• Posted on February 22, 2017 8:02 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    My current state of mind is similar to that of six years ago when I leaping from treatment back out into the 'real' world... Journal entry (2.23.2016) "I am feeling lots of things. I am worried about work. I am kind of angry. I want to cry. I want to fall apart. I want to scream. I want to feel competent. I want to feel my age. I want to breathe. I want to feel like I haven't been forgotten. I don't want to be lost and behind. I want to stop this voice in my head. I feel scattered."  Okay, so maybe I'm not feeling everything I did six years ago today, but certainly can relate to the anxious, scattered and breathing part. Life is changing. Again. Sigh. Unlike my anxiety six years ago, today's anxiety comes with a big slice of confidence and joy. How is it possible for one person to feel so much joy and anxiety at once? I'm not sure. But it is where I am and I'm rocking it. Recently, I shared the news about my family's upcoming move. It is beyond bittersweet. But with this move come chaos. And I mean capital C-H-A-O-S. Our house will hit the market next week. Showings will begin and so will the inevitable scenario of putting the dirty laundry in the dryer, gathering the scattered toys in a box and putting them in the car as you drive around with shoeless kids in their jammies, as well as a dog and and rescue cat who thinks she is a dog. Since returning home from our amazing vacation, sleep has been hard to come by. Jordan and I wake at all points in the night. We talk and toss around, while we remove our son's foot from our face (ah the joys of sleeping with a five year old). We are taking a huge leap of faith with this move. It is scary. It is unknown. But it is necessary so we rise up and march on. As I am rising up and marching on, I am also inundated with the growth of my beloved Southern Smash. Walking upstairs to my office every day, makes me the richest person on earth. Certainly not monetary rich, but rich in the greater since - the one that makes your soul burst with joy. I pinch myself on the daily. I am doing the exact work God put me on this earth to do. And because of that, I know that no matter what curve ball life throws again (and again) my family and I will be okay. I will be okay. Because look at how far I've come. When I think back to six years ago, I am in awe of how brave I was - probably because I, at the time, had no idea of my courage and inner strength. I felt so many emotions and marched on. I knew recovery was out there and I wanted it. Bad. I knew I just had to keep marching falling forward to get there. Today, I feel so many emotions as I march on. This leap of faith (like all leaps) is scary. But I rely on my perseverance was born six years ago. I rely on the solid relationship and friendship I have with my soul mate and best friend. We have gone through much worse. Jordan and I can literally conquer anything together. In the past few weeks, I have talked with more people struggling than I can count, guiding each of them (and their families) to professional help. This evening I spoke with a young group of women gravely concerned for their best friend. They listened so intently and laughed as I cut a joke here and there. But what they didn't know is the tears that fell silently down my cheeks. I was once their friend praying for someone to tell me I needed help - that I deserved help and treatment. That my life mattered to them. I cried because I feel so damn blessed to be a listening ear and sounding board. I cried because I am so alive. I cried because I am so scared of what is to come. I cried because I love life and my family so damn much it hurts. I cried for the young woman six years ago who had no idea the extraordinary path God was laying before her. I cried because I was brave enough to walk that path. I cried because I get to pay it forward and help others every day. Life is terrifying and also filled with such joy. When I started Southern Smash, never did I imagine it would grow to this extent. Never did I see myself in an office where I spend hours on end and still never finish the job. My job will never be done because it isn't a job! Jordan asks me every morning, "What do you have to do today?" My response, "My job doesn't come with a to do list." My work is led by my calling, my fire and passion. We all have a fire. A calling. I found mine. Don't be afraid to chase yours. It is that fire that stops you in your tracks. A fire that hurts because you feel it so deep. A fire that can never be extinguished, no matter what leaps you take or where you move. Walk your path. Open your heart to others. Take leaps of faith. Life would be pretty boring if we all sat in the comfort zone. [Insanely gorgeous photo cred to the extraordinary Ileana of Attimi Photography]

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Pay It Forward
