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cora’s story

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!

  • Emily - Hi,

    I’m Emily and I found your blog because of Laura Moffat. I sobbed reading your story. My heart breaks thinking of your loss. I truly do not understand why God allows such pain and suffering but I SO admire your strength and faith. Stories like yours give us so many reasons to believe God is not good, even though we know He is. I am just so incredibly sorry for your loss. Cora is an ADORABLE baby and I want you to know that her life has touched mine.

    Love and hugs,


  • Mary - you have an unbelievable testimony, jess. your heart is pure gold.
    praise God for His wonderful work in your lives through this tragedy. i’m so very sorry for your loss, but look forward to meeting your angel in Heaven.
    i loved seeing the home you have created on life made lovely today.
    it is just absolutely beautiful, and i feel blessed to be able to share in your story.

    Jess Reply:

    So glad you stopped by. And yes, praise God for His work in our lives through our sorrow. Thanks for your encouragement!

    • Jess - So glad you stopped by. And yes, praise God for His work in our lives through our sorrow. Thanks for your encouragement!ReplyCancel

  • hannah singer - thanks so much for sharing sweet cora’s story. so encouraged by your faith and courage in jesus! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Jami Davis - I stumbled across your blog via pinterest – about the idea of hanging curtains in the doorway instead. Anyways, i’m in tears for you and your loss of your sweet daughter. I can’t even imagine. Much love, momma.ReplyCancel

  • candice - What a courageous woman you are,i also lost my son to dialated cardiomyopathy 4 months ago and i dnt think i would be able to do what you do, i just need to think about him and i break down which means i spend most of my time crying,i dont know how to handle the pain anymore…ReplyCancel

  • Stacey - Thinking of your family today.. Praying God holds you closeReplyCancel

  • Amanda - crying the ugly tears…and missing her.ReplyCancel

  • *laura* - this was so beautiful…thanks for sharing your story and your hope…love her beautiful name…i will pray for you and your family…xoReplyCancel

  • Heather - I found your blog through Casey and the Hope Spoken speakers link. I was instantly drawn to your story of lossing Cora. We lost our son, Logan. I was 28 weeks pregnant and he died due to a genetic defect and was born sleeping on 12/02/2010. I understand the struggeling to understand and trust in God while suffering, but I also understand the moments of clarity and calm when you fully trust that God knows what he’s doing. Thank you for sharing your story!!!ReplyCancel

  • Anna Norman - Oh, wow. I am crying quite a bit…I am so sorry. Thank you for being such a testimony. I spent a year as a “chemo-pal” to a little girl who had neuroblastoma. Her name was Lesley. This was before I was married, before our little girl…I spent so much time with her and she went to be with Jesus at the age of 9. I cannot imagine all that you went through because watching Lesley was impossibly difficult on me-and I was just a friend/sleepover buddy/movie date.
    Thank you for celebrating your little girl in the way you do. I know she is dancing with Jesus more brilliantly than anyone.

    Love, Anna NormanReplyCancel

  • Tracy - I always find it amazing how Godtakesme on a tour round the blog world,
    I started tonight’s journeymlookingfor some inspiration as to wether to bu a silhouette cameo. And ended up .
    S having read your story I now want to say God Bless. I. Uses we will never know why Cora was only here for 11 months but when we get to heaven I am sure God will tell you.
    God Bless
    Jeremiah 29:11ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Clark - God bless your family.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Johnson - Jess, your story is a sad but beautiful one. Thank you for sharing with so many and being a strong witness for Christ.
    A book I would recommend to you by Angie Smith is called I Will Carry You. Angie too, lost a baby girl. Please read it if you have not. It will bless and comfort you. I actually got to hear her in person and she is very real. She also has other books that are a blessing.

    Love KarenReplyCancel

  • Lauren - What a beautiful little girl – you sound like an amazing mom. I cannot imagine the emotions you went through during her first year of life…so many like that of other first-time moms during the first year, and then so many so different. I don’t know how I would handle/cope/wrestle all that you have with God – but I appreciate your rawness and sweetness. May Jesus, your Filler, be ever present today.ReplyCancel

  • Alison Walton - Hello,
    My name is Alison Walton, I stumbled upon your blog through pinterest. And I must say I am was so deeply touched by your and Cora’s story. I need to tell you I wept through the story and through the video. I do not understand how god took away such a beautiful little girl. He must of love her so much dearly. Although, I do not know you and did not know Cora, I feel connected enough more due to the fact that my birthday is March 5th, and I was born at 10:02 but pm. I know she was dancing up in heaven, looking down and knowing how many your family loves her. I will be thinking about your family and prayer for bright futures everyday.
    With love,
    Alison WaltonReplyCancel

  • Leilani - I am in tears with Cora’s story. Thank you for sharing it. I came across your blog because I was reading up on speakers for Hope Spoken. I hope to go to the conference and be able to meet you in person to give you a hug! You are one strong and amazing mom!ReplyCancel

    Jess Reply:

    Leilani-Thank you for your sweet words. Yes! I hope that I can meet you at Hope Spoken…you should come!

    • Jess - Leilani-Thank you for your sweet words. Yes! I hope that I can meet you at Hope Spoken…you should come!ReplyCancel

  • Allison - This is one of the only a few times when I have wept while reading a blog. I worked in a children’s hospital as a speech-language pathologist and while there I experienced God move more there than I ever have anywhere else-in the bitter and the miraculous-something I could never quite put into words. Prayers for you and your family down this journey-that little girl is blessed to have you as a mommy. Thanks for sharing her story. God bless you.ReplyCancel

  • Pratik Poudyal - Very sorry about that… it was the great tragedy time. May God bless you and your familyReplyCancel

  • Small things. Big things. | chickadeechickadee - […] who celebrated the end of treatment and heard the words “remission!” In memory of little Cora, who shares a birthday with my Reece and is never far from my mind. In honor of Kate, who after […]ReplyCancel