• Posted on December 24, 2016 11:47 am
    McCall Dempsey
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    I had my first holiday break down this week. The shopping, the cards, work piling up, kids home from school...it all got to me. I resorted to wrapping presents until early morning hours to calm my frazzled nerves. I thought wrapping the mountain of gifts would make the stress go away. Nope. I woke up yesterday with a knot in my stomach. What is it with this time of year? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I just be present with my kids and spread joy and cheer? I did everything I know to do to calm my anxiety: yoga, shopping, quiet time, a long (really, really long) shower, food, distraction, friends. Nothing helped. The chaos of the season and my to do list were getting to me, until I saw it: .PERSPECTIVE. And not just any perspective...a perspective that hits really close to home and is probably a big culprit of my holiday angst. "My newsfeed is blowing up with everyone so excited and grateful that the elf shenanigans are over tonight.... and all I can think about is how much Ari loves Jewel... and how this might be our last night with Jewel.... and it makes me so overwhelmed with sadness... #Perspective  #LoveYourElves  #StupidCancer" Meet Ariana Farragut's elf, Jewel. Santa and Jewel are praying for Ariana because she is fighting a rare brain cancer (Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor: AT/RT). Last week, Ariana went in for what they were praying would be clear scans, but received devastating news instead. The cancer had spread and the new tumors are inoperable. Heart. Shattered. Ariana's sweet mother, Jenna, posted this picture of Jewel sitting with a bible. Have you ever thought to pose your child's elf next to a bible? Maybe you have. I usually throw the elf in the tree as I am running to beat my kids to the living room every morning. I'm not the most creative elf mover. But it isn't about creativity - it is about the joy that we have right in front of us. Right now and in the present. There's one thing I always say to others (and often to myself): We are all doing the best we can with what we know. Rather than beat ourselves up for complaining about the elf after seeing Jenna's elf picture and post, we should be aware. Aware of our thoughts and mindfulness this holiday season, reminding ourselves what is really important. No matter if you are the most creative elf mover or a tree thrower like me, let's work together to be present with ourselves and our loved ones. Life moves and changes so fast. It can be shattered in the blink of an eye. Trust me. Last night, I rocked Marjorie a little longer than usual, even dozing off with her heavy on my chest. My precious baby girl, healthy and thriving - something we hold so precious. We almost didn't have her home with us on that first Christmas. She was discharged from the NICU in the nick of time and I sat up all night staring at the most beautiful Christmas present I had ever received. I remember a Christmas when I was in treatment and only had six hours with my husband. Then just two short years later, I was in full recovery watching my precious baby boy crawl to see the magic of Christmas. This Christmas I experienced my first bout of holiday anxiety. I am so thankful to brave mommas like Jenna, who share their heartache and perspective with us. I have shared my fair share of perspective and I am thankful to now be on the receiving end of it. But no matter how many years pass by, the memories of being in treatment during Christmas and the fear of cancer still lurks. My heart still aches with my fellow cancer mommas. My soul is dented with them. My spirit sinks thinking of those in treatment and it aches knowing so many families who will spend their first Christmas without their child. Maybe we can all take a lesson in perspective from Jenna and Ariana. We can work to be present with our loved ones rather than expend energy on stressing to create a perfectly decorated Christmas table. There is no shame or guilt in getting caught up in Christmas chaos, as long as we can take a step back and remind ourselves about what is really important: faith, family, love and kindness. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Holidays. Sending you all love, peace and light, McCall For those interested in praying, supporting and staying up to date on Ariana, check out her website: Ariana's Fight Against Brain Cancer

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Faith
