An open letter to my daughter

As your mother, I worry.

I grew up in a much different world than you will, one that allowed privacy and encouraged imagination.

You will be inundated by over-stimulation, and at times, intruding transparency.

My childhood was riddled with wardrobe faux pas and cosmetic malfunctions, that thankfully never saw the light of day.  You, on the other hand, will have access to editing and filters that will disillusion your self-image and derange your definition of beauty.

And as your mother, I worry.

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When I was growing up, I didn’t know what people thought about me unless they said it to my face.

You are being raised in a society that defines likability with social analytics, and the sentiments of online trolls who find courage behind a digital curtain.

And as your mother, I worry.

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Underneath the facades and the high expectations of a digital world I want you to be able to see the truth.

I loved you before I knew the colour of your hair or the length of your eyelashes.

I was rooting for you before you took your first step.

I have respected you since you uttered your first “no”.

Remember this, because this is what unconditional love is.  There weren’t any filters that made me feel this way about you.  My adoration has no price or limitation.

Long before #metoo daughters were conditioned to accept less, inundated with belittling mantras that said those who hurt you do it because they like you.

Find the ones that don’t use demeaning tactics to gain your affection.

Please don’t accept less.

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For now, you reside under my protective wing.  I have control over the direction of your life, but it won’t be long and this season will pass.

I will have to let you go.

And as your Mother, I will worry.

So, remember this –  strong women have brave ideas and purpose is not fulfilled while hiding behind filters.

You are not the words that others use to define you.

When you can, break the mold.

Seek unconditional love and create a life that makes you want to pinch yourself because this is what dreams are made of.

And as your mother, I will try not to worry…

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Noah’s POGO story

One cannot comprehend the need for the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario without first living vicariously through the people who rely on them.

This is Noah’s POGO story  – shared by his mother, Rachel Wahl.

Pediatric cancers receive less than four percent of all research money raised for cancer. Less than four percent for our future generations, our most precious gifts…how is that even possible?

Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario dedicates their research funds to only pediatric cancer, with all the new research that they spearhead, I have confidence that those kids are getting a fighting chance.

Our POGO story begins on August 21, 2008

On this day, our world changed forever. That was the day we found out our seven-year-old son was in for the fight of his life. Noah was diagnosed with A.L.L. ph+ Leukemia. Due to the ph+ diagnosis, Noah’s battle was that much harder. He endured a longer treatment protocol then the regular Leukemia treatment.

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It meant we would spend years in and out of a hospital.

When Noah had to be admitted, in London, Ontario, we faced a one-hour commute. Kevin (Noah’s Father) and Paige (Noah’s sister) would head to London on Friday night for dinner, and then I would take Paige home for the weekend – to spend some time with her. Kevin would spend the weekend looking after Noah. He would leave London on Monday morning and drive to Guelph for work.

Monday mornings I would drop Paige off at school and head back to London for the week.

Noah and I made up a game – when we were inpatient –  because being in a hospital can be boring. We called it, ‘What are we going to do when we are all done with the hospital and treatments?’  

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On May 20, 2011, Noah relapsed for the second time and was immediately slated for a bone marrow transplant. The procedure was scheduled for September 30, 2011, we called it Noah’s new birthday. This was the day our daughter gave him the most precious gift, her bone marrow. To say having both of your children in the hospital at the same time is stressful is an understatement.

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Noah was in isolation, waiting for the bone marrow, in a room where only myself or my husband were permitted. My eight-year-old daughter was on another floor prepping for surgery. It was one of the most awful days a parent can have.

We were very hopeful that the transplant would be a success.

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On Noah’s 11th birthday we found out that the cancer was back, he had a less than one percent chance of survival.

On July 1, 2012, Noah earned his angel wings.

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After an exhausting four year battle, my son was finally free.

Why do I support POGO?

Living in a hospital with no income gets expensive. POGO offers after-care clinics, research and financial help for families. They also offer satellite centers for their kids that are a godsend.

