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Back to The Beginning

Posted by Arona Martin on
Back to The Beginning

Jessica and I met years ago when I was the event director at a nightclub. I spent my days planning big parties for big corporations, and Jessica was my go to girl behind the bar.  After working together for years, she left to become a health coach. You know, that buzz worthy career term where everyone nowadays claims to be a “health expert”? Well, that didn’t really exist back in 2008/2009, and she was one of the first - I called her the wellness wonder woman! We lost touch, and after a few years and a particularly difficult season for me (breaking up with the man I was planning a wedding with - which is another post altogether), I went down to Costa Rica to unplug, and get back to who God created me to be. I prayed that God would bring people into my life who would change my heart and point me closer to Him. The day I got back, I got a message from Jessica. She had seen the posts about my trip, and wanted to meet up to chat about it. She loved Costa Rica and was thinking of getting married there. I guess you could say that is when our little love story happened, because after that, we were like sisters. We yoga-ed, we boxed, we polar-plunged, we planned wellness events, and we even planned her wedding (she actually did all of the planning, and I just added the enthusiasm!). I was in the best shape of my life, and always will to eat any healthy recipes she created. We were gym rats (only the cute kind)! And in March of 2011, I witnessed one of my closest friends, Jessica, get married on a hilltop in a Costa Rican castle. It was everything! I had no idea that almost a year later she would be diagnosed with lung cancer.

 

Even as I type this, I cannot believe she was the one that got cancer. When I say she was healthy, she was H.E.A.L.T.H.Y. She didn’t eat meat, she worked out, she juiced, she was everything thru the year that most women only commit to being on the first of every January. She was so fit and perfect in my eyes, that I once entered her in a radio promotion "teeny greeny bikini contest" for St. Patty’s day just because I wanted the first prize trip to Mexico, and of course I knew she’d win (if I didn’t believe she would literally kill me from beyond, I’d post the picture of her in the bikini that personally SHE CROCHETED just for the contest – she was the cutest!). But she got cancer, and all of that didn’t matter.

 

What happened over the next few months is a little bit of a blur. We researched a ton, we talked to a million doctors/online experts/holistic doctors/naturopaths, etc. We learned everything we could about cancer, but what we really learned was that everyone has an opinion about cancer, and if we weren’t careful, we would get stuck in a state of paralysis by analysis. They needed to make a decision, and with lots of prayer, Jessica and her husband Joe, decided to go down to Houston to see what they could find. 

 

Thru all of this Jessica and I had some of the most real, most heartbreaking, most raw conversations I have ever had. Can you imagine having someone you love look you in the eye and ask “Am I going to die?”. How do you even answer that?

 

Do I lie, and say “no, of course not” or do I do the brave thing, and look her in the eye and speak truth “you might, but you are here now!”. I hope you never have to have one of those conversations. It will break your heart a million times over. But if you do, I encourage to be brave – God has a way of giving you the perfect words to say.

 

Before she left for Houston, I wanted to gift her something special to help her thru her diagnosis. She was going to be lonely and scared, and I wanted her to know I was with her. I scoured the internet only to find cheap, somewhat cheesy pink feather boas or low-level type gifts, and nothing seemed to be sophisticated, beautiful and fun like my friend, Jessica. So I made her something. I bought a blank journal and created every page as a place for her to pour out her heart and feel safe with all that she was going thru. (Eventually it turn into this: the Love Heals Journal) It had glitter, and stickers, and feathers, and it was filled with love! She took it everywhere with her, and would call me to tell me about the women she met who saw her writing in it asking where she could get one. I started making a few and sending them to her so when someone asked, she could give them one. It was my (and her) way of walking along side of these women and showing them we were in the fight with them.

 

Months later, and a God given trial medication, Jessica was in remission! It was almost as unbelievable as getting the cancer itself. She had no hair loss, not much time in the hospital, no real chemo (in was in pill form and real, but you know what I mean), and it just seemed like her whole cancer experience was a breeze.

 

We were wrong.

 

Jessica had one of the most amazing summers with her family. She traveled, completely revamped her business, and even started writing a cookbook (cleverly named “Remission Kitchen” still to be published.) She pushed me to try to publish the journal I made her. She begged me to go on Shark Tank even without a product, just an idea – she was crazy with life like that, she just went for things.  We started going thru the book I made her and discussing which pages really helped her, which pages she needed more of, and what else I could add that would make it really special, and we landed on the ones we currently have. We had a plan - we were going to launch this company together (she would be the face of the brand, of course!) and we were going to change the way people loved the people in their lives who had cancer. 

 

That fall, the cancer came back with an army. It attacked her brain, was back in her lungs, and was getting harder and harder to keep it at a distance. She lost her hair, so we bought her a wig. She fought, we all fought, but there was nothing we could do. And July of 2014, we prayed her all the way to heaven.

 

I spent months alone, and grieved intensely. No one knew what a hard time I was having because my go-to coping mechanism has always been isolation. I found out how much pain likes the dark. I rarely left my condo. I didn’t lay in my bed for months. I sat on my couch, sleeping for 2 hours at most, numbing myself with tv, the internet, food, nothing and everything at the same time. But what I did was pray – all day, all the time. I even prayed during the short amount of sleep I got. I wept and I prayed for 4 months. I had a million questions for God, but the biggest ones, the ones that I could never fully get answered were “did I love her well? Was I a good friend? Did I do all I could do to make sure that Jessica knew she was loved by me?” And I eventually found the answer in the original journal I made her.

 

Her husband had given to me right before the funeral and I kept it in under a pile of things in my living room. It had been 4 months, and I never once opened it. One night, somewhere between 3 and 4am I decided to find out exactly what she was thinking, so I read the first page of that journal, and closed it again, and I haven’t stopped pursuing this business ever since. That is really where it all began, and how I got here.

 

So that’s it. I have poured my heart, soul, and most of my savings into creating this business, and I am so thankful!

 

Thankful…

for all of the encouraging emails I get daily from both loved ones and fighters!

for every single person who has purchased my products!

for all of you who have tagged @itsbecauselove in your posts and also commented on mine!

 

The internet can be a scary place, but also so sweet when connections are made. So, thank you.

 

These products are so needed in the world and I am just trying to help us, the friends and family, take a little better care of those who have been diagnosed and love them well! #itsbecauselove 

 

 

 

STILL LOOKING FOR A GIFT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE BATTLING CANCER?  SHOP

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1 comment

  • Suzanne on

    I received one of your beautiful blankets in Nov. What a wonderful idea. I feel my friends love and caring surround me. A football sized tumor was discovered by accident in August. There is nothing that can be done. Since I am 76 yrs I kind of look at the diagnosis as a gift. I have no pain yet and am able to spend wonderful time with my friends. I am in hospice care but still am involved in many act.ivities. I am experiencing less and less energy as the tumor grows. Your blanket and the messages from many friends continues to sustain me. Thank you.

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