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Fear

the next 3 years after high school were a blur of coop dealing with everything that goes with having cancer. doctors appointments, procedures, medications, pain, getting sick, the most horrible things you could imagine seeing someone go through. several times i would go to sleep with everyone in my house and wake up to texts that coop had a fever and they were at the ER. it wasn’t uncommon for me to leave events or not go to things because i was just too worried that if something happened to coop i would be gone.

cancer held me back from A LOT.

and it wasn’t even my cancer.

it was the fear that coopers cancer had more control than i did. 

and that fear was valid, and at that time there was no way i was NOT going to live in fear. my brother had cancer and at the end of the day we NEVER knew if he would be “okay”. so you live in fear. or at least thats what i did. 

the problem with living in fear is that at some point your mind and body can no longer do it. you give up because you are exhausted with living a life of fear. thats what i did, i gave up. i gave up on friendships, on school, on whatever made me happy. i devoted 100% of my time to the fear that cooper would die and the perfect puzzle would be broken. 

but there comes a point where giving up gets exhausting and you long for those things that made you happy in the first place. 

for me this didn’t happen until after cooper passed away and i had to enter the “real world” again. over the last 2 years i’ve realized that my time on this earth is precious and i want to live it joyfully. i want to love the way Jesus loved and live the way he lived. i want to do things that bring me joy instead of doing things i hate. i want to be at peace with myself because i never know when he will call me home. 

its a choice, to live joyfully.

ask anyone who chooses joy and they will tell you its a choice. it is definitely not easy, but choosing joy instead of fear will win every time. 



Graduation

i don’t remember much from the first year of Coop being sick. i only remember super big moments like my high school graduation, Cooper had just been released from the hospital and was in isolation, meaning no one came in our house and Coop didn’t leave unless he was going to the doctors. his immune system was very weak so he could get sick easily, because of this he could not attend my graduation. luckily we had a very close family friend who was able to stay with him and take care of him so that my parents were able to attend the big day. 

its situations like this that i look back and try to digest how i was feeling.

because quite honestly even though it was MY graduation day, it was never about me. as a cancer sibling the light is never on you. you are constantly in the shadow of cancer.

the common questions you get asked as a sibling of someone going through cancer are something like,  

“hows coop doing?”

“how are your parents?”

“whens his treatment done?”

“does your family need anything?”

“does Coop need anything?”

i was never really asked how i was doing and thats no ones fault, it just wasn’t about me even when i needed it to be. thats one of the sacrifices you make when you try to assemble a puzzle thats not fitting together just right. the puzzle that was our family, all perfect and put together lovely, was suddenly broken. it was ripped apart and all the pieces were spread out unevenly. all six of us desperately trying to figure out how to put it back together all while knowing with everything in us that our puzzle could finish with one less piece. 

Cooper

before we dive into what life after loss looks like i should probably tell you how i got to that place.

january 31st, 2013 

after 2 months of my cooper being sick with any cold, flu, or tonsillitis you could think of he would be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia of the B-cells. i was just starting my second semester of my senior year of high school, i remember the 31st fell on a thursday because the next day was the big assembly that i was apart of… 

my parents and cooper had been gone all day when i finally got a text that said “we found out whats wrong with coop, we’ll be home soon”. i remember pacing back and forth through the empty house all by myself conjuring up all the possibilities of what could be wrong. the garage opened and in walked my parents and cooper, who was covered in hospital gear, and their faces red from tears. 

my step dad and coop went into his room to pack as my mom and i stood in the kitchen as she tried to explain to me what was wrong with cooper. i heard “leukemia” and thought “okay well what does that even mean?” and then i heard “blood cancer”. i still hear those words very clearly. i fell to floor immediately, because what else do you do but sob when you find out your 15 year old brother has cancer? immediately a million questions start racing through my mind, why are you packing? who is leaving? is he going to be okay? how long will this go on? will he be super sick? and the big one, will he die?

we went to the hospital where cooper would stay on and off for nearly 6 months. i remember being in the waiting room and having to call my sisters, julia and jenna. i remember julia specifically asking me, “will we be okay”. not will cooper be okay, will WE be okay. thats when i decided it was time to figure out how to be okay under these circumstances. 

january 31st, 2013 the day that changed the entire path of my life. 

