On a Wednesday morning in mid-February 2009, our oldest daughter Laura, a freshman in high school, had a seizure. She’d been suffering from headaches for about three weeks, but her doctor hadn’t been overly concerned. Yet the cause of her pain was worse than anything we ever could’ve imagined: that afternoon, Laura was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, and by that same evening she was on life support. Three days later, the doctors declared her brain dead. Our worst nightmare—every parent’s worst nightmare—became reality. A reality that became all the more surreal when we were asked, on the worst day of our lives, to donate Laura’s organs.
Over the next few years, we grieved, we accepted our community’s help, and we struggled with our pain and despair. Yet at the same time, my husband Ron and I resolutely continued to parent our surviving daughters, Sara and Rachel, and live our lives as best we could. We refused to sacrifice our girls’ futures, or our own, for what couldn’t be undone. And, we felt blessed as we developed a close relationship with Trish, the woman who’d received Laura’s liver. We drew comfort and strength from knowing that Laura had left a profoundly meaningful legacy—sustaining another’s life would have made her extremely proud.
Our family’s story doesn’t end there. Three years later, we were again blindsided when I was diagnosed with my own brain tumor—the parallels were shockingly, eerily, similar. After I underwent an emergency craniotomy, we learned that my tumor was thankfully benign, and I was blessed with the best possible prognosis. As I healed, I experienced a surprising sense of enlightenment: I finally allowed myself—without reservations or guilt—to reclaim the life I still loved. At my most vulnerable moment, I finally gave myself permission to thrive.