Stephanie and Russ are parents to three beautiful girls, and make their home on a farm in Texas. Adversity struck their family when their eldest daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer. Their story of dealing with this illness as a family, and coming through the other side shining, is inspiring and beautiful in the extreme.
I understand that you have faced a particularly difficult struggle with one of your children–something no parent should have to face.
Stephanie: A few years ago, my eldest daughter was diagnosed just after her 14th birthday with a bone cancer that was ravaging her leg and had already spread slightly to her lung. Her survival was very much on the line, and she had to have half her leg amputated, had almost a year of intense chemotherapy, and later had to have a lung surgery to save her life. The procedures were all successful, and she is currently happy and healthy. I am just so immensely proud of how she has pulled through all of this, and maintained such a bright, positive outlook on life.
Obviously it is every parent’s worst nightmare to have something like this happen to their child.
For those interested, this news clip gives a look at not only the procedures that were undertaken to save her life, but also a window into the bright and utterly inspiring individual my daughter is.
Watching this video, and getting to see your daughter in person last fall, I was awestruck by how happy, well-balanced, and positive she is. She amazes me.
Stephanie: She IS amazing. This girl had to make some really tough decisions and went through some really tough experiences during all of this, and though it WAS sometimes really hard for her, she always came through it with amazing grace and resilience. Her attitudes I think really reflect who she is and who she has become.
Though I felt like having this unusual leg surgery was absolutely the best decision she could make for her future, as a mom I had some real concerns about how it could affect her viewpoint of herself going into and through the adolescent years. Would she feel that she was not beautiful? Would she fear that no one would love her or be interested in her because her body was now going to be different? It was heartbreaking to think so, as she’s so bright and beautiful and such a wonderful person. One day we were talking a little about it, and she just said, “If a guy doesn’t love me because of my leg, then he’s not the guy for me.” That’s right. And for her to be able to have that viewpoint at 14 was just inspiring and a huge relief.
She has managed to keep such a sense of humor about it all too. The nurse would come in and (as required to do) she would ask Zoe if she had any allergies. Zoe would promptly reply, “Yeah, I’m allergic to chemo.” It always got a chuckle and lightened her mood. With her surgeon, he’d give her a checkup and then he might ask her if she had any other concerns; she might throw out, “Yeah, somebody cut my leg off!” and then they’d laugh and laugh. It’s not that she didn’t have hard or dark moments; but that she never lost sight of herself and the important things, that she not only didn’t let this change her attitudes in a negative way, but that she actually feels she gained something POSITIVE from this experience, is truly remarkable to me. I’m so proud of her. I admire each of my girls so much actually–each one of them is such a bright, unique, wonderful individual.
As a note, she received some Scientology auditing too. Once she was complete with treatment and was more up to it physically, she wanted to get some auditing before she went back to school, to help her handle some of the experiences and things about this that were still somewhat upsetting to her or would affect her sometimes. This went really well and helped her smooth some things out and take more of her attention off of cancer as the center of our world, so that she could carry on with life as she should.
Do you feel going Clear helped you in any way in facing your daughter’s situation?
Stephanie: It was a very difficult situation and there were SO many aspects of it that were tough to face, the biggest being the threat of losing our child. I’m sure you can imagine the range of emotions a parent might feel at facing the possibility of losing our daughter. Being Clear didn’t make getting through this “easy” (obviously), but it’s important to understand how it made it easier – and POSSIBLE – to deal with everything I had to deal with. In going Clear I had already handled my own mental “noise”, my own negative thoughts and reactions, my own bad experiences. As a result, when it came to dealing with cancer and all that came with it, I was so much more able to stay focused, positive, and logical in my actions and decisions, and to stay upbeat.
It’s sort of like this: if something unpleasant is thrown at you and you have all this clutter and negativity and pain that it hits up against, it all just becomes a jumble of pain, one thing reverberating off another—it can be pretty black and overwhelming and heavy. But what if something unpleasant is thrown at you and there isn’t all that “stuff” there for the unpleasantness to stick to and stir up? It really makes for a very different scene. People in general are really quite amazing and resilient and positive—and without all that negative clutter, the unpleasantness is unpleasant but you deal with it and you bounce back and it’s done. With hurdle after hurdle thrown at me in dealing with my daughter and her treatment, I generally felt able to tackle each barrier as itself, and not get stuck in things or stuck in some emotional state. I was able to stay me, and thus best help her.
