Does it seem to you that there are often near-mystical or magical forces at play in the universe?
Moments before reading through this Special Kids issue filled with a range of journeys, from the most serious diagnoses to the largest learning challenges, I already had a goliath-sized lump in my throat.
My Aunt Cynthia had just sent me a short video from the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute Minds Matter benefit in Chicago. It featured my beautiful cousin Mera (in this picture with me), who battled an inoperable brain tumor. At the Tumor Institute benefit this month, the cocktail-attired guests will be dramatically affected by the short glimpse into Mera’s astounding strength, boosted by the power of her mind and the love around her.
For families facing life-threatening illnesses, life shifts in a way they would rather not experience. For many parents of children with special needs and learning challenges, life requires new, creative ways of thinking and parenting — but also brings lessons, joys and wisdom that these families would never wish to trade.
Both scenarios ask parents and families to dig for strength they might not have realized they had.
Our strength comes from within ourselves, from one another’s love and care, and from the myriad professionals whose lives are committed — beyond their professional status — to helping families who struggle with the biggest challenges.
The next moment, I turned to our October issue and saw the image of a beautiful teen with her glowing smile, grooming her horse, Scooter. Kat Tiscornia, 13, author of this month’s Voice column, always understood strength as an athlete and equestrian. But it was Kat’s diagnosis with a rare bone cancer that gave her clarity and insight far beyond her years, and the ability to grasp what many gray-hairs never do: that the herculean power of your mind can empower you with unimaginable Olympic strength.
"I was told that my mind was going to be my best ally and that it needed to be strong,” Kat writes.
The obstruction in my throat kept expanding, reading these impactful journeys of the kind not always chosen but often thrust upon us, as we help navigate our children’s lives and our own.
On this same night, yet another friend announced her breast cancer diagnosis (the bad news) and her birthday gift (new boobs!). Another journey not chosen, but filled with rewards and blessing of great docs, medical technology and devoted family and friends.
Kat’s powerful voice became louder. "Ultimately, strength comes not when you want it to, but when you need it the most. We are all strong inside, but don’t realize it until it is our only option."
It takes some years in the game to appreciate the silver lining of life’s trials.
Learning challenges that last a lifetime, or the cancer diagnosis that becomes a part of your history, put us face to face with finding strength, as Kat Tiscornia so beautifully teaches us.