When Noah was able to stay in Kitchener, at Grand River Hospital, we had a more “normal” life.

Kevin would sleep at the hospital and then head to work. I would drop Paige off at school and head to the hospital, pick up Paige after school – collect laundry, food, or anything else we needed – and head back to the hospital. Kevin would come back to the hospital after work, we would have dinner as a family and Paige and I would head home.

This was our life for four years.

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POGO’s Satellite Centers made it so much more manageable. We will forever be grateful to them for the support they provide.

When Noah was stable enough, some of his treatments; blood work, and over 70 blood transfusions were able to be done at GRH. This was so huge for us as we didn’t need to go to London or Sick Kids. I could drop Paige off at school, Noah and I could head to GRH, and be home in time to get Paige off the bus.

When Noah spiked a fever, we didn’t have to go to London, we could go to GRH with the confidence that he would be looked after according to the protocol POGO had set up. This was a major thing for us, Noah was always in the hospital so being close to home meant that we could function.

I did not have to spend the week in London with him or rely on the neighbors to drop my daughter off at school. We could function as a family unit, reducing our stress – and Noah’s.

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We cannot do any of the things we planned to do together, instead, Kevin and I sit on the Kitchener Kids with Cancer run/walk committee, to raise funds and awareness for POGO.

We do this to honor Noah.

We do this to give back to an organization that helped us be as “normal” as possible, through the most difficult time of our lives.

Never in a million years did I think he would not be here today, I do what I can to keep up my end of the “game.”

 

 

Find out more about POGO at www.pogo.ca

Get involved with KW Kids with Cancer www.kwrunforpogo.com

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Why I chose to reinvent myself.

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After 15 years of working in different facets of broadcasting, it was time for a change. I love media, so I needed to find a way to make a fresh start – while staying true to my first love. A colleague suggested a career counselor. During months of evaluation, I found my calling.

I enrolled in Public Relations.

My kids thought it was hilarious, and my friends questioned my sanity.

I guess being the oldest ‘kid’ in class has some benefits; my decision was based on years of experience. I know what I want…and what I don’t want. Most importantly, though, I have three daughters watching.

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Why do I love PR?

That’s easy.

It’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself through communication.

This industry is full of possibility, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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Cancer is a thief that creates unwilling heroes out of children.

Like the true criminal it is, cancer doesn’t discriminate. It cares not about destiny or achievements, nor does is consider purpose. There is no hierarchy or class that is immune.

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This sweet boy taught my daughter to walk, picking her up every time she fell, both laughing hysterically. When he came to my house he requested water to drink “because the juice is unhealthy.”  His fear of being stung by a bee would send him running inside the house whenever something buzzed by his ear.

I know you know this boy, we all do.

The boy who lights up the room when he walks into it, who sees the good in everyone, whose laugh is contagious.

His name is Noah and this handsome, curious, polite boy lost his battle with cancer on his mother’s birthday.

We don’t like these types of stories, we want to ignore them. They are too sad, so we turn the page, scroll past them, change the channel.

Noah and his family have been to hell and back. They could have used this pain as ammunition to fuel resentment. Instead, they sit on a committee that plans opportunities to give back to POGO, the organization that supported them during Noah’s battle.

POGO stands for Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario. They support pediatric cancer care professionals, provide families with services and programs to meet the needs of kids with cancer, as well as offering support for survivors.

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We need to stop tuning out, scrolling past and turning the page. There are many Noahs who need us to listen.

On September 9, a community of young warriors, and the loved ones who will do anything for them are attending the KW Run for POGO.

On this day they will give their support to the organization that has been supporting them, in hopes of raising awareness and funds.

I will be there for Noah, the boy who was terrified of bees but bravely faced childhood cancer.

Will you?

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Watch my interview with Dr. Jodi Rosner, the founder of this event:

In Studio Interview 2

For more information head to:

www.pogo.ca

www.kwrunforpogo.com