The Official Launch: halliestrong.org

Nothing about this post is my actual Mother’s Day dream, it is instead our version of making lemonade out of the lemons that life has given us.

This Mother’s Day should feature Hallie tormenting our morning, waking us up far too early, coffee galore. Instead, it features her empty room and our empty arms. Kevin asked me today how I was feeling leading up to Sunday and while I feel a million things, all I could muster was simply, “I’m just sad.”

And I am sad. I will be sad for the rest of my life over what our life should have been, what Hallie’s life could’ve been. We are 18 months removed from cancer, 14 months removed from treatment and it’s still impossible to come to grips with our reality. We are working hard at that, though. We vowed to make a difference in Hallie’s name and on what would’ve been her first birthday we announced plans for The HallieStrong Foundation. Since then, we’ve worked our butts off to launch it all and we couldn’t be prouder this Mother’s Day weekend to officially launch the first phase of it in our sweet Hallie’s memory.

And so, we humbly present to you today, The HallieStrong Foundation & our official website: halliestrong.org. We are also on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.  While we have big plans of where we want to go with the Foundation, we launch today with our first two initiatives: Hallie’s Hope & the #HallieStrongWarriors blog.

The mission of Hallie’s Hope is to deliver acts of hope, by way of care packages featuring socks, to those battling cancer today. Why socks? Check out why on the website! Our hope is that each care package spurs some much needed encouragement & laughter amidst impossible situations. That was, after all, our saving grace.

The mission of the #HallieStrongWarriors blog is to surface the stories of those battling cancer in an effort to minimize the isolating nature of cancer, to normalize the highs and lows of the fight and most importantly, to celebrate the incredible stories of the fierce courage and strength inevitably born in such impossible circumstances. We believe that by doing so, we can create a community that is better equipped to talk about cancer and it’s overreaching impact. No #HallieStrongWarrior fights alone!

Our big ask today is to visit, follow and share our website & social media pages. Read about our mission & support us in our efforts! We are currently in the process of becoming a 501(c) tax exempt organization. We simply want to positively impact as many people as we possibly can, across every platform that means so much to us. Hallie deserves nothing but the best and we have big plans to deliver on that.

Thank you for your continued support and we wish every Mama out there a very happy Mother’s Day!

Kevin & Bethany

 

 

Happy 1st Birthday Hallie!

This is your day Hallie! A day that has our hearts in a million pieces, so much so that we don’t quite have the words to articulate it to the world. Instead of even trying, we use this day instead to announce some exciting things we have in the works to honor you, kid. You deserve the world and more and we are so proud to take these first steps in honoring your legacy.

And so, today, on your first birthday, we are excited to announce the creation of Hallie’s Hope! Our entire purpose is to honor those tiny footprints of yours that left such an enormous imprint of hope and strength on our lives, and it’s time to bring that unmatched hope and strength of yours to those who need it most.

Hallie’s Hope is designed initially to serve all the #halliestrong warriors out there battling cancer. We know firsthand the enormous battle that fighting cancer is and everybody needs (and deserves) a little hope in those dark days. We also know that the impact of cancer doesn’t magically go away with a clear scan, so we will work to bring that same strength and hope to those warriors who are learning to live as survivors. Lastly, we will honor and recognize the warriors who choose to join these cancer warriors in their journey – the close friends and family members that become care takers. Who, without pause, jump into the messy and the ugly that cancer is, to support, to aid, to do anything necessary to see their loved one through. We too know that requires enormous strength (aren’t you so proud of your Dad, Hallie?!). No one ever tells these people how much cancer will impact and change them, too, and we are going to change that!

Moments of levity are what got us through our battle so you will see a lot of that sewn into how we drive the purpose of Hallie’s Hope forward. We believe humor would’ve been one of your greatest strengths Hallie, second only to mine, right?!

What will give us the ability to act on all these initiatives and what we are ultimately so excited to also announce today is the creation of the HallieStrong Foundation. The Foundation will give us the ability to fundraise to make an even greater impact in spreading acts of Hallie’s Hope. We have visions of 5k’s, golf outings, fundraisers, etc. My biggest goal and what we are working so hard for down the road is the vision I have for a gala! Tons of people, gathered in your name, with the sole common purpose to make sure no one ever forgets your legacy. We are nearly finished with the process of becoming an official 501(c) non profit.

