The saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is one of my favorite sayings. In fact I used it just today and can’t help but smile each time the words pass my lips. Why you may ask, it’s because it serves as a reminder that there so many things most people “sweat” and stress over that really don’t phase me much. In 1997, a book was published using the quote as its title, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” written by Richard Carlson, and it was followed up with a sequel “What About the Big Stuff?” in 2002. In short, the books’ messages are: 1) don’t waste valuable mental energy worrying about things beyond your control that haven’t happened yet; and 2) there are some big things in life that one should worry about when it happens, the biggies, death, divorce, illness and other similar life-changing events. Suffice it to say, being the “over-achiever” that I am, I checked off a few of the “biggies” within one year of my life, and lived to tell the tale. One of the biggest that I faced was the big “C” word, cancer. When faced with the big stuff, the giants in life we don’t know if or how we’ll have the means to get through it–we don’t know what we’re made of until after our “mettle is tested”.
At age 35, while going through a major life-changing event, starting a career with a wonderful company, PatCraft, I found a lump in my breast which was ultimately diagnosed as “malignant”. My first thoughts were solely around my two children who were ages nine and five at the time…who would care for them if the worst happened to me…all the while stating emphatically “I’m going to be just fine”. The diagnosis and subsequent surgeries, treatments, experiences and expenses did not define me…they did however reveal to me the inner God-given strengths and blessings in my life. For starters, I already loved and cherished my family but never before had I realized that without them, my children could somehow suffer as a result of my medical condition. As a newly single mom, new to the corporate world, new to being head of household and new to having the entire weight of my children’s world on my shoulders, I surprisingly felt the load lightened without ever having to ask, a weight lifted by my family. We made it through that year and believe it or not, today we don’t look back with sadness. My children and I look back in awe at the joy we felt, at the happiness and peace we were given and at the indescribable feeling we experienced as a direct result of friends’ and families’ prayers and encouragement. Each morning before leaving our driveway for school and work, I’d say “What do we choose today?…We choose JOY!”. That year was our first Christmas as a family of three and I was in my final days of chemotherapy treatments. As you might imagine, treatments can leave your body feeling fatigued and I was also feeling mentally and emotionally drained by the weekends. My mother never failed to come and literally look at me “eyeball to eyeball” to see how I was doing. On one particular weekend she came to see what gifts I needed for my children’s Christmas. I had not done any shopping, this was before Amazon.com, and once she saw my defeated expression, she knew what had to be done. She said “put on your wig, we are going shopping”…and that is just what we did.
Each year since then, not only did I get stronger, but my children grew wiser and more mature…and the story of how “Grandmommy saved Christmas” became one of our Christmas morning traditions. What would have happened to us if my family hadn’t been there in our times of need? What happens to families who don’t have “Grandmommy” or a secure job with medical insurance like mine at PatCraft? These questions have haunted me over the years and it was not until my 50th birthday and my 15th Cancer-free Anniversary that I decided to do something meaningful about getting those questions answered. In July of 2017 The Kiker Morrow Finkell Foundation for Cancer Care was founded to be an integral part of the Emily Morrow Home. To me, each entity is as significant as the other…each entity serves a greater purpose. Emily Morrow Home was established in the fall of 2015 to merge my professional passions with my newly married life in a way that dove-tailed and complemented the two worlds. This past Christmas our foundation, with the guidance and help of another organization, was able to make Christmas happier and brighter for a family whose mommy was going through her own cancer diagnosis and treatments. Tying my enterprise to a cause that is so personally meaningful helps make it all the more of a challenge to see it succeed and grow, knowing first that there must be a thriving business before “proceeds” can go to a cause. The definition of what “success” is becomes a little more complicated but the end result, if and when the enterprise succeeds, is a blessing to many!