  • Posted on February 1, 2017 4:23 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    For the last ten years, February 2nd has been a bittersweet day for me. While I wish our wedding day, conjured feelings of love and joy, my heart pulls the opposite way. My day was lost stolen by my eating disorder. This is a notion not many can understand or relate to, even my own husband. Rather than look back on my wedding day as a Cinderella Story, I see it has my personal hell. I was a prisoner in my own mind, trapped inside calories and weight. My bright orange, digital scale giving me my daily worth. I watched the number sink lower as our wedding day approached. My close friends and family wrote off weight loss as "The Bride Diet" because it is normal for brides to shrink down for her big day, a notion I fight hard against today. I have waited ten years to reclaim our day. A day that should have been about Jordan and me, joining hearts and hands to spend our lives together. Six years ago, I spent our fourth wedding anniversary in treatment at the Carolina House. I spent that day grieving my wedding and what should have been. Deep down I had hope that one day I would reclaim what should have been mine. That day is now here. Jordan and I have had more bumps on the road than many of our friends. But we don't walk through life asking "Why?" We embrace the cards we are dealt and walk forward with faith, gratitude, perseverance and love. Someone once asked me what has carried Jordan and me through all of our tough times. It took me no time to answer: laughter. Jordan isn't my rock. He melts and falls with me, but I can always count on him to make me laugh. Even on our worst days, his light heart brings a smile to my face. He reminds me that laughter and joy are never far away, some days we just have to look a bit harder to see them. Six years ago, Christy asked me what recovery looked like. And six years later, my answer has slightly changed. It used to be walking on the beach with Jordan, but now it is skipping. Our life and our love has been tested over and over again. My heart is filled with more love and gratitude I can't help but kick my feet up in the sand and skip with joy. My energy is no longer spent on what I look like, how much I weigh or what people thing. My energy is spent feeling the joy, the sadness and every emotion life throws my way. I am living life. And tomorrow, Jordan and I will reclaim the day that was ours all along. A video posted by McCall Manning Dempsey (@mccalldempsey) on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:47am PST ​ Cheers to ten years...and cheers to LIFE and LOVE.

    Eating Disorder, Live Life, Relationships
  • Posted on December 29, 2015 8:09 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    shitting rainbows It's my favorite saying. If you've ever heard me speak about my journey to recovery and life thereafter then you've heard me say it plenty. Unless there were teachers in the room, then I try to clean up my act for school kiddies. So what does it mean? Exactly what you think. My recovery and life is about being authentic and real. It is not about candy coating my story to be anything but what it really is. I strive to never shit rainbows, paint a smile on my face and pretend like everything is fantastic. I am conscious in my writing and my work to be real and authentic - whatever it may be. So as 2015 comes to a close, what do I think about this year? Ugh. Poetic, I know, but it is all I've got right now. It has been a hell of a year to say the least and tonight finds me in a pretty bitter mood. There is no doubt each of you know how absolutely grateful my heart is for the love and prayers this year, but let's call a spade a spade - cancer sucks...and pediatric cancer, well, you can insert your own four letter word here. And truth is, we were lucky when it came to cancer and our prognosis. But when people tell me that we got a 'good' cancer diagnosis, I want to punch them in the face and ask: Do you want your child to be 'lucky' with cancer or would you rather your child not have cancer at all? And then I open Facebook to see another life lost to cancer, taken too soon. I see another mother posting a picture of her child, a child she had to bury. I look at Marjorie and count my blessings. Life is so unfair and so confusing. But I know one thing to be true: Comparison is the thief of joy - and emotions. I can't let another person's story or sadness take away from the hurt in my heart. And I don't. I have even had these honest conversations with mothers who have lost their children. I deserve to feel it all, no matter what the prognosis. Cancer sucks. And 2015 sucked too. AND (because life doesn't have to be one or the other) it was a great year in so many ways - a new house to finally call our own, Manning's milestones, Marjorie turning one and too many giggles, big laughs and family hugs to count. When I brought Manning to the doctor today, I knew it might be emotional. But he kept me laughing because he insisted to bring his "Lilly" aka stuffed puppy into the doctor. He was happy as a clam and I thought we were on the mend from a little bad cold.   