This past Saturday marked 10 years since I first became a mom. On that beautiful day my twins, Wyatt & Olivia, entered this world and my life changed forever. It’s really amazing to think how much all of our lives have changed since then.
Ten years ago was a scary day in many ways. I had developed preeclampsia and had gotten incredibly sick. I was life-flighted a few days earlier to Denver in the hopes that with treatment my body could hang on just a little bit longer so I could get closer to my April due date. But on the morning of February 19, 2012 I woke up feeling like someone had put a pile of bricks on my chest. My doctor ordered an X-ray to take a look at my chest. It turned out that I had developed pulmonary edema and just like that I was whisked away to an emergency c-section and told that would be the day my twins would be born.
Now 10 years later it is hard to believe how much life has changed. Olivia fought a big battle with brain cancer and would only celebrate one birthday on earth with her family before God called her home. Wyatt continues to fight a battle with diabetes, but is still living a healthy and happy life with his family.
Their birthday is now a really bittersweet day for me each year. It is so sweet because I still have a wonderful 10 year old boy to celebrate. It is bitter because I am always missing my little girl.
On this bittersweet day I have struggled to find a balance between the grief that fills my heart on that day and the joy I have in my little boy. For many years we would have a special cake for Olivia at our birthday parties and a balloon to represent her. Other years we’ve made the party all about Wyatt and just taken time to remember Olivia at home as a family.
This year though Wyatt wanted to do something a little different. He asked if we could have special pancakes in the morning with an “O” drawn on each one with chocolate syrup. And so that’s exactly what we did! But then the rest of the day was all about celebrating our sweet Wyatt. He chose a dinner destination for our family, selected the perfect lego set from Target, and excitedly planned his birthday party for a few days later. It was really wonderful to see him find some real joy in his birthday.
It’s heartbreaking to think that just as February 19th is bittersweet for me each year, it is equally as bittersweet for Wyatt. He is always missing his sister and at times in his young life has struggled to really celebrate his own birthday because of the grief he feels. This year my husband and I were determined more than ever to make sure Wyatt felt celebrated, joyful and completely happy on his birthday. We always want him to know just how much we celebrate the wonderful young man he is becoming!
I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all for celebrating birthdays after a child passes away. If Olivia hadn’t been a twin I imagine I would celebrate her birthday completely differently. However, that day is just as much Wyatt’s birthday as it is hers and I never want him to grow up thinking that he isn’t worth celebrating!
Do you have a special tradition in your family to celebrate the birthday of a child or other loved one who is no longer with you? I would love to hear about it! You can comment on this post or email email@example.com.
The Butterfly Ball has grown so much in the last five years and this year we surpassed many goals with the event.
We strive to create a fun adult prom experience to not only provide a unique event for people to enjoy but to avoid the same sit-down gala experience most of us are tired of. The Butterfly Ball incorporates many things Olivia loved including butterflies and getting dressed up.
This event has exploded in growth and with that comes a whole team working behind the scenes to make the night run without a hitch. We start planning months in advance and love to include our constituents with deciding the theme (be on the lookout for 2023 theme voting next week)! Our board of directors plays a key role in helping plan and orchestrate this event.
This post would be miles long if I talked about every aspect of the planning process so to condense it down, I’ll share a sneak peek behind the scenes of setting up for the event on the day of Butterfly Ball.
The day starts before the sun even rises. OCF staff, board members and volunteers load up three trailers with all the auction items and wine for the wine pull. We arrive at the Events Center at 8AM to begin unloading trailers and divide and concur the set up.
This year we were very fortunate to have Sabrina Spears with Sabrina Spears Events helping with decor. She showed up with a U-Haul full of balloon decorations! Nate’s Flowers also arrive early in the day to drop off their amazing floral arrangements they donate for the event.
Tables are set up first so we can designate VIP tables and make sure they have all their extra goodies. Floral arrangements and gifts are added to the tables.
Next, we have our volunteers split up to set up these stations: the silent auction tables, wine pull tables, plinko and butterfly drop. We also set up all signage and hang sponsor banners.
The Silent Auction Tables have to be set up to allow for over 100 packages to be displayed. Some of these included physical items and other included single sheets describing the services offered. We have a digital auction platform we use to bid on so each of these packages has to be added and photographed for the system to operate properly.
We were very excited to introduce plinko this year! We had some amazing packages donated to offer and prizes for the plinko game.
After we complete set up, we all take a few hours to rest up and dress up before the big event starts! It truly is a whole team effort, and we are so grateful for everyone’s dedication to making this event something special.