We clearly have so many hopes and dreams – really, you should see our business plans! Our desire is to do this right for Hallie so you’ll see this all unfold over time but we simply couldn’t pass up taking today, her birthday, to announce it all coming together. We hope it makes you proud Hallie! It’s the absolute least we could do and it brings us so much joy as your parents to serve you in such a meaningful way.

We will be launching our website & social media sites soon, we will make sure to announce everything here so you’ll be able to connect directly with it all. In the meantime, if you know a warrior (or if you are one!) that would benefit from Hallie’s Hope, email us at hallieshope@halliestrong.org.

You’ll also start to see updates to how we blog through the website, but have no fear, this personal blog of ours isn’t going anywhere. My hope is that because we are taking action for Hallie, I’ll find my way with words again and be able to let people in, again.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for hopping on this ride with us. It has made me and Kevin so happy to dive head first into it all. We have big hopes and dreams for where this can go and our daughter deserves it all. We have so many platforms because of our story and the fact that we can now go out and impact those in Hallie’s name is a opportunity that we, her parents, so desperately needed. Especially today, as we mark such a painful day. Can you imagine the party she’s having in Heaven?

As for us, we escaped to the beach this weekend to mark her birthday together in a place that we would’ve undoubtedly made a lot of family memories at. We are currently sitting under stormy skies and I can’t help but know she totally had a hand in that. Truly her Mama’s daughter. Love you forever Hallie!

One Year Appt – Cancer Free!

Another wildly huge milestone achieved: one year post treatment, still cancer free ✔️ For the past year, I’ve celebrated these milestones with such joy & pure candor and yesterday we made a few calls, sent a few texts and were in bed by 7 with Season 6 of Parenthood. I think we can simply mark this season of life with the title of, “exhausted.”

I will share, albeit hesitantly because you know, “jinx!, but my Doctors this time around chose to forego scans and opted only for the physical exam & PAP. Because of my progress over the past year, they recommended that scans be pushed to every six months, meaning my next scan will be in June. Big deal, right?!

It’s a great milestone for us – an enormous one really. I love my doctors confidence and I’m going to ride their coattails forever on it. I’m pretty sure it’s made me “feel” things in my body at a def con 5 status over the past week and still this morning, knowing I didn’t have a scan. Is that headache a brain tumor? Is that tightness in my chest cancer spread? Or is it because I just flew to PHX and I think I got coughed on 5 times directly on the plane? 99% chance it’s the latter but rationale thinking doesn’t always work in a cancer survivors brain. I can feel myself coming to grips with being 16 months cancer free & being one year out of treatment but I can see & feel how much healing is still to be had. It has been a much bigger task that we could’ve ever imagined, tackling all the baggage that comes with cancer and in the heat of those moments, we simply say to ourselves, “progress not perfection.”

This blog has collected some cobwebs as of late as my physical desire to let people in just hasn’t been there. It’s not for lack of love for you all & it surely isn’t for lack of our need for your continued support. I just simply haven’t found myself capable of opening up. As we cross this milestone and add it to hopefully a very, very long list of similar milestones, we continue to find a way to start each morning feeling grateful that I am alive. And that I have crazy, wacky, curly hair.

We are forever grateful for the way in which you all have walked with us the past 16 months & specifically during treatment as I think back all your prayers, support & acts of kindness. It inspired me every step of the way.

We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers!

All our love, Beef & Kevin

That Week

The power of perspective. You may see this picture and think, “ugh, chemo, the worst!” And well, you’re right, but I see this picture pop up on my timehop and I’m like what. a. week. that was. I vividly remember how happy I was to be in that chair.

Do you guys remember this week, last year?! The lead up to that picture?! The three day stay in the hospital, quarantined from germs that could’ve killed me, all while Paisley took on a skunk and lost mightily, making our home inhabitable upon my release. Every carpet & piece of furniture had to be professionally cleaned, while every piece of clothing we owned was dipped in vinegar and also washed. I was released from the hospital, stayed in a hotel until Tuesday morning, and we drove from there to chemo.

