When I was 22, I gave birth to a 9 lb one ounce, sweet, healthy little girl.
When she was 18 months old, I noticed a little bald patch on her head, about the size of a dime. I didn’t really think anything of it because it grew back. The next time I noticed, about a year and half later, there were three or four little patches of hair falling out. This was a cycle that continued about every year and a half with her losing more and more hair each time.
When our little girl was in grade three she began losing her hair very quickly and went completely bald. Not only did she lose all of the hair on her head, but she lost it on her entire body, including eyebrows and eyelashes. I know this isn’t life and death stuff, but it made my heart hurt for her. She began to be self-conscious about going out in public, playing sports, etc. She began wearing bandanas and wigs. The condition was diagnosed as Alopecia Areata – an auto-immune disease. I was so sad that our sweet little girl had to deal with this. We all began praying as hard as we could that this condition would go away. But, it didn’t.
In her teenage years a lot of her hair grew back, but she has never had a full head of hair since that time. It goes through cycles of patches falling out and then some growing back.
Our little girl eventually grew up and married. Here is her husband’s story… He was born three months premature and weighed 2 lbs. He was in and out of intensive care and hospital for the first year of his life as he dealt with many issues.
This little baby developed two holes in his fragile lungs from the ventilation tubes that helped him to breathe. He also had heart issues for which he had to have surgery without anesthetic. After he finally got home from hospital, he had to go back for surgery on his stomach because of pain for severe acid reflux. This baby didn’t take his first steps until he was over two years of age. He was born with cerebral palsy and to this day walks with a little limp – that we all love. 🙂 Extra nutrition was still needed, which he received through a feeding tube, when he was still a teenager. He would hook it up at bedtime and receive extra nutrition throughout the night. His parents were very worried for him when he decided to serve a mission as a young adult, but he was able to manage it with his health, and he brought his sunny disposition and love for life to many people. They thought it was a miracle that he married and was able to have children. It was a miracle.
After our daughter and son-in-law were married they had two little boys. They decided they were done having children because life was hard as they both struggled with health issues. One day while praying, our daughter felt really strongly that there was a little girl to come to their family. She acted on this impression and was able to get pregnant and then, sadly, miscarried. They had enough faith to try again, and this time the baby grew and they learned it would be a little girl. Just around the time they learned this, our son-in-law had been having severe pain in his abdomen. He had a six month wait to see a specialist and things were getting worse. On the day of his doctor’s appointment, his pain was so bad that he was laying on the pavement outside of his university, unable to drive himself to his appointment. When his mom took him to the hospital for his appointment, they found a base-ball sized tumour. They operated immediately and learned he had stage 3 colon cancer. He was heading into his last semester of school in September – his practicum, to become a teacher. His schooling would be put on hold while this 30-year-old fought unfairly for his life again. He was diagnosed in July. Our daughter gave birth in January while he was undergoing a chemo treatment. He was unable to be at the hospital with her for the birth of their sweet little miracle. Words can’t express what a difficult time this was for their family. It was heart-wrenching to be witness to all they were dealing with.
Their lives revolved around chemo and surgeries for the next year as they fought to survive. During this time, our daughter lost all of her hair again and went completely bald. That was almost eight years ago. She remains bald to this day and she has also just been diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease and Sjogren’s Syndrome. Despite all of her autoimmune health issues, she is incredibly active and works hard to keep fit and healthy. She is an amazing example to me of someone who keeps in shape both spiritually and physically.
Some of us might look at their lives and ask how a God that is supposed to love us, can allow such pain and difficulty. I haven’t had to deal with what they are dealing with. It seems unfair. They have both had their share of struggles. Life is messy and hard.
This music video and song I KEEP MY FAITH is a tribute to both of them. They are survivors and have chosen to Keep Their Faith despite all that life has thrown at them. Keeping our Faith is a choice. We may not always be healed, kept safe, or be given the things that we really desire in this life, but choosing to keep God in our lives will always allow miracles to occur, peace to be felt, and experiences with divinity that are powerful and give us strength to endure. I treasure this knowledge and so, I KEEP MY FAITH.
From Our Daughter – I remember as a child being sad about having alopecia and I remember hoping and praying that I would get my hair back and it would go away. I, thankfully, was raised by parents who pushed me to keep going despite my trials and I have always had a testimony of a loving Heavenly Father, so I have never felt like my life has been unfair. I also have never struggled to stay close to God when dealing with hard things. It has actually been the opposite. As I have dealt with many hard things in my life, I feel like it has drawn me closer to Him. I have learned to rely on Him. As I have done this, it has given me peace, comfort and the strength I need to get through. I have learned to trust in His plan and know that there is bigger picture and that this is temporary. I remember when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, he received a Priesthood Blessing. Instead of being angry and questioning what was going on, I listened to the blessing hoping to find answers. I remember having feelings and thoughts come into my mind, that reassured me everything was going to be okay in the end, but that I needed to prepare for some hard things. I remember over that time in my life, truly feeling lifted up by those around me both physically and spiritually. It would have been so much harder had I turned away from the things I believed in. I testify that God is always there for us, that even when life seems unfair or hard, if we have faith and rely on Him, we will be blessed in many other ways.
From Our Son-in-law I was taught from a young age that when trials and tribulations come my way, I just needed to put my head down and get through it. However, that is easier said than done. Life physically hasn’t been the easiest for me. Growing up, I remember dreaming about playing basketball, but my disabilities held me back from making each team I tried out for. This made me sad, and it broke my heart. My mother would often tell me, “Well, this is the body God gave you, what are you going to do about it? You can’t sit there and be mad or pout, you need to look for the good and make it better.” As a youth, I didn’t like hearing this, but it’s fantastic advice. Many times, in life, we can’t choose what we get, but we have a choice on how we are going to deal with it.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, there were a few times that I felt angry at our Heavenly Father. One time in particular is when I was first diagnosed at the hospital. I remember looking over at my wife while she was four months pregnant and feeling angry and confused that God would allow this to happen. I remember thinking, why now? Why me? My family was just getting started. I was in my last class of my education degree and we were finally in a good place in life. I was angry for a time and even resented my Heavenly Father. This resentment and anger went away as soon as I was given a Priesthood Blessing by my uncle. He gave me a blessing that promised that I would get through it, but there would be hard times to come. I understood again at that moment that God was in control and I knew He would be there to help when I needed Him the most. My wife was also very helpful and positive and that was wonderful.
During chemotherapy I ran into some additional digestive issues that made me have some additional surgeries. I remember laying in my hospital bed, turning over and telling Heavenly Father that I was done, and I was ready to die. I had given up, was completely exhausted and had run out of faith at that time. Just as I finished my sad talking to God, I heard a knock at the door. It was my sister. I told her how I felt and that I was ready to die. She stopped me and said, “you have too many things to live for, you can’t die now.” She sat by my bedside and we talked about a plan on getting me out of the hospital. The nurse came in and told me that in order to get out of the hospital, I needed to start walking around the nurse’s station (see video clip in I KEEP MY FAITH music video). Together we set some goals, and with family we accomplished them. I was able to go home. From these experiences, I know that God is my Heavenly Father. He knows each of us by name and is aware of the pain and sadness we all bear. The Lord, through His Atonement, has felt all our struggles and hardships. I’m grateful for all God has given to me and and that he has allowed me to grow and understand the power of the Atonement in my life.