Remember, if you haven't checked them out yet- the 2022 Butterfly Ball Prom Photos are available for download on our website and you can get a free print at Wyoming Camera Outfitters!
It’s February! That means, Superbowl, Valentine’s Day, National Pizza Day and many other things, depending on where your interests lie. In this post, I’d like to raise a flag for National Rare Disease Day, which is on February 28th this year.
The Olivia Caldwell Foundation raises funds to support pediatric cancer research and the Specialty Pediatric Outreach Clinic. But we also have our Patient Advocacy Program that jumps even further in caring for families with children diagnosed with any - yes, any - chronic illness or medically complex condition. The goal is to help these families find support in any area of life they need to be able to take the best care of their child and themselves on this medical journey.
A diagnosis is difficult and I don’t know that it matters so much to compare one over another - it’s all just hard. It can feel isolating no matter what it is, even if it is a more well-known battle like cancer (which is a broad term with many different kinds under its umbrella). To be considered a rare disease in the US, it needs to affect less than 200,000 people. We only have about 500,000 in our entire state… I’m not a math whiz, but that feels pretty lonely. According to the National Organizations for Rare Diseases, two-thirds of Americans that do have a rare disease are children. Ninety-five percent of these have no known treatments. 95%. That’s a lot of families - as rare as it is - with a very hard road ahead of them.
Imagine that your child has a rare genetic disease. Most of the treatments that you would need for your child would be considered “alternative” (not FDA approved), which means they are not readily (if ever) approved by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. Most organizations that offer assistance typically align with those same standards, which means there is not much help out there for specific diseases to relieve the financial burden to help parents/guardians get the care that is available for their child. Now add into the scenario that you live in rural Wyoming. We have some wonderful and very gifted medical professionals in our state, but to find this sort of specialty care for children, will always take you far from home and it’s likely that it will be often. The ripple effect is more like a high tide wave when it comes to work, school, and daily life just to find some medical help for your kiddo.
This is all pretty heavy and to be clear, having a rare disease diagnosis does not always come with shortened life expectancy. And it is an uphill battle for quality of life for these children and their families. How can we be supportive of our neighbors? Continue to raise awareness for their cause! Be a form of support they need - social, emotional, financial. We may not be the scientist able to find the cure, but we can be the meal train director and the dog sitter and school carpool driver and compassionate friend that helps in many areas to make the road less lonely and more manageable while these families face their diagnosis one step at a time! If you would like more information on rare diseases or National Rare Disease Day, check out https://rarediseases.org/.
If you or someone you know has a child diagnosed with a chronic illness or medically complex condition, our Patient Advocacy Program is here for you. I would be happy to help you navigate where to find support that you need, especially if we have to think outside the box on how to get it! You can reach me at the office at 307-333-1273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming off of one of the biggest events of the year here at the Olivia Caldwell Foundation, I feel like it is a great time to talk about self care. Self Care is so important to your daily health. Without it, you could find yourself extra stressed or worn out and unable to succeed at your daily life.
Self care comes in many forms. Sleep, exercise, quiet time, boundaries, fresh air, meditation, creative activities, massage, and social media detox! Of course the list could be endless because for each person, their self care looks different. Daily, weekly, monthly, the timing depends on your own self as well. Some might need daily self care, some may only need to decompress and use self care tools once a month. But the important thing is to remember to make that time for yourself!
Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. It means that you are simply being mindful of your own needs, so you are better able to support the people you care about. When you take care of yourself and are not stressed, you are better able to meet the needs of others. We are all less able to handle the stresses that come our way when we're depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. Or, put in a more positive way, we are more resilient and more able to handle life's stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally.
While self-pampering doesn’t always lead to major improvements in overall health, the relaxation you get from it can trigger the relaxation response. This, in turn, can prevent chronic stress from damaging your health. As you can see, self-care is good for you inside and out!
How do you recognize when you are neglecting your self-care needs?
Here are 6 Signs you haven't made self-care your top priority:
**You Skip or Neglect Your Basic Needs.
**You're Always on Autopilot.
**You're Always Doing Something for Someone Else.
**You've Lost Touch with Friends and Family.
**You Can't Remember the Last Time You Had Fun..
**You Don't Feel Like Yourself Anymore.
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, maybe it is time to look into some strategies for self-care to get you back on track!
Here are a few tips:
**Maintain your friendships.
**Get regular exercise.
**Keep a balanced diet.
**Ask for help and accept it when it is offered.
**Think of yourself as your own best friend.
**Plan something to look forward to, whether that be a trip with your friends or a fun outing
Whatever it is you decide that refuels your insides, make sure you are doing it! The most important thing to remember is you can NOT give from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will fall into place!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.