Last spring, I wrote a story about my rebuilding and thriving after suddenly losing my husband Eric at age 37 in 2014. I shared about the perspective I gained and growth my entire family experienced after such an emotional and life-altering event. The overwhelming response and love we received was incredible, and we all felt held and supported. Never in a million years would I have expected what would happen next.
On June 3rd 2021, my beautiful 11-year-old daughter, Emily was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her foot called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. To say that this was a shock, is an understatement. Some of the first thoughts that came to mind were, ‘This must be a mistake, we’ve already endured our tragedy!’ and ‘It has been 7 years since Eric passed, we have finally built our lives back and found peace from the chaos; how is this even possible?’
The seven emotional stages of grief felt all too familiar. First, shock and disbelief, into denial, then bargaining, some guilt, intense anger, deep depression, and eventually, through time, meditation and incredible love, there was acceptance and hope. These episodes of grief were emotional, physical, and even debilitating. It felt like bereavement all over again, but this time with my living, vibrant, incredible mini me. We cried, we prayed, we held one another close. Our family and friends once again united to form a team of warriors that pledged to beat this cancer so that Emily would be cancer free.
How, you might ask, can I write a story of gratitude for you today? As a life coach, I have learned that as humans we do not have control of what life throws at us. The only thing that we can control is how we think about the situations that arise. These thoughts are what control our feelings, which in turn, create our narratives. Once we learn how to consciously think about the thoughts in our head, we can begin understanding the power of our own mind. As one of my mentors, Gabby Bernstein, international motivational speaker, life coach, and New York Times bestselling author has said, “when I let go of my need to control, I can allow the universe to do her thing.”
Today, in this season of gathering and gratitude, I am grateful for how I learned to manage my mind and help myself and the world around me. I can accept life’s challenges with clarity and grace. I have built up a resilience fueled with positive energy and unconditional love, and I am an example for my children, my family, my friends, my clients and my community of what is possible.
We are almost halfway through the 43 weeks of chemotherapy. We have successfully completed 20 days of targeted radiation. In July, our Long Island family raised over $8,000 for the Long Island cycle race. Then, in September we were part of the MSK Kids walking fundraiser. Our team raised and donated over $70,000 to Memorial Sloan Kettering Sarcoma Research. Emily created an at-home charity beading business on Instagram called @memesmotivationalbracelets, which keeps her busy and raises more money for Rhabdomyosarcoma research. We are on track for a complete cure by the end of the spring when I know the grass will seem greener, the flowers will bloom brighter, and the birds will sing more sweetly.
What have I learned? For the long version, you’ll need to wait for my book. For now, gratitude, perspective and motivation are on my mind. I am grateful for having the tools to shift my perspective from thinking about cancer as a death sentence into using a cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to band together and motivate one another to raise money and awareness. Pediatric cancer is extremely underfunded. Without funding, research is impossible, so we are making a difference here.
I have also learned that sometimes the most difficult situations in life ultimately lead to enhanced personal development. In the beginning, we took the time to be still, quiet, and alone. We had so many wonderful people who reached out and offered their help and support. We learned that it was okay to hunker down and care for ourselves first and in time reintroduced ourselves to the world as we assessed our own needs and reestablished new boundaries. We learned to celebrate small victories with each week of treatment and each milestone. We have our eye on the prize of full and complete recovery but until then, we live each day as presently as possible, and we don’t sweat the small stuff. I am grateful for my continued strength and resilience.
For more information about donating to MSK or Meme’s Motivational Bracelets you can follow Emily on Instagram @memesmotivationalbracelets.
To contact Marnie Levy-Smith with questions or to learn about her life coaching program, The Soul Process, please email her at Marnie@selfsoulmate.com