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Note To Self

Today I am having a bad day.

Waking up is hard- I do my absolute best to choose the day ahead of me but being completely transparent, sometimes I let the day choose me. I let the depression win, I let the anxiety take over, and I decide to surrender to all the pain that is, mental illness.

Then, the guilt sets in. Which for me, is the worst part- I feel guilty for feeling my mental illness, like it’s not a real illness. I think this guilt stems from being surrounded by a physical illness like cancer for a portion of my life. I have this lie in my head that I tell myself, “You’re not really sick unless the blood test shows you that you are.” It is a lie I’ve convinced myself of and even as I type it I know it sounds ridiculous. But for so long I had convinced myself that Cooper’s cancer was of more importance than my mental health would ever be. That because it was cancer, I could never compete unless I too, had cancer. No illness, especially no mental illness, was of enough importance to admit it was a problem.
I know where this lie stems from, it stems from a long line of feeling like if it wasn’t cancer it wasn’t a big enough problem to address. See, when you’re a sibling of someone with cancer, someone dying of cancer. You make your problems small. You convince yourself that your problems are not as big as cancer so they do not matter.
The problem with this is, you cannot undo the mess you’ve create in your mind- it follows you.
So now, years after cancer has left my life and Cooper has left this world- I still believe my illness is not valid. I still have to convince myself that if I am having an off day I can rest my mind and my heart.

But let me tell you what cancer and mental illness have in common.
They can both kill you.

So I am writing this, a note to myself, that just like cancer feasting at the bodies every healthy cell, my mental illness is doing the same thing.
And if ignored, my mental illness will take hold of every healthy cell, and kill it off just like cancer.
Cancer and mental illness are not far off from each other.
It’s just how you choose to look at it.

Maybe today you too need to be reminded that whatever you’re dealing with is just as important as cancer, or a heart attack, or a paper cut. Do not weigh YOUR struggles against someone else’s. Everyone is hurting, everyone is struggling, whether physical or mental, illness is real.

If I could go back and tell Kassidy something in January of 2013, a few short weeks before Cooper would be diagnosed with cancer, I would tell her two things.
Never feel guilty for what you’re feeling- mental or physical.
Your pain is important.

Even though we can’t go back, we can go forward.
I can tell Kassidy today and Kassidy tomorrow those same words.
I can work through the guilt of feeling like my illness is not enough compared to others.
And maybe you need to work through that guilt too. Whether you’re a cancer sibling or a mom who puts her child’s needs before her own.
We all struggle with this, so lets say it together…

“Never feel guilty for what you’re feeling- mental or physical.
Your pain is important”

To My Gracious & Grateful Community,
I want to remind you-
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are important.
You are needed.
Tomorrow needs you.

xoxo,
Kassidy

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ve been avoiding talking about this month because although I used to bring awareness to childhood cancer like it was my second religion, moving and finding my own space in the world has allowed me to distance myself from the advocate side of childhood cancer.
It is not that I do not want to be an advocate for the children fighting this horrific disease, because I am an advocate each and every day. What you have to understand is that sometimes, well actually ALL the time, advocating for the cause that KILLED your brother, is difficult. It hurts. It brings out my post traumatic stress disorder more than any other month.

The honest truth is I don’t want to spend my days focusing on the disease that killed my brother.
But I do want a cure so that no one has to go through what I’ve been through.
It’s a little bit of a give and take situation- I want to give support, but not have it take all my energy as I remember that my brother is dead.

So maybe it’s selfish? But honestly, grief is selfish. I am focusing on MY feelings about losing Cooper, how I view Cooper since he is gone, and what I have lost.

The thing is, childhood cancer still scares me. You would think after losing my brother to the disease I would be able to distance myself. But actually childhood cancer is in the back of my mind constantly. When I am with the babies I watch, the numbers of kids diagnosed each day runs through my head. When I think about my future, having children, the “what if’s” of childhood cancer come creeping up.
And I know your solution as you’re reading this- “Well Kassidy, you can’t live in fear” – You’re right, but you’ve also probably never seen a pediatric unit on Christmas morning, a child get poked with a needle larger than your hand, or watch that same child die.

Grief is hard.


September is hard- because it reminds me of the almost 4 years of absolute HELL that my family and I lived through. The funny thing is I cry more tears wishing he was still in the hospital, rather than crying tears cause he’s dead. My selfish heart wants him here, but my realistic brain knows he would not be the Cooper he was before he was sick.

So, instead of being an advocate for the children currently fighting childhood cancer, the children that are about to receive that diagnosis, or the children who are about to die from childhood cancer.
I wish to be an advocate for all of you who are not going to be affected by childhood cancer, who are not going to hear the words “Your son has Leukemia” or “Your daughter has a Glioblastoma brain tumor.”
I wish to be an advocate for all the people who will not hear those words because I want to remind you of the things that you are privileged to do with your children, siblings, mothers, and fathers each day that we who are grieving the loss of someone we love, cannot do.

You don’t have to say ‘I love you’, but you get too.
You don’t have to give your child a hug, but you get too.
You don’t have to put your phone down to listen to your babies stories, but you get too.
You don’t have to tickle your little one’s back, but you get too.
You don’t have to take them to all the sports and dance classes they want to go too, but you get too.
You don’t have to spend time taking them to the park or on vacation, but you get too.
You don’t have to kiss them goodnight even when they made you crazy that night, but you get too.
You don’t have to feel blessed by your healthy family every day, but you get too.

You see where I am going with this.
Every thing is a choice- you don’t have to do anything in this world, you GET to do every thing in this world.
Including loving your people.

Friends, Love them well because tomorrow is not promised.
As today ends Childhood Cancer Awareness Month- tomorrow marks the 2nd anniversary of the Las Vegas Mass Shooting, where my sister and I ran for our lives.
I cannot imagine what tomorrow would look like if my parents went from losing one child, to three children in the matter of seconds.
I know for a fact my brother spared our lives, I know he was there holding Julia and I as we ran.

Grief is hard.

It comes in many forms, alive or dead.
So today, tomorrow, and always- love your people well because today you GET too.
Tomorrow you might not.