Anytime I’m frustrated, angry or having a bad day, that’s the weekend I think of as a barometer to gauge how bad my current circumstances really are. Spoiler alert, it rarely compares! It is comical now, but what a wild ride that was. A wild, wild ride. Anyone that doesn’t believe in miracles needs to understand Paisley still being loved & cared for in our family is the greatest miracle ever recorded. 😂

But. I’ve turned the tables on what this week means for us this year. I’ve conquered some big milestones!

One, I returned back to that very chair for the first time Tuesday to get my port flushed. (For all you nurses out there, my port was flushed at my scans so I’m not that bad of a patient!!) I had neglected it for a variety of reasons, all of which fall under the PTSD umbrella towards that place, the memories, cancer, that life. I’m not saying it was rational but for once, something needed to be on my terms. Long story short (and some good advice from a close friend!), I made the appointment & conquered the PTSD on Tuesday. I got to see my chemo nurse Patty for the first time in a year! She took care of me as if I were her daughter, she fought alongside me! That hug is one I’ll never forget! Do you know that she had no idea that I had red hair, just like her?! That stopped me in my tracks. She only knew me as bald! We chatted, she had tears in her eyes. She asked me about Kevin, about adoption, about everything. She remembered every detail of my life. What a saint. My hero! I felt like I made her proud and apparently that is quite a love language of mine.

I walked out with my head held high. I felt a sense of peace. That was progress in healing.

That night, I felt led to continue to push myself. I tackled the box in the corner of my room – yes, the one filled with every card, every gift, everything we’ve been given since this all started. It has the jersey I gave Kevin to tell him we were pregnant, the elephant blanket my parents bought for Hallie the day we told them they were going to be grandparents. The Hawks bib my brother & sister in law bought for their niece at a farmers market. Every physical thing we had for Hallie. I started with the smaller cards and created a scrapbook as I never want to part ways with any card. I re-read every word of every card and while it’s infinitely difficult, I was blown away again by the incredible care people showed for us & how loved Hallie is. I only got about a fourth of the way through the box, but there was such peace in that. I don’t think that’s going to be a process I speed through with as emotional as it is but in a weird way I felt like we honored Hallie a bit that night by starting to find a home for all the physical pieces of her life that mean so much to us. She sure doesn’t belong in a box!

I like this idea of wiping out awful memories with actions that conquer the control cancer had over our lives for too long. I find a lot of hope in that as we look towards the next few months and what they mean for us now vs. what they were last year and ultimately what they should’ve been. Slowly finding my way back to being a control freak – in a way that heals!

Do Overs

A pretty powerful letter circulated throughout social media last week. If you haven’t read it, you must. It’s a beautiful 27 year old’s final letter to the world before dying from cancer shortly after sharing. Find it here. 27 years old. Gone too soon but clearly wise beyond her years. And cancer, you really really suck.

Having walked her walk and having had to grasp the reality of my own earthly mortality, I give her a resounding +1 to everything she said. There is beauty in being able to share that type of perspective, that type of heartbreak. Finding a way to be grateful, eating the cake, zero guilt, spending money on experiences vs. things, not complaining in general but especially not complaining about things that some people would be grateful just to have. Those things all hit home!

Building on why that letter resonated so much for us, I think it’s a lot of things. One part because it’s just tragic. One part because we get a lot of what she’s saying and I admire how frank she was with it all. One part because her name is Holly, so close to Hallie. Many parts because that could’ve been me. That would’ve been me if it weren’t for Hallie. I had tears in my eyes the entire time and as I re-read it, I couldn’t help but feel my mind wander to what my letter would’ve said.

It would say a lot and my hope is I have a lot more time to think about it (😜) but I know for certain right now that my letter would have a big chunk in it about do overs. That’s right, do overs.

Allow me to explain.

It’s been an exhaustive stretch. And by stretch I mean 15 months. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you are walked through the treatment plan and you’re made aware of all the struggles that come. You learn when to call the doctors vs. go straight to the hospital. What you don’t give thought to is the implications of all that: emotionally, mentally, physically & spiritually. You simply enter survival mode. Survival mode is literally checking off boxes each day. No thought, you are purely robotic. And then you get a clean bill of health & you enter a honeymoon phase. You are simply grateful to be alive, and as you should be. Too many people never get even that when diagnosed. No low moment or side effect can touch your spirit!