Wrong again. RSV. Seriously? Thankfully, we are on the downswing of it so their isn't much worry for him, but then there is Marjorie. Oh my Marjorie. Let's stay away from this diagnosis shall we? We left the doctor with our shiny new 'puppy' nebulizer. Yes, it is in the shape of a puppy with a dinosaur mask to boot. It is as random as our lives so the puppy/dinosaur mask combo fits in perfectly. Have you ever tried giving an almost four year old a nebulizer that jacks him up and an antibiotic? I'm sure so many of you have and can empathize that it is the equivalent of putting a button up sweater vest on a lizard going through a crack withdrawal...who is also chasing a bug. Jordan and I begged, pleaded, bribed and threatened Manning to take his medicine. Pretty sure we offered him the deed to the house, but he still wouldn't take the antibiotic. Thankfully, the nebulizer went a tiny bit better and we eventually got the meds in him - God bless 'chocolate nilk' with A LOT of chocolate. My nerves were fried after today's medical escapades as I went to rock Marjorie to bed. I do it every night because it is my favorite thing. It calms me and puts me at ease. Tonight I needed it. What I didn't know is that tonight would be a tearful rock. As I hummed our song and listened to the whir of her sound machine, my medical-mom-mode cracked and the tears fell...and fell. I will never be able to wrap my mind around what the last year and a half has been. It is my job to protect my babies and some days it feels like the hits keep coming. Yes, I know Manning will be just fine, but it is another day, another diagnosis. Another medical device to learn and administer. Another reminder that no matter what I do, I can't put my babies in a bubble. But maybe that's not the goal? Maybe we aren't suppose to protect them, rather we are to teach them how to take care of themselves - even if that means wrestling a lizard to the ground to give him medicine. Yes, maybe that is what it is all about. Maybe the mommas who have children with chronic illness and special needs are meant to teach their babies and others what it is like to not just take care, but really love unconditionally. Maybe cancer happens to show us what good there is in the world and how amazing the human spirit is. Maybe children die so that we can hug our own babies tighter and inspire others to live more fully in honor of those who have been taken too soon. A few weeks ago, Kim Bowman posted about the fourth anniversary of her daughter, Bella, passing. I was blown away with her words: Today is the day the Lord received Bella back into His arms. At 6:22am 4 years ago Trey and I held Bella while she took her last breath.  I can still remember the feel of her warm body in my arms. We are not going to be sad today because we are going to think of all the wonderful things God has given us the past 4 years. He has allowed us to be the messenger to help so many families in honor of our sweet Bella. She is guiding us and showing our purpose here on Earth. Our prayers go out to all the families who have recently lost their children and pray that they have the strength to get through their first Christmas without their children. As I always say, hold your children tight, enjoy their presence and don't lose sight of how precious they are because these children are gifts from God and you never know what life has in store for you and your family. Kim's words sum it up beautifully. There is nothing left for me to say except to encourage you to embrace the storm clouds and whatever you feel in your heart. Don't compare your hurt to others. There is enough empathy and compassion to go around. And for goodness sake don't shit rainbows. Don't pretend -  own it, feel it, talk about it. Sending you lots of love and real rainbows... McCall

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Faith
  • Posted on August 5, 2015 1:04 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Let me set the scene: I currently live somewhere between gratitude and sheer anxiety and terror. My to-do list is light years long and it is completely trumped by my fear over what may or may not happen to my children. I mean, can you blame me? Within a year, my daughter has spent more time in the hospital than my entire family combined ever has. We have a scan this Friday, but of course, it is not an in and out scan. It is a PET Scan that includes a type of nuclear medicine to help us see how active the remaining neuroblastoma cells are. I received a call yesterday from the Nuclear Medicine Tech asking if Marjorie started her drops. Um, what drops? No one told me about starting her drops that protect her thyroid from the scan. Because, like every scan, there is radiation and a risk. Awesome. Enter: panic. I immediately reach out to our stellar Oncology nurse, Jess, who quickly calls in the drops and says it is totally fine. The drops won't be ready until 5pm today so I just have to accept this. Jess and our oncology team says it is perfectly fine to start later today. But it is hard for a momma bear to say it's fine when I don't want my daughter doing the scan in the first place. My mind jumps straight to all of the possibilities down the road. Cancer treatment comes with a hefty price tag: chemo can cause more cancer, chemo can cause heart issues, hearing issues, etc. and of course scan radiation can cause cancer. Cancer alone is enough to torture the mind of any parent, but the treatment of it all is simply brutal. I am dwelling in a place of such anger. Anger that we have to deal with this. Anger I did