What May Means to Me

This isn’t your typical Aiming Low post. It may not be full of the humor you’ve come to expect. But what we’ve learned is our greatest ability to appreciate laughter comes after tears have cleansed our souls.  — Anissa, founder of Aiming Low and Rachel’s lucky friend

Ah, the month of May, brought to you by Mother’s Day, college graduations, and the height of spring fever.  It is easy to forget that May is also Brain Tumor Awareness Month.  Until three years ago, I was blissfully unaware of this fact.  Cancer was something that happened in the movies; to other people. Cancer was something that happened to adults.

On January 20, 2009, as President Barack Obama took the oath of office, I found out that cancer could happen to me.  While it was my daughter who carried the diagnosis, our entire family was rocked by the reality that faced me from a computer screen in the doctor’s office.  My three year old daughter, Charlotte, had a massive tumor in her brain.

In the year that followed, I learned more lessons about life, love, and loss than I ever thought possible.  Charlotte endured four brain surgeries, rounds of inpatient chemotherapy, and experimental proton radiation. She required physical and occupational therapy as a result of her surgeries.  She had to learn how to walk all over again.  For over four months, we lived in the hospital more than we lived in our house.  All of these challenges, however, paled in comparison to the biggest lesson I had to learn: I had to watch my daughter die.

I miss Charlotte every day.  I feel the pain of her loss in some form almost every minute of every day; yet, as tragic as that may sound, I am now able to look at life with a new pair of eyes.  As with the pain of childbirth, time and distance have a way of playing tricks on your memory of that pain- softening the sting and rounding off the edges.  If that were not true, there would be many more only children in the world.

One of the best coping mechanisms I found was in writing.  I started blogging as a way to communicate Charlotte’s health and our immediate needs with friends and family but it quickly turned into a way to explore my feelings and then share those feelings with the rest of the world.  During that year, people kept saying, “You should really write a book.” At the time, I thought those people were crazy.  Two years later, I’ve written a book.  Four Seasons for Charlotte: A Parent’s Year With Pediatric Cancer is the story of our journey.  It is the story of an ordinary family bearing an extraordinary burden.  It is my story of Brain Tumor Awareness.
About the Writer
 Rachel Reynolds is a special educator and freelance writer. She writes for a variety of online publications, including her personal blog, See What You Meme. She is also the co-founder and executive director of CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation (CJSTUF). Rachel lives in Ashland, Virginia with her husband and two incredibly annoying (but completely adorable) cats. In her spare time, she obsesses over Don Draper, dark chocolate, and public radio personalities (not necessarily in that order). Four Seasons for Charlotte is her first book.

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  1. Poppy says:

    Charlotte is such a beautiful name. Thank you for sharing her/your story.

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  2. Carol says:

    What a moving and graciously written post. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  3. I don’t have the words to express my sympathy for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Megan says:

    Thank you for sharing your story here and in your book. You will probably help more people than you know.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Rachel, and I wish you every possible happiness going forward.

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