I AM BRAVE! Marjorie’s Story

How do you tell your child they had cancer? How do you explain the magnitude of their first year of life?

You don’t. Well you do…when the time is right.

Today we had our yearly oncology appointment. I drag my heels making this appointment I dread it. This year I got a sinking feeling, not that cancer had returned (that lives in the back of your mind), but that Marjorie would ask me WHY?

“Why do we have to go to this doctor?”

“Why am I going to this hospital and Manning is not?”

And the dreaded: “What’s cancer?”

As we drove to the hospital, Marjorie happily munched her donut and didn’t ask a thing. As we entered the oncology waiting room, she immediately went to paint with the Art for the Heart volunteer.

Phew. Maybe I’ve avoided the explanation another year. I felt good about our appointment because I *thought* in my head there would not be any needles – just tummy check and urine.

As the nurse brought us to the back, he pointed to the room I hate. The room I haven’t been in since we had to readmit to the hospital for her second round of chemotherapy. I was deep in a state of shock and survival during that time.

Marjorie’s sweet, fine baby hairs had begun to fall out. I would wipe them off my hand stoically wondering where my emotions were. I could not be alone longer than to take a shower or I would break down in terror and tears.

My best friend, Shea, happened to be on shift when we had to return to the hospital. Her silent comfort and comical lack of hospital help kept me afloat.

As I walked into the small exam room today, I was instantly transported to that day five years ago. My heart tied in a knot and it was like I saw my former self sitting in the pleather chair. I handed Marjorie to Shea, so exhausted and drained I did not have the energy to give her a bottle.

We waited for what felt like hours for the initial labs and then headed to the adjacent hospital to check in, waiting some more. It was a long day and an even longer night with Marjorie’s chemotherapy.

Marjorie and I walked into the room today and I told myself it was going to be different. We were healthy and this was a check-up. Nothing more. Plus, Marjorie was in a great mood because I told her there would not be any ouchies today. Somehow in my mom brain, I forgot they draw blood at her appointments. I only remember the dreaded scans. Come to discover they drew the blood when she was under anesthesia. Mom note for next time: never say no ouchies. However, in hindsight it was probably a good thing I didn’t know because Marjorie would have locked herself in the car.


This year, Marjorie has developed what I can only describe as horrific doctor PTSD. She is absolutely terrified of doctors, hospitals and above all else – NEEDLES. All kids hate shots, but this girl takes it to a whole new level and it will shatter the hardest of all hearts.

When I saw the nurse come in with a urine cup and CBC kit, my heart raced. 

Oh shit, I thought, knowing there was once again nothing I could do to take the pain away from my baby. What I would give to let them poke me 1,000 times for her one blood draw.

Marjorie instantly began to shake when we told her the bad news. Not even my promises of Target shopping sprees eased her terror. The sweet nurse showed Marjorie the kit and let her hold and touch everything. Then it was time.

I did my very best to distract her with JoJo Siwa videos, but not even JoJo could help. Marjorie screeched. But not just a simple yell. In her own Miraculous Marjorie fashion she yelled, 

“I am BRAVE!


I am BRAVE!”

Tears ran down her face, my face and even the sweet nurses. We were blown away by her affirmations in a time of her greatest fear.

My girl…she never ceases to amaze me.

Marjorie asked to take a selfie for daddy to show him that she was BRAVE

The blood was drawn and the tears dried in an instant. Our sweet oncology team came in with a ‘Joy Jar’ for our brave girl. It was a jar of goodies, packaged and donated for cancer patients. It was the idea and passion project of another cancer warrior. Marjorie quickly forgot about the ouchie and was over the moon for her Joy Jar. I read the jar’s package:

Jessie Rees was a beautiful, athletic, smart and compassionate 12 year old girl who bravely fought two brain tumors (DIPG) for ten months and two days. Her fight started on March 3, 2011 and ended on January 5, 2012 when she earned her angel wings. During her courageous fight, Jessie decided to focus on helping other kids fighting cancer that couldn’t leave the hospital. This desire led to the creation of her fun-filled JoyJars® and Never Ever Give Up (aka: NEGU®) message.

As usual, I left the hospital emotional drained and overwhelmed with gratitude for my healthy girl. We celebrated with a lunch and a Target trip before picking up big brother from school. Who lovingly asked,

“How was your appointment, Marjorie?” Followed quickly by, “Did you have to get shots?”

Marjorie proudly showed off her Joy Jar, Target prize and gave Manning his Target prize for being the best big brother and forever unsung hero of her journey.

We are home and settled in on a rainy Friday. I am thankful for another year of not having to answer, “What is cancer, mom?”

I am extra thankful for my miraculous girl who teaches me every day not just to BE brave, but to say it out loud and own it…LIKE A BOSS.

I think we can all take a page out of Marjorie’s book today.

We are BRAVE.

Say it OUT LOUD. Yell it from the rooftops. Own it.

Thankful every day for all of our prayer warriors and angels above. God is truly good all of the time and we count our blessing every minute. 

Until next year cancer…

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  • Julie Earle Schreiber
    December 13, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Please tell Majorie thank you for being soooo very BRAVE and letting you tell her story today. I’m in Baton Rouge sitting in a hospital room on the cancer floor with my 89 year old mother- she was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I read your post to her and it’s exactly what she needed to hear! ? My mom said “We can certainly learn a lot from the the very young and the old!” She chooses not to say very old! Please tell Majorie that her bravery helped a very nice older lady in Baton Rouge and that we love Target too!

    • McCall Dempsey
      December 13, 2019 at 6:15 pm

      You and your precious mother are in our prayers. I remember taking my grandmother (Marjorie’s namesake) to OLOL hospital in BR when she was diagnosed with breast cancer around 88 years young. Their generation is simply the bravest and best of them all. Knowing you shared my Marjorie with her means the world. <3

  • Dawn S Liphart
    December 13, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    As I sit here at an OA retreat on my belly button birthday and wrestling with my eating disorder, I am reminded by your sweet precious daughter to shout out against my disease, “I am brave!” Thank you Marjorie and McCall for such a miraculous reminder.

  • Tereasa Olinde
    December 14, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    What a beautiful story of a truly amazing little girl! I hope to get to see her when you are home for the holidays. I admire you so much for all you are doing to help so many out there with eating disorders. You are truly amazing as well!

  • Kelli Avalos
    December 16, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Marjorie is so braveee!

    I knew Erik and Jessie Rees when I was in high school in Southern California. I even remember helping pack Joy Jars! Seeing one amazing family bring just a little bit of light to another amazing family’s very dim day is such a gift. Thank you for sharing, McCall <3