My husband, Joel, and I had been married for five years when our first daughter, Cora Paige, was born. March 5, 2008 is the day I became a mama…a day that would stand as a defining moment for me in so many ways. We chose not to find out Cora’s gender while I was pregnant. I had in my mind that she was a boy. For some reason I always thought that I would be a mom to boys and I was totally fine with that. A house full of boys sounded great to me. On that day in March when the doctor announced that we had a girl I seriously couldn’t believe it. I had a daughter. I was instantly in love. I’m not a very girly girl, but I loved plunging into the world of all things girl. Baby girl clothes, cute shoes, and hair clips here I come. Not only was Cora a cutie (at least her daddy and I thought so!) but she was pure sweetness. She was a pretty serious little girl but she knew how to make people smile. At ten months old she had her waves and clapping down and I loved hearing her sweet little voice say “mama”. I could go on and on about my baby girl. Let’s just say that I quickly found out that being a mom is an indescribable feeling. Cora meant the world to me. Life was good.
In late November Cora started having multiple ear infections along with a respiratory infection. We were visiting the pediatrician quite frequently but she kept getting sick. After trying lots of medication and still feeling like Cora wasn’t acting like herself, we were frustrated and concerned. Joel decided to go to her follow-up appointment with me on this particular day in January. Besides the ear infections we described a few other unusual things we had noticed and our pediatrician decided to take an x-ray of Cora’s abdomen. About an hour later he came into our room with the news that forever changed our lives. Cora’s liver was very enlarged and he had reason to believe that it was most likely the result of some kind of cancer.
He sent us directly to the hospital in Wichita where we would spend the next 17 days. After checking in, lots of tests, and finally a CT scan late that night, we were forced to wait until the morning to learn what the doctors were going to do. Early the next morning our worst fears were confirmed. Cora had a tumor that needed to be removed immediately—they too thought it was most likely from cancer. After a whirlwind of meetings with doctors, surgeons, and the oncologist we were holding our little girl waiting to hand her off to the nurses for surgery. That was the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do. We were placing our little girl’s life in the hands of someone we had just met, not knowing if we would even get to see her again. Thankfully we did get to see Cora again, but we never dreamed that those moments before her surgery would be the last time we would be able to laugh and play with our little girl here on earth. After her surgery Cora was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma—a form of childhood cancer. The cancer was at a stage 4 which meant it had already spread throughout her whole body. Despite the diagnosis, the doctors and oncologist were very positive about Cora’s chances for recovery. Since she wasn’t yet a year old there was a very good chance that chemotherapy and possibly other treatments would be effective. The next few weeks were a roller coaster. It was HORRIBLE watching Cora lie helplessly in that hospital bed and not be able to do anything to help her. The plan for Cora’s treatment and when we would be able to go home seemed to change every day. Every day we were falling to our knees begging the Lord to heal our little girl. That was the only thing we could do.
Cora had four surgeries and completed the first round of chemotherapy while we were in the hospital. She was hooked up to so many different monitors and medicines we couldn’t even hold her. Eventually she was put on a respirator and then an oscillator because of her decreasing oxygen levels. My baby was very sick. While she wasn’t progressively getting better we held on to the hopeful words of her doctors. We were shocked that awful Sunday morning when the doctor told us that Cora’s little lungs were failing and there just wasn’t anything else they could do. We watched in shock as our little girl slipped away.
Cora went to be with Jesus on February 8th, 2009. She was 11 months old.
All of a sudden my world was turned upside down. My little girl was gone. And at that moment I was forced to decide if I really believed what I had always said I believe. You see I had come to grips with the fact that I could trust God through Cora’s cancer. The chemotherapy and watching my little girl struggle with her life was awful, but if Cora could make it through it was going to be okay. But trusting God with Cora’s death was a whole different story. How could I trust God with the death of my child?
In those short 17 days trusting God went from being fairly easy and comfortable to being incredibly hard and uncomfortable. The day Cora died is the day I reluctantly started down this journey through grief. And let me tell you, it has been one roller coaster of a journey.
I started this blog when Cora was born to post pictures of her for friends and family. While we were in the hospital we posted daily updates to share what was happening with Cora and how people could pray for our family. It was both incredible and humbling to see so many people storming the gates of heaven on Cora’s behalf. The outpouring of love we have felt in our community and around the world since Cora went to heaven has been equally amazing. We decided to start a memorial fund to build a playground at our church in Cora’s honor. Through our blog and a website called Etsy, over 50,000 dollars was raised for what is now known as Cora’s Playground. The playground is such an awesome remembering stone for our family. A reminder of God’s constant love and faithfulness to us…even through our darkest days.
We continue to miss our sweet Cora like crazy…and we wait in HOPE.
Thanks for joining us in our journey!