And then reality sets in. The side effects don’t go away and in some cases get worse. You begin to actually process your own mortality. You begin to understand the magnitude of all you went through. As life moves on without skipping a beat, you look up & catch your breath to find you’re a totally different person. And then you start to feel the loss of your daughter. It was real all along but survival mode yields no ability to process reality. To feel reality. If you aren’t processing or feeling, you aren’t moving forward and as a result, things get really hard. A completely different kind of hard than chemo days or radiation fallout. A hard that the only way I can describe it is by sharing what I would say to Kevin in those dark moments, “I’d take chemo any day over this.” And I meant every word of it.

Then you add on my personality type to that. I’m a control freak. A lover of details and one that wants everything to be perfect. The more involved the merrier. The ultimate people pleaser and also fiercely protective. I wish someone would’ve said to me, “yeah that’s like the worst personality type ever for what you’re about to go through.” 😜

I wish I would’ve known what Holly knew when I was diagnosed – that life’s true perfection is really in the imperfection. Because of all of this – cancer, grief, my personality, I can rattle off so many dates and days and events that didn’t go right this past year, especially the second half. And I can rattle off roller coasters of emotions that followed in the wake. Our anniversary was the best example of this. We talked up that night so much, we made it an “escape,” and while it was great to start, it went downhill fast. Disaster, for a lot of different reasons. Cancer ruined another night. Another memory stolen from us, another memory filed away under, “low point.”

It was admittedly yet another hard thing to work through. It took a lot. As we started to piece together the why, we started to realize the real opportunity for us – our key to surviving this stage. A radical idea let me tell you, we decided to simply, try again. A do over.

And so we planned a take two. As we were driving to the Herrington, Kevin asked if I was excited and I simply said two words: low expectations.

In turn, we had a most wonderful night. And born was this concept that has become an instant ESPN classic in our home: do overs. It doesn’t matter how big or small – whether a conversation mishandled, a plan gone all wrong, a day that you just can’t get out of bed, an event that you want to go but can’t because that should be us or the reminder of Hallie that it is. Instead of beating ourselves up over that “failure,” we’ve instead granted ourselves the grace to simply try again until you make that memory you so desperately need. We’ve strung together some great memories over the past couple of weeks, which I’m really really proud of us for. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt genuinely good about something.

So there you have it, do overs and low expectations. The absolute opposite of how I’ve always lived life. Who knew it to be the prized possessions of cancer survivors and grieving parents. For now, it is the winning combination in the Hart home & a guaranteed part in my letter someday!

Cancer & TV

Allow me to write about something today that veers away from my normal personal life reflections. This has nothing to do with anything, but what the heck. It’s a topic always on my mind and in our conversations, so why not share! The topic? How cancer and/or death is portrayed on TV and in movies, and how way, wildly off it is. I’ve got a bone to pick with you Hollywood!

Think of any movie or tv show you’ve watched where it has featured cancer or death in some way – and now think to the next scene or episode – it’s gone! People are happy, instantaneously. Cancer is healed in like one doctors appointment and life returns to normal, the next day. Smiles are huge, life is great!

What a farce! And what a missed opportunity on a platform that reaches so far and wide. The presence of cancer and/or death on TV is actually quite prevalent. It’s like when you see a red slug bug at the start of your road trip, you call it out and then for the rest of the trip, you swear the only cars on the road are red slug bugs. References to cancer really are everywhere, most people are just oblivious to it since there’s no personal connection. And because it glazes over the brutal reality. Sadly, it sets up anyone that goes through either cancer or loss for such failure. It’s supposed to be easy, don’t you know?! It also sets up networks of support for failure too as that’s all that’s a reference point, unless you’ve had someone close to you go through it. Granted, there’s a happy median to it – if I were to sit here and detail the lows of the lows of either a cancer fight, or losing a daughter, I would scare everyone away from ever leaving their house or getting checked out again. But what a huge opportunity there is in this world to bring people in more to the realities of cancer and the way it grips and destroys ever fiber of your being. You rebuild, you bounce back but you are never the same. And likewise, the same goes for grief. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been watching something and I’m like, “fake news!!” to how something is all portrayed. It really grinds my gears.