It was invaluable to me to be able to continue to be there for her through the whole thing, and for every other person in my family, and every other person affected by her illness for that matter. In my mind, what was needed (almost fully as much as excellent medical treatment), was to keep the future put out there, to keep her dreams alive, to create as many pleasurable moments as possible under the circumstances to help outweigh the rest, and to keep creating LIFE despite all threats. As a Clear, I felt able to do that pretty easily. As a result, my daughters, my family and my friends were positively impacted, where there could have been the potential for just fear, sorrow, overwhelm and loss. I had people (friends, family, strangers, even medical personnel) constantly commenting to me how positive and amazing we all were during all of this, commenting on how I dealt with my daughter and on our family’s relationship. I think most people in such situations rise to the occasion and are quite amazing, but I do feel being Clear really helped. My husband is also Clear, which made a huge difference for us as well.
Cancer brings with it a longer road too–even after you’ve beaten it, there are follow-ups and scans and there is watchfulness for recurrence, often for many years. You know, you want to just be done, but it has a tendency to not quite let you go. I’ve observed with others that this can lead to a lot of constant fear, upset, and unhappiness. Being Clear, I’ve found that I feel able stay out of fear and unnecessary worry as time marches on. I don’t have my attention stuck on it all the time, and I feel better able to just deal with what comes as it comes, not have cancer define our lives.
Russ: Clear or not, an event like this is going be devastating. But what is important is how you handle it and what you do after you are done being devastated. One thing I’ve noticed after going Clear is that my emotions are much more free. This doesn’t at all mean that my emotional state is all positive all the time. Bad things happen, and I fully experience the negative emotions that go with that. This may not sound pleasant, and at times it surely isn’t, but there is a key here: I am able to fully grieve, and then I am able to move on. Negative emotions and grieving are completely normal and part of handling the losses that inevitably come with the experience that is life. Going through this cycle allows one to move on… to acknowledge that something has ended or changed and then to move on to start a new beginning. After my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I grieved very heavily, but for a short period of time. Then I was able to immediately pick myself up and move on to doing something effective about it, to help her create her new future. Before I went Clear, I would tend to get “stuck” by bad events… to be unable to fully grieve and then move on. Sometimes I couldn’t feel anything.
Being Clear is being fully connected to life, able to respond to everything it throws at you with whatever emotion is most appropriate, positive or negative, and then to always be able to pick up the pieces and move forward into a brighter future.
What changes have you noted in dealing with your kids, or with handling day-to-day matters since going Clear?
Stephanie: I felt like going Clear made a big difference for me in how I was able to deal with my kids. I always adored my kids and generally got along with them great. I was a pretty good mom and the family was doing well. However, I always had certain areas where I felt I didn’t do a good enough job—I felt I wasn’t patient enough, I felt like they would push me past a certain “breaking point” sometimes and it made me feel a bit out of control, and I could get into a lot of regret on not feeling like I handled them well. I really wanted to be a better mother.
After going Clear that was so handled for me—it was great! I had even better relationships with my girls and my husband, and it was easy. I didn’t feel hung up on the past and I wasn’t in all this regret and second-guessing myself any more. It was so easy finally to just deal with my kids and situations calmly and rationally, the way I had always wanted to. I could face their moments of kid drama without myself going into it. I would no longer get into these occasional irrational moments of flying off the handle or feeling out of control on my reactions. I could really help them more and I noticed I could usually pretty easily get them through rough spots where they occurred, or prevent them from happening in the first place! Motherhood became calmer and just more fun.
Also, I used to have these sort of no-real-reason-for-it fears and worries in relation to my kids sometimes. Like I would be afraid for them, or would worry about their safety sometimes, when I didn’t feel it was really that logical. I like to give my kids a lot of freedom and I like to foster independence and ability in them, yet sometimes I would have to fight these worries while trying to do this. I would even occasionally get these totally out of the blue terrible scenarios popping into my head in some of the most mundane circumstances! But after I went Clear all that noise was gone. I felt so much more relaxed and I no longer had all this negative chatter and worry going in my head. It wasn’t a fight any more with my own reactions—I could give them freedoms, responsibilities, etc., with good judgement and without all the worry. I’m sure they appreciated that as well!