not get the drops in time. Anger that my baby has to be sedated, again. But bottom line: anger that this has even happened in the first place. Cancer sucks. And I am so damn mad that we now own the label of pediatric cancer. And no, saying 'survivor' after it does not make me feel better. I did not want this label to begin with. So as I sit in my anger, going back to therapy 101 'Feel your feelings,' that foggy cloud of guilt comes rolling in. I should be counting my blessings we only endured two rounds of chemo and that we are under observation now. Millions of others (many of whom I see daily on Facebook) endure round after round and unimaginable side effects. And the biggest: so many parents have lost their children to this dreadful disease. But I know better, I can't hang in this place of guilt. I know that the mom whose daughter died of cancer and the mom whose son is going through round after round would sit with me in this place of anger and tell me not to feel guilty. Just as I sit with my friends and tell them that their child's scraped knee deserves as much compassion as Marjorie. I basically revert back to my own blog: Compassionate Pizza. Just because I write about something does not mean I practice it perfectly. This is all a crazy balancing act of practice. The guilt is simply trying to overshadow the anger and I know I have every right to be angry. The problem is, when do I have the time to feel the feelings? We are building a house and it is almost finished. Instead of enjoying these last few weeks putting the finishing touches on it, I am covered in anxiety over how to fit it in. My MacBook Pro is on its last leg, making my ability to catch up on work (aka my passion and joy) impossible. My son is out of school until next Thursday and Marjorie has four appointments (including the scan) between now and then. And of course there is also the glorious chore of packing the house for our move in a few weeks. So amidst my day to day chaos, the hole in my heart does not seem to be adhering to my to do list. This journey, this pediatric cancer whirlwind, has put a massive dent in my soul and I can't seem to repair it. I know time will heal it, but all I want is to find a little bit of time for me to ache. To sit and hurt and cry. I know that sounds strange, but sadly I know that is the only thing that will repair my spirit. It is so frustrating when you know the solution, but you can't make it work. I love my children with every fiber in my body. I want nothing more in life than to watch them grow up and discover who they are. I want them to be happy. I want them to find love and chase their dreams. I want them to know that no matter where life takes them, I will always and forever be their momma and will always love them. That is my only wish in life and in this moment, all I feel is terror for my children. My son had a scrap on his knee a few weeks ago, and my mind immediately jumped to staph infection. I then had visions of the PICU. Brene Brown, my bestie/dinner date, calls this Foreboding Joy. Joy is a terrifying emotion to feel when you know first hand what it feels like to have it ripped from under you. I am so thankful to Brene's work that helps me identify my fear so that I can process through it. Of course, I haven't processed through it yet, but when I do you all will be the first to know. I feel like I am living in the ultimate Foreboding Joy challenge. Ask any pediatric cancer mom? Hell, ask any mom! When you've seen your precious baby endure so much in less than a year, all I want is to cover both of my children in a bubble wrap and never let them go. But I can't. I won't. We live on. I recognize when that fear creeps in. I acknowledge it and remind myself that just because Marjorie got cancer does not mean she is going anywhere. As always, easier said than done. The night we received Marjorie's cancer diagnosis, I rocked her to sleep and whispered in her ear: "No, you don't baby girl. You hear me? Momma is building you a new house with a pretty pink room. You will go to dance recitals and camp Green Cove. You will go to college and chase your dreams. And, Marjorie, your daddy will walk you down that aisle." Tell me how do you not play that moment on repeat in your mind. Every scan and appointment sends my anxiety and fear into a tailspin, which leaks out as anger and to do list angst. I forebode joy like it's my job. Like I said, I don't have the answers yet of how to trek through this muck. I don't think I will ever have a specific answer other than 'just keep swimming' - and just keep living, thriving and seeking joy. I've discovered life is not really about finding the answers; rather it is about being aware of your emotions and actions, examining them, processing them and learning from them to move forward. Ultimately, living your life in a more effective and fulfilling way. I refuse to raise my children in a foreboding joy house of survival. We will live and thrive. We will dance in our new kitchen just because we feel like it. We will read stories and build forts with boxes. We will play dress up in our new closet. My family will not forebode the joy that it is in front of us. I will not forebode it. Never have, never will.    