  • Posted on December 6, 2016 3:45 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    Tomorrow, December 7, is my birthday. However, I will not be with my family and friends. Rather, I will be surrounded with love, pain, joy, sadness, hope and courage. I will spend my birthday with the brave men and women at Castlewood Treatment Center in St. Louis, Missouri. I truly cannot think of anywhere else I would rather be. Growing up, I often heard my family and friends say, "Oh, McCall, stop being so sensitive". I tried my best to not 'be sensitive' and to 'toughen up', but no matter how hard I tried, I still hurt. I was (and am) a sensitive being. Nothing was ever going to change that. And I hurt alone and in silence for many, many years. I now consider my sensitivity my greatest gift. It is something I hold sacred. I honor my sensitive heart, taking care of it and loving it as it beats through every human emotion. Recovery has taught me to follow my heart, allowing it to feel, give and receive. Because of my soft heart, I am able to sit with others. I can literally feel their pain, hurt and loneliness. And above all else, I can let them know they are not alone. To be perfectly honest, my heart has been really heavy lately. Personal changes are happening, but moreover, I have carried so much hurt in my heart as of late. After returning home from Thanksgiving, I saw the devastating news that a fellow Wolfson Hospital cancer warrior lost her battle. I never met Kate, but she was just doors down from Marjorie during the summer of 2015. Her death hit me hard. I followed her story and there was no doubt she was a light to everyone who met her. Last Tuesday, Kate's mother, Lisa, posted a beautiful picture.  Tears poured down my face as I saw the picture of Lisa cuddling her baby in the final hours of her life here on earth. I don't know the pain of losing a child, but I have cradled my own child while covering her in desperate prayers for healing. I could feel the pain, love and unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter through my computer screen. My heart carried her hurt. Days later I received an email from a young woman questioning if life and the fight for recovery were worth it. We've connected on the phone many times since her initial email. I do my best to remind her that there IS still light and hope and that the fight is TOTALLY worth every battle scar...but I also know how painful those dark moments are. I know how exhausting the fight is and that giving up often seems like a better option. I told her I would sit with her in the pain. I carried her hurt. On a daily basis, I hear from aching parents, lonely teens and adults drowning in shame. I sit with them, hurt with them and pray for them each night. I am very aware I can't save anyone, we all have to save ourselves. But that doesn't mean we have to walk the journey alone. This life is filled with so much sadness and pain AND there is also SO much good. 'Life is freaking brutiful' as my friend (who hasn't met me yet), Glennon Doyle Melton would say. Sometimes the sadness is filled with happiness and vice versa. It took me a long time to absorb that concept - joy during times of sorrow. Nothing confirmed the joy and sorrow theory like Marjorie's NICU and cancer battle. Watching my child fight for her life, not once, but twice, made realize that life is hard AND that there can be so much joy during these times, as well. The friends, family, doctors, nurses, prayer warriors and fellow cancer families that God put in our lives during these dark times, were our joy, our inspiration and our hope. They made us laugh and sat with us as we cried. They carried our hurt, while we watched with aching hearts as our precious baby fought for her life. In my short six years of recovery (and life), I have been blessed with so many people who have carried my hurt. So for me, carrying other's hurt and sitting with others in the darkness is such a gift. It is an honor for me to crawl back into the dark with those struggling and say, "There's nothing I can say that will fix this, but I'll hang with you here as long as you need me." Sure, sadness is not fun. Many reading this will probably wonder why don't I guard my heart better. That's just not who I am. God made us to feel, to love, to hurt and, most of all, to LIVE. Embracing sadness and sitting in pain is me living out God's purpose. There's no doubt my passion stems from years of my own pain and hopelessness. Nothing brings me more contentment than helping others through their dark times - sitting with them and connecting them with professional help. And I do guard my heart in many ways. If I allowed myself to follow every pediatric cancer or eating disorder story, I would basically live in fetal position in my closet. I am selective and I practice A LOT of self care. I shut down, I write, I absorb the joy that radiates from my two tiny humans and I call my therapist (obvi). My life since recovery has been learning to walk the beautifully imperfect balance of self care and helping others. So while I carry a lot of hurt in my heart, I also carry so much joy, love and light. My birthday wish is to sit with you, wherever you are. I spent so many birthdays feeling alone and hopeless, I don't want you to do the same. I hear you. I honor your pain. I sit in it with you. Thank you for giving me the best birthday gift and allowing me to share in your darkness. And to sweet Kate, may your light and love live on through each of us. You were truly your own light during many dark days. We will always "remember to smile" for you.