But. All that said and why this is even on my mind this frigid Saturday morning (you have to be wondering why this is a bone I want to pick as it can seem so trivial) is because after an exhaustive holiday season, I’ve been hitting the hay early this week and I will usually watch an episode of Parenthood. Have you seen it? It’s amazing. I believe that show is as “real” as you can find on TV in terms of portraying family dynamics and how they navigate the highs and lows of life. They hit it all. Including cancer. And this week, I watched the episode where the Mom is diagnosed. I sound silly saying this since it’s fake but the episode where she is actually diagnosed mirrored my experience so much. Too much, actually. Kind of creepy really! Like right down to the first doctor experience! I laid in bed and balled of course (probably too soon?) but I also thought to myself – everyone should see this. Cancer patients/survivors because they nailed the emotions & the relationships. Spouses because they hit on exactly how they feel. Families and friends, that way, you don’t have to actually go through cancer to get a glimpse into how ugly it is and the different roles personalities play and how important they all are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of true reality but I was actually quite impressed with it.

I have felt this need and want to help the cancer community so much. I don’t know how yet but I will! If this silly TV show can help, that says to me there is an enormous opportunity out there to better support, to better connect the dots of what cancer and loss really do to mainly the patient yes, but also to everyone involved that is impacted!

So, hey, maybe this is my calling to make my own TV show or movie. I did have a flourishing acting career during my elementary years, I was once even the rapping narrator of Jack & the Beanstalk. Yes, you read that right, I “rapped.” And don’t even get me started on how much I nailed my non-speaking role as a bunny in Snow White. 😀 Pure acting genius!

Pockets of Joy

Low expectations. Two words I could’ve never imagined to be associated with my approach towards Christmas. Our goal this year was literally to survive Christmas. Survive! Survive the most magical time of year. So twisted and yet so real. I’ve been in writing hibernation as we’ve tackled this holiday season. One part because we’ve run ourselves into the ground in keeping busy, one part because my body has revolted against me in the form of colds & flu that had I gotten them last year at this time, I would’ve been hospitalized and one large part because words could never do justice to the daily power struggle between the magic of the season and the absence of Hallie.

As this holiday weekend was approaching my Mom texted me to keep low expectations and to face each day as if it was a normal day. They weren’t holidays, they weren’t special days. We took it to heart, gave ourselves permission to do it all one step at a time and promised each other to stick close together and to check in. You never know when or what could or would set either of us into a wave grief.

The result? Those low expectations delivered a few days full of incredible memories with family and friends, old & new, laughter until there were tears in a (accidentally) wildly inappropriate game, a new found love for onesies as adults, reflection on the big moments of 2017, a #1 fan photo shoot for our fave CMU lax player, a legit Christmas surprise from Kevin in the form of bikes and one freaking beta fish that Kevin won in our family white elephant that well, I think is gross. But, I guess that fish, Coach Q, is the greatest representation of our Christmas season – it truly is the simple things in life that make you happiest (as he is Amazon priming a way too aggressive habitat for this thing….).

Pride is something I feel right now when I say that we didn’t just survive Christmas, we truly enjoyed the festivities. It sure does not mean we didn’t have to power through difficult moments and it certainly doesn’t mean we wouldn’t trade it all in to have had the Christmas we should’ve had this year with Hallie, but while conquering yet another milestone, we were able to find pockets of joy that we are so thankful for. Turns out, low expectations are quite powerful. And so taking that fulfilled feeling despite our circumstances, we look forward, with hope, to the idea of what Christmas 2018 could look like for our family.

We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas with those closest to you. And while I hope Santa was great to you, I hope even more that you were surrounded by those you love most. We send you so much love!