Love Thyself

lately i’ve been figuring out how to love those who irritate me.

now i know someone just read that and got super offended because i said that people irritate me, but life is too short to worry about offending other people.

lets face it, in a world full of 7.53 billion people, we’re bound to find a couple we just don’t agree with. but God doesn’t call us to get along with every person he’s made, he calls us to love them. even if we don’t agree with them, or they annoy us, and especially when they hurt us.

we have to love them.

i struggle with that last one and i’m sure you do too. loving someone who HURT us? after all the pain they caused us, after the continued trauma or abuse or whatever the case may be, i need to love them? you may be thinking that they don’t deserve your love.

but who are you to say that they don’t deserve love?

you deserve love. and i’m sure you’ve hurt a lot of people too.

the key to loving someone who has hurt you is through forgiveness.

you must forgive them, no matter the circumstances and you must move on.

that is how you grow, love people, and more importantly find love for yourself.

you cannot love with a bitter heart. you cannot be kind to others when you have anger deeply rooted in the pain someone else has caused you, or the pain you caused yourself.

you see, i’ve realized that you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. you also can’t love someone, until you’ve learned to love yourself.

yes our job is to love thy neighbor, but what people often forget is to love thyself.

learn to love the difficult people in your life by learning to love yourself first. to be fully devoted to being a better human we must love.

Gracious & Grateful

gracious & grateful

to be gracious & to be grateful.

to be graceful in all that i do & to do everything with a grateful heart.

because when you stop and look around, life is pretty amazing.

but you have to stop. you have to stop going, going, going. you have to STOP. slow down and see what’s going on around you, see who is around you.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because i am all about remembering what i am grateful for (hence the name of this blog). one of my biggest fears is taking life for granted. i often have thoughts like, “what if my heart stopped beating right NOW, right this second, would i be full-filled with my life?”. if the answer to that question is no, then i change something. i STOP and i figure out how to be better and how to live my life better.

i re-center myself and focus on the things that bring me joy and love.

one of the many ways you can constantly be focusing on gratitude is to make sure you are creating the habit of stopping and thinking about what you are grateful for. i do this by taking my planner that i use to make to do lists as well as plan out my day and i write “10 things”. every day. i write 10 things i am grateful for. 10 THINGS. some days when i am super moody and just feeling down right ungrateful, i literally write “breathing” or “cheeseburgers” (but lets face the facts, i am ALWAYS grateful for cheeseburgers!). Other days when i feel sentimental and super grateful i go into deeper answers to the “10 things” list. it doesn’t have to be a perfect list and it doesn’t have to be fancy, you can be grateful for anything from the dirty laundry to your education. just CHOOSE to be grateful for something, not just around the holidays, but all the time. choose joy and choose to have a grateful heart.

when i was thinking about starting a blog the thing that was stopping me (besides the lack of confidence i could actually produce content for the blog) was the name. i was stumped. i didn’t want something that alluded to only one type of blog (fashion, inspiration ex.) i wanted to be able to make it my own and talk about whatever was on my mind. i remember driving to school everyday talking to myself (YES I TALK TO MYSELF AND I KNOW YOU DO TOO SO DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT LAUGHING) about what my blog name would be and how cool it would be to say i started something. well one day as i turned on to Flamingo from Las Vegas Blvd. the words gracious & grateful came running across my mind. i remember the exact moment. it was exactly what i aspired to be, gracious & grateful. i had grown up having some sort of standard for myself that i would be a classy and gracious woman. and being raised in a home where cancer was the center, you didn’t have a choice but to be grateful for each day that came and went where someone wasn’t in the hospital or being diagnosed with a secondary cancer.

and just like that gracious & grateful was born.

a couple weeks later i made my website and started making my dreams come true.

this week over on my instagram stories (@sassandkass) i have been sharing one thing i am grateful for each day in preparation for Thanksgiving!

today i am grateful for gracious & grateful.

the blog that has let me heal, grow, and love stronger than i ever have before.

the blog that has allowed me the opportunity to help others heal, grow, and love.

the blog that made me a woman.

to you gracious & grateful, and all that is to come.