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Live Life
  • Posted on October 8, 2016 9:52 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    To my dearest daughter on your second birthday, I wish I could look back on this day with loving memories and joy. But I can’t. Your birth date was one of the most difficult days of my life. I will never forget the sounds and sterile surroundings of the OR room. Your daddy sat behind my head, resting his face next to mine and holding my hands that stretched out on the cold steel table. When Dr. Glas finally pulled you out, the nurse came around the curtain and held you up. “She’s beautiful, mom and dad.” She said as she held you up for us to see your precious face. You looked back at us with wide eyes, as if to tell us, “I’ve got this mom and dad.” Tears streamed down my face – and your daddy’s too. Those precious few seconds would be my only glimpse of you on your birth date. My body had been through too much and I was unable to see you until the following day. I could not get to you fast enough the next day. Waiting for the doctor to make rounds and free me from the catheter and IVs, was agony. Unable to walk, your Aunt Anne and daddy wheeled me down. Daddy already had the NICU drill down – sign in, scrub in. I followed his lead, trying my best to clean my hands with IVs hanging from my arm. He pushed my wheelchair into your tiny room, where your NICU Momma Lisa was already there loving on you. She lowered your bed so I could get my first glimpse at you. I slowly reached my hand through the tiny porthole of your Plexiglas home and touched your tiny fingers. Tears welled and streamed down my face. You were so beautiful – and so tiny. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. But there you were. You clearly had a different agenda. Your birth set the tone for the spirit you carry with you today: small, but MIGHTY. Tough, but loving. Wild and free. Full of LIFE and ready for life’s next adventure – even if your mom and dad aren’t ready. You clearly have your own timeline and march to your own drum. Your contagious laughter and independence are going to carry you so far in life, my sweet girl – I just hope daddy and I can keep up with you! I don’t know why you have had to endure so much in your short two years, but I do know that there is NOTHING you can’t overcome. You have captured the heart of so many – and you have so many angels flying on your shoulders, watching over you, protecting you when we can’t. I often think about how I will tell you about your birth and tumultuous first year of life. I still don’t have the answer, but I don’t think I have to. You will let me know when you are ready. You will lead the way in your own life – just as you always have. Marjorie Mims, you are a shining example of what life is about. Perseverance, discovery, love, hope and faith. May this year be filled with tons of laughter, Minnie Mouse, wagon rides, black beans & cheese (lots of cheese), dancing, singing, sparkly & squeaky shoes, hair bows, big brother tackles, friends and HEALTH. You are my hero. You and your big brother are my heart and my light. I prayed long and hard for you. I dreamed about you before you even kicked your way into this world. I thank God every day for not only blessing me with a baby girl, but a feisty one who is going to be a world changer. You’ve already changed my world for the better. I know this isn't the birthday we planned on. Hurricane Matthew drove us out of our home, but we are together - and that is all that matters. You continue to teach us that no matter what curveball life throws us, we will march on - and we will do it with laughter and love. The world is your oyster baby girl and I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for you! Happy happy birthday my precious angel. Here is to the best year yet and prayers that your daddy and me can keep up with you! We love you, peanut!

    Faith, Family, Health
  • Posted on September 5, 2016 1:46 am
    McCall Dempsey
    2

    I hate September. I haven't always hated September. It wasn't until last year that I really started to loathe the month. Sure, I hate summer ending, but it wasn't about swimsuit season coming to an end. It was about all of the gold. So much gold. All for pediatric cancer. I wanted to delete, unfollow and pass up any opportunity to spread awareness. Last year, I wrote about embracing the gold label. I talked about finding peace with it, but this year is a different story. I am straight up angry. I do not want the label nor the responsibility to change my profile to gold. I do not want to talk about the pitiful fact that pediatric cancer only gets four percent of cancer research funding - that's right FOUR. I am pissed, angry and just want to stick my fingers in my ears and stomp my feet. This month does not apply to my family. My daughter did not have cancer. Nope. We will pass. Thank you. This is grief. This is my soul still trying to reconcile the massive dent that cancer left. It is a dent that will never be filled or repaired. Nothing can heal the pain that I have seen. Nothing. On May 2nd, we heard two glorious words: cancer free. Since then we have lived in a wonderful blissful state in which we did not see one oncologist or doctor. Since the day Marjorie was born, there were doctor appointments every month or even week. The last few months have been utopia. This Wednesday, we will check in with our new oncology team at Memorial Hospital in Savannah. It should be a simple check up, but nothing is simple when it comes to pediatric cancer. It hurts. It physically hurts to walk my baby girl into the doors of another oncology clinic. Grief is such a crazy process - a lengthy process. The grief that came with my eating disorder was such a lesson in patience.I no longer ask, "Why me?" or "Why Marjorie?" My heart has settled that there will never be an answer. There isn't a timestamp on grief. Your heart can ache on and off for years on end - some years more than other. Lately, my heart has lived in a blissful state, just needing a break from it all. And now it is back the grind. Not so ironically enough, our return to pediatric oncology coincides with childhood cancer awareness month. So yes, I bought the gold ribbon for my mailbox and I will attend and support any and all local fundraisers. Because if there is one thing to celebrate, it is my Marjorie and the millions others who battle in the pediatric cancer arena. While life is wonderfully normal, our lives will never be the same. May 27, 2015, forever changed our lives. "Your daughter has cancer." We were inducted into the Gold Ribbon hall of fame that day. The month of September will never be about fall leaves or football season. It will be about "Going Gold" and cancer. Maybe next year I won't feel so much anger when the clock strikes midnight on September 1, but this is where I am right now. I feel sick when I think back to those nights in the hospital and see my baby girl so ill. While the anger still sits on my stomach, there is so much pride in my baby girl. I look at the (insanely) wild toddler she has become and sit back in awe. The world is her playground and she leaves no corner unturned. Nothing phases her. She is known to face plant (literally), hop back up, dust her hand and keep running. Marjorie is tough as nails - just like every other cancer warrior out there. There is something ultra special about these kids. They are innocent warriors, battling until the end. No matter how angry my heart may be at times, I will never turn down an opportunity to Go Gold. My girl is here because of research, because of so many countless others who went before her. God did not put me on this earth to be a pediatric cancer advocate - that I know for sure. My mission is eating disorder awareness and positive body image. But pediatric cancer is now part of my story, whether I like it or not. It is my responsibility to spread awareness where I can - even if that awareness is talking about my grief and anger. So this is where I am right now and in this month of September 2016. Maybe September 2017 will be different. I don't set expectations on grief or time. I only know that I will continue to move forward one day (and one September) at a time.    