Christmas Season

My favorite moments of the Christmas season are often the quiet moments – early in the morning before the world starts moving. I love having Christmas music playing low and it’s usually my time to let my mind wander. My mind this morning wanders everywhere. I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m hopeful, I’m joyful, I’m numb. I’m also still very much in the processing phase of what our lives looked like a year ago. This week, last year, actually makes me laugh. In the span of five days we closed on our home, moved into our home, wrapped up our CHI apartment, I had my port surgery, fainted after my port surgery, wore my last pair of mismatching socks to the hospital ever (sock shamed) & successfully shopped for a wig I’d need in three short weeks. How did I even function? All of this while recovering from major surgery and preparing for chemo/radiation, which started the following week. I’m shaking my head at it all – one because we are probably a little crazy, but more so because I can’t believe that was our life. I’m so deeply grateful that I’m healthy this year and not going through all of that right now.

And while I feel that level of gratitude that I’ve never experienced before, there’s a piece of me that wants nothing to do with the holidays this year. Bold statement from a tried and true Christmas lover like myself! The holidays are a stark reminder of what’s missing in our life. These quiet mornings that allow my mind to wander are so needed for my sanity but also pierce my soul as they should be mornings filled with baby giggles and Christmas jammies. I’ve found grief to be impossible in so many moments, but I had no idea what was coming for me as the calendar ticks closer to December 1st. Grief is obviously difficult at the pure fact of Hallie missing from our earthly life but what makes grief nearly impossible is the way it creeps in with no warning. And I feel like it’s magnified mightily during the holiday season, when days are usually filled with so much joy. We should be stockpiling toys and yet, ‘stuff’ doesn’t interest me one bit this Christmas season. I actually find myself resenting it a bit, to be honest. It all seems meaningless when we would trade everything we have and all that we are to have Hallie terrorizing our Christmas tree ornaments this morning.

That’s all obvious, though. Or at least for us.

What plagues me even more are the moments that you just don’t expect. Moments you can’t plan for. And when you’re a planner, my oh my, it can sure be paralyzing. At the risk of sounding dramatic, those moments are truly devastating. And they’re usually so random! You would think it’d be the obvious- seeing a baby girl in her mama’s arms, or a comment that is said and is just a total miss (regardless of intentions, which I know are usually always good!). We are actually pretty good at smiling and nodding through those moments, while silently cursing the world. If together, Kevin and I make eye contact and move on. If they happen while we aren’t together, we’ve actually amazed ourselves at our ability to rehash them, find a way to laugh and move on. You have too! But it’s the moments that something so small goes so wrong – I’m talking like fry sauce spilling or plans changing and suddenly your world tailspins. And then you feel stupid that something so small can trigger such a tailspin. And then you just realize how sad you are, how off you are. And then you realize again how much you’ve lost and changed physically and how frustrating it is to not even be able to function normally on top of it all. I call these moments, these days, my, “just go to bed and try again tomorrow” moments. I’m learning to not be so hard on myself but that is insanely easier said than done. This, y’all, is grief.

I had one of those nights last night, while out on a date night with Kevin. I hate it. I hate all of this. But I woke up this morning to Christmas decorations starting to take over our home and in the same breath that I say Christmas is so hard, it’s also such a savior. If none of this makes sense or doesn’t add up, I think that’s the whole point of grief. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t add up. Ever! It makes you feel a little crazy sometimes. All Kevin and I can do is keep talking, keep finding a way to laugh, and somehow keep being grateful for our second chance at life. And of course, keep praying for that baby of ours out there!

Here’s to making the most of this Christmas season as we try to navigate it all. 🧡🎄

Hospital Sunrise

Who has the app Timehop? It’s been both a blessing and a curse in my life. On the good days, it’s fun to walk down memory lane. It can sometimes be helpful to have a perspective reset that in the span of our lives, the past year has been just that, one year. But then on the bad days. The anniversaries. The unexpected moments that trigger a deep sadness, it’s a curse. A curse that I equate to a car accident on a highway – you know it’s going to be brutal but you just can help but look. 

