for Emmett became a full-time job.
I wondered what I did wrong in my life that this happened. What did I do wrong that my child would suffer like this? What did I do wrong that my other son would feel like an only child without a brother to play with him? I just couldn’t understand it. I didn’t know how I would deal with it. I plunged into a deep, dark depression. I took off of work for 4 months to process it. I also needed the time to see no less than 60 specialists who checked Emmett head to toe. We enrolled Emmett in numerous therapies and programs. He would need a nurse for me to return to work. The whole thing was just a mess. I barely knew how I would take care of a 2 year old (my older son, Griffin) yet alone a profoundly disabled child with multiple special needs. I cried and cried and cried. I would cry so much that I would wake up with my eyes sealed shut with salt. But the nightmare didn’t fade…
I did return to work for 2 more years, achieving my career goal of leading my sales team to a coveted President’s Club award. Shortly after the award was announced, the company offered a voluntary severance package to those wishing to terminate their employment. I obliged and focused my time on my two sons who needed me desperately. My former sales teammates enjoyed a trip to Hawaii. I wasn’t offered the chance to reap the reward for my efforts. No pineapples for me. I had to figure out life.
Age 43, figuring out life the best I could; now balancing special needs motherhood with a career as head of training and development for a pharmaceutical company.
It was the last thing that anyone ever expected. I asked, “Cancer? You’re telling me I have cancer? How could that even happen?” My future was uncertain and my prognosis was bleak. My doctors spoke to each other saying, “I hope she just gets a little bit of time with her family.” But I’ve had a lot of time with my family. And I plan on a lot more. Even when a medical accident during surgery tried to do me in, my oncologist said, “Anyone else would’ve died, but not Stacy!”
Here’s the thing: not only do bad things happen to good people, but they happen more than once. And more than a few bad things happen to more than just a few good people.
There’s no way I could’ve been so vigilant in my cancer battle had it not been for what I learned from fighting for my special needs/disabled son. That experience prepared me for what followed with my cancer diagnosis and my mom’s unexplained total hearing loss in both ears.
It’s a lot to handle, but I do, with the help of family and faith, love and laughter.