    Authentic, Brene Brown, Motherhood
  • Posted on July 7, 2015 2:40 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    'My daughter has cancer' is a sentence I will never get used to saying outline, nor do I want to. Today, I had to tell that to a stranger in the grocery store when she asked about Marjorie's PICC line. "My daughter has cancer." Her simple question was one of the hardest I've ever had to answer and it left me in tears on Aisle 10. I haven't cried in weeks, like really cry, ugly cry. I've wanted to, many times, but the tears never came. It was as if my brain knew I was not yet capable to handle the emotional onslaught. I guess my brain now deems me worthy because the feelings have come at me like a wrecking ball in the last 24-hours. In my ginormous rolodex of feelings, what I feel most is anger. I am so damn mad my daughter is going through this. I am so angry that, once again, life has dealt us a super shitty hand. I hate feeling like I can't form a sentence or think through a simple grocery list. I am tired of being tired. I want to be selfish. I want just one hour alone in bed, one hour of escape. I want to curl up and cry, but my body doesn't let me cry. I've worked so hard these last few years to get in touch with what I feel and to have that ripped away from me is excruciating. This computer, my tired and aging MacBook is my sanctuary. My blog is my outlet. It is the only place where my fingers fly without hesitation and my heart pours onto the keyboard. Talking on the phone is too difficult. It is hard for me to sometimes talk to my best friends about how I am doing. I can only verbalize the basics, not my feelings inside. So I write, I type them out. I live with blurry, tired vision in my own world. My world where time seems to stand still and only Marjorie exists. But it isn't a world. It is like living in a clear box and watching the world pass us by while we wait. We wait for the next dose of medicine, for the next PICC line flush, for the next scan. Yes, we wait. Time stands still. And yet time is the one thing I need. I feel like Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell, "No time. There's never anytime." I need time. I need time to finish building the house that we started a month before our world came crashing down. I need time to sort through the endless stack of medical bills and paperwork on my desk. I selfishly want time for myself to sleep and rest my body. But when I do have time in that hour or so when Marjorie is naps, I find myself wandering through the quiet house unable to accomplish any of my to dos, much less process my feelings and thoughts. Last night the emotional wrecking ball finally hit as I rocked my precious baby to sleep. I stared at her precious face and tears poured down mine. It was the first time I have felt anything in weeks. The last real cry I had was the day after Marjorie's surgery when she was in the PICU. These cries are deep, painful and filled with raw motherly love, a love so deep it hurts. A hurt that leaves me winded and exhausted. Jordan found me in my puddle of tears and silently wrapped his arms around me. I sobbed harder. Louder. No longer caring if Marjorie woke up. I couldn't help it. The tears were out of my control. I choked out to him how angry I was; my emotional floodgates opened and my emotions poured out. I screamed out, "Why, God? Why my baby."  The exact question I cried out the day we received her cancer diagnosis Jordan hugged me tighter and simply said, "I'm angry too, baby. I am too." I knew those emotions were coming. I was not afraid, rather I welcomed them, even as painful as it was (and still is), I knew I was long overdue to feel them. I found comfort knowing the tears would not flow forever, just like this too will pass. The anger and tears were a necessary part of this journey. Accepting them and standing in the puddle will allow me to step forward. Knowing that pain doesn't last is such a gift, but what is a bigger gift, is knowing what I need during these times. I needed quiet. I needed my family. I needed snuggles from my son and my husband's embrace. I needed him to tell me that he was scared and angry too. That underneath his eternal optimism, there are real feelings there. People always say, "Stay strong." There is nothing wrong with telling me nor anyone else that, but I see strength in a different light. To me, being strong doesn't mean putting on a 'brave' face and not crying. Bravery is seen when you allow the tears to flow and your emotions to pour out. Strength is the ability to own your feelings and to show up and feel them. While this post may not be filled with songs of gratitude, it is no less positive or vulnerable than the rest. It does not cause any need for alarm or worry for it is a post of strength. I am okay.  This is me, simply staying strong, finding bravery in my cries and strength in my tears.

    Authentic, Cancer, Motherhood