I’d say each day for the past couple of months has been more of the latter for obvious reasons. Nothing like starting the day with a punch to the gut at what should have been. But just as there are unexpected triggers of sadness, there are posts that stop you in your tracks for the good. This was from yesterday: This won’t mean much to most of you and if we are speaking honestly, you’re probably pretty underwhelmed by this photo. But the story behind it? That was from my hospital room last year. The 6th floor and it was early. I remember the moment vividly. The nurse had just come in for rounds (aka shots, aka the worst). It was so dark in the room, Kevin was sound asleep. It was a rare moment alone and I remember glancing over and that sunrise captivating me. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a totally cheesy human, a total sucker for things to take as a sign. I took this as a beautiful sign amidst so much heartache and loss in those days. Amidst so much physical pain and setbacks. I snapped a picture, wanting to remember that moment. A sign from Hallie (a sign from God) that even through the darkest days, the fiercest storms, the sun will always rise. And when it does rise, it shines down on us, completely different people, changed forever by our circumstances but with a hope that carries us through. This belief is exactly why Hallie deserved her name, Hallie Hope. 🧡

We broke out of Loyola after nearly a week, a year ago today. I use the words “broke out” generously. I really mean we wheeled reaaaally slowly, took three steps and a break. One stair per five minutes. But eventually we made it home. We also shared with you all, for the first time, our little girl and her most perfect footprints and handprints.  One step in front of the other. We’ve conquered another day. 

We have officially entered the season of Thanksgiving and as I reconnected with an old friend last night, a nurse herself, it made me realize that I wanted to take a moment today to express our immense gratitude for our doctors and nurses at Loyola. That hospital stay was hard. It doesn’t need to be described and yet the care for my body and our hearts was simply incredible. Those nurses of mine, heroes. Real life heroes. And my doctors. I’m 370 days cancer free because of their expertise, giving us the ability to hope. We left that hospital with empty arms a year ago, a life we could’ve never imagined but just as there is always hope in that the sun will rise, we cling to the hope of the life in store for us and the baby out there that is meant to be ours. Hopefully sooner than later, of course. 🧡

HHH💖

This. This was our last family photo. Truth is I have zero recollection of taking this photo. At that point I had already been sedated prior to the epidural. According to Kevin I asked for it, saying it’d be our last family photo, and a whole lot of tears from the entire pre-op staff ensued. So I’m told.

It’s been 365 days since we lost Hallie and not one of those days makes sense. Those days have been filled with incredible loss and unbelievable circumstances. As we distance ourselves further from the physical treatment of beating cancer, it seems as though our loss becomes more tangible. Today, it just feels numb. Today, more than ever, my heart just wants to know the earthly why. My best attempt at articulating what today, what this week has felt like is paralyzing. It’s like we’ve been held hostage to these dates and the cost of what they all mean. Ever since this nightmare started, so many people have reached out with their favorite verse or sent me incredibly thoughtful words. I’ve kept an ongoing note on my phone where I have saved every one of them. I’ve referenced it more times than I can count over the past year. Today, I fixate on Philippians 4:7.

I read a blog the other day about interruptions in life and how no matter how small or how big they are, they are meant to seek our attention. To get us to slow down. To open our eyes and to give us the opportunity to identify those we should hold close when they need it most and to recognize when we ourselves need to be held. There is power in both. I’ve never been good at the latter but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned the past year is that there are just days you don’t have to be ok. You simply have to let go and allow yourself to be held by God’s grace. Today is that day in the biggest of ways. 

You left incredible footprints in this physical world Hallie, but your true footprint lives on forever in our hearts and in Heaven sweet girl. We would give anything to have your laughter fill our home these days. We can’t wait for the day that we will finally get to hold you. 💖 I will never let you go when I finally get that opportunity.  

As for us today, we are off to the airport to get off the grid for 48 hours with two of our best friends. Two people that have been so incredible to us and who we love so dearly. Two people that have walked this journey with us every day and who would’ve undoubtedly been the greatest honorary Aunt Noelle & Uncle David to Hallie. She totally would’ve had her first Taco Bell experience with them. We are honored to remember Hallie with them today and we are grateful to call them family. 

And although we are numb today, we believe to our core that Hallie would’ve been the happiest, funniest, biggest bundle of energy possible. We believe her legacy is one of love and laughter. And bravery. Find a way to honor her today. Hug your family and friends a little tighter. Be grateful for all you have in those closest to you, as that is what matters more than anything. And as we tried to do even in the hardest of moments, be brave enough to find a moment of laughter, a glimmer of hope on her behalf. And as always, share your stories with us when you have a moment that it just had to be Hallie. We love them! 

Love you Hallie girl 💖, forever and always.