    Pediatric Cancer
  • Posted on August 22, 2016 1:56 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Just over a week ago, my beloved hometown of Baton Rouge was practically washed away in one of the worst floods in US history. My 93-year old grandmother and mom were stranded on the interstate for over 30-hours. Some of my dearest friends and their families have lost absolutely everything. While my friends spent the last week escaping floods and ripping out floors and drywall, I was on the beach with my family. Manning would laugh with delight as the salt water washed away our sand castles. I did my best to stay in the moment with him, but my heart was breaking for the people who witnessed the water washing away their actual homes. Today, as my family and I sink back into routine life, I can't help but think of those in Louisiana who would pay anything to find routine and normalcy again. The sadness hit me this morning. Tears fell and my heart started to absorb the hurt and the distance that stands between me and the town I love. My Facebook stream is flooded (pun intended) with pictures of devastation, but more so, pictures of the best of humanity, of a community rising above a terrible summer and historic devastation. Yes, that is my Baton Rouge. These are MY people. There is no black or white, young or old, rich or poor. It isn't every man for himself - it is everyone together, rising above. It is what we, in Louisiana, do best - we rise, we conquer, we celebrate. Because even on the rainiest days and the darkest nights there is still something to celebrate: life. My mom and grandmother still found friends and a reason to toast, despite being hot and on the side of an Interstate. We rise. We are unBRoken. I am carrying that spirit with me today, as I made Marjorie's first oncology appointment at our new hospital in Savannah. We haven't set foot in a clinic in two months - and it has been oh so nice. It knocked the wind out of me to say her diagnosis aloud: neuroblastoma. Can I go back to the beach now? Back to the place where worries seem to wash away with our sand castles? I guess living in paradise would be nice, but it isn't real. Life is what is real. Life is what sucks sometimes. Life is what is hard. But life is also where you find the love, the joy and the people who make the sorrow all worth it. We will never know why things happen - and sometimes accepting that piece is the hardest of all. But what we can do is fight our way back - back to life, back to normalcy. We can choose to rebuild. As much as I don't want to take Marjorie to another Oncology clinic, I will. Because that is our normalcy. As much as my friends don't want to tear down the walls of their homes and rebuild, they will - because they will fight to regain their normalcy. The flood has forever changed all of our lives. Cancer has forever changed mine. But we rebuild, we reschedule and we march on. Because at the end of the day, there is so much we can't control. We can all learn something from my bayou kinfolk. We can spend our days asking ‘Why me?’ or we can choose to rebuild, finding faith in humanity, strength in ourselves and of course, always finding a reason to celebrate. So cheers, y'all! Cheers to life, love and LOUISIANA! Laissez les bon temp rouler! Forever and always unBRoken         Links on how to help friends and their families: Sarah Duncan Smith Mandie Tracy's Family Baton Rouge Flood Recovery Amazon Flood Registry  - run by my dear friend Carolina Grace Baton Rouge Area Foundation - Louisiana Flood Relief Fund Amazon Wishlist for Woodlawn Elementary School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Amazon Wishlist for Sherwood Academic Magnet Middle School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Flood Recovery Fund for Schools in Baton Rouge Junior League of Baton Rouge Diaper Bank Check my Facebook page for other ways to help! And please message me to add your family's link or others way to help <3

    Faith, Family, Inspiration