Finding #UnexpectedJoy in the Midst of Chaos #GiveForward

I don't often talk about it, but my family has been through a crisis or two in my lifetime. Today, we're all happy and healthy, enjoying the little things that make us smile, but ten years ago, we were singing a much different tune.

 I was on a beach vacation with my friends, when my parents called to tell me that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was so unexpected that I almost didn't believe it to be real. In my lifetime, I had never known my mother to be sick. She was always the strong one, the healthy one, and now, the tables were turning. My entire drive back home, I thought about how this news would impact my family's lives, and my own. I wasn't prepared to spend the rest of my life without my mom, and I decided that I wanted to be right beside her, every step of the way through the hard journey ahead, no matter what it might cost.

A month or two later, after many doctor's appointments, and some decisions were starting to be made regarding my mother's cancer, my grandmother was diagnosed with Lymphoma. A double whammy for our family, if you will, meaning now we were dealing with not one, but two cancer patients, both facing surgery and recovery. I made a hard decision to put college on the back burner, even though I was three years into my education. I knew that my family would need help- neither my grandmother or mother would be able to care for themselves on their own after their surgeries, and my father would still have to go to work every day.

A photo of me with my mom, just hours after her first mastectomy at Duke University Medical Center.

At first, it seemed overwhelming for my sister and me, and it felt like every day, we were driving one of the ladies we loved so much to a different appointment, check-up, etc. We rotated which of us cared for my mother and grandmother during the day- changing bandages, playing nurse, and just being there for them. We felt exhausted every day, but knew it was nothing compared to the exhaustion the ladies were feeling after surgery. What got us through our toughest moments of frustration and fear, was the outpouring of love we received from family and friends, particularly among our church family.

Almost every day, someone was stopping by with a hot meal for us. Some folks wanted to come by and just sit and visit for a while, giving us a chance to take our minds off of the struggle we were facing. Sometimes, people would call us, just to offer to help with transportation, or to come by and cut the grass. Our dear friend Linda would come by, just to visit with my mom, and mom's face would just light up for the opportunity to be able to have a cup of tea and a chat with a friend. Every time we turned around, we were being truly blessed by folks who didn't even know us very well. Suddenly, instead of being filled with despair and sadness, we were filled with hope, peace, love, and truly unexpected joy. 

My beautiful Grandmother, Alice, at my bridal shower in 2007.

Today, we're all happy and healthy, and ready to GiveForward...

Today, both my mother and grandmother are cancer-free. I feel very lucky to have both of them still with me, especially since I have lost three of my other grandparents to cancer. After both of these lovely ladies had recovered from various surgeries, we felt very blessed, and naturally, wanted to give back, or pay it forward. I was happy to learn about GiveForward, which helps folks unite and come together to raise money for important causes. GiveForward has helped raise $104,692,000 towards medical expenses, and anyone who wants to spread joy or lend a helping hand to a person or family in crisis can do so through GiveForward.

My family personally knows what it's like to be faced with insurmountable medical bills from unexpected injury or illness, and we're always looking for ways to help others in their time of need. What matters most in a time of crisis, is having family and friends around you- showing love and support. No family should ever have to worry about where the money will come from to pay back medical costs. GiveForward makes it simple for family and friends to show how much they care, by coming together and organizing a fundraiser. 

GiveForward also has an amazing Ambassador Program. GiveForward Ambassadors are an extension of the GiveForward team, and see each new day as an opportunity to create unexpected joy for someone else. Ambassadors share their personal stories, spread a message they care about, and change the world, one day and one person at a time. Ambassadors receive a special badge, which lets others know that you're working on something that really matters, and will make a difference. GiveForward proudly gives the first donation to any fundraiser for a loved one, started by an ambassador. We are so excited to know about GiveForward, because they help make it easy for people like us, who want to support other families facing a time of crisis, to be able to bring them unexpected joy.

My beautiful mom Leslie, and me.

Want to Learn More, and Be a Part of It?

Head on over to GiveForward to learn more about their wonderful mission. If you'd like to become a GiveForward Ambassador, and begin your own fundraiser for someone you love, please sign up, here. GiveForward Ambassadors receive first access to everything GiveForward - jobs, product updates, events, etc.

Have you experienced a moment of unexpected joy? Share in the comment section below, or share on Twitter, using the hashtag #unexpectedjoy. We can't wait to hear your story!

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