My husband, my kids and I are really close, and we have really good communication and relationships in our family. Everyone in the family is thriving and it’s so rewarding to be able to bring that about and contribute to that.
Russ: The biggest change for me since going Clear is that I’m able to look at things how they are, and not get stuck in some idea of how they ought to be. Of course things can always be better, but if you can’t look at how they actually are, how can you move them toward that better state? This is definitely true with children. Parents often have all sorts of big ideas about how the child should behave, what they should become in life, etc. To me, being Clear means being able to have those ideas, but also to understand that the child might have different ideas, and to get truly interested in what they want to do with their life.
What changes have you seen in your life, either personally or professionally since going Clear?
Stephanie: I loved how it helped me become a better mother, as I talked about on your last question. I really love kids and family, so that was a big one for me.
Another huge thing for me was my general level of certainty with myself and my ability to reach out and to act. I was a pretty extroverted person overall, but this was just a whole new level of comfort in my own skin. My attention is now really outward (instead of introverted about various little things about myself), and I easily deal with various situations in life and work. I don’t get down on myself or doubt myself the way I used to. If I get bad news or a tough situation comes up, I bounce back really fast, or I don’t have any negative reaction at all and am able to just handle it instead.
In my job I really have to be able to handle people, even in sometimes difficult situations or when there is a lot going on. Professionally it was almost night and day for me, before and after going Clear. Looking back on it, I feel like there was always an element of uncertainty before, as well as sometimes a tendency to be willing to “coast along” or not fully control a situation in front of me. After going Clear, I just felt so much more stable and certain in myself, and thus able to really observe the people I worked with and reach out to them and handle situations like I never had before. There wasn’t any more of this back-off. It was just: “I see a situation. That has to be handled. Boom.” As a result, I became a lot more effective and I found more and more people would seek me out.
Also life in general just became so much calmer and easier to deal with. Even in rough moments in life I don’t get mired down in it. I don’t react the same way to negative emotions and attitudes in others around me. Yes, I can still get mad or upset about something in life, but it tends to be so brief–then I’m done and am fully able to move on. So much so that it shocks people sometimes I think! I can have fun with my emotions and not feel like they run my life. I run my life! I’m really happy and cheerful most of the time, and I can get excited about the littlest things. It’s really just that I became more myself, without all the added junk that was a negative influence on my life and behavior.
Russ: My career was pretty much on the rocks before I went Clear. I had been very successful as an engineer, but had stagnated and stopped progressing. I was probably on the verge of being fired.
Going Clear allowed me to “re-boot” my career. Prior to this, I had held the role of manager a few times. I was pretty good at it, but I literally hated it. It was about the most unpleasant activity I could imagine. After going Clear, though, wow… night-and-day difference. Suddenly all of that (completely irrational) hate of that role was gone. I was able to be effective as a manager and enjoy it. I became able to inspire others: all of the excitement that I had previously only felt when doing my own personal work, I was able to impart to others doing their work. All jobs became interesting to me, large and small, from the mail clerk to the rank-and-file engineer to the CEO… everyone contributes to the overall success of the company in their own way. And as a manager, I get to help conduct that orchestra, not just play a single instrument. Going Clear enabled me to fully step into this role and realize my potential.
Along with getting Scientology auditing yourself, you’ve also gotten yourself trained to deliver auditing. Would you say that this has had a similar effect on your life as a parent?
Stephanie: Yes, I trained in how to audit others as well, which has been such a rewarding experience. It’s really amazing to be able to effectively help other people like that and change their lives. I audited someone to Clear for the first time not too long after I went Clear myself!
Training to be able to audit has definitely changed my own life, probably almost as much as receiving auditing myself. It gives you a tremendous amount of understanding about people and the mind and life. With more understanding of others (and myself), I am more able to deal with situations and people well, I am more compassionate, and I am more effective. I literally find I care for people more. And I want to help them—and I’m more able to do so, not just with auditing, but just in my interactions with them in life. Just some of the things I’ve gotten from training as an auditor are: understanding of the mind, persistence, effectiveness, confidence, tolerance, the ability to control situations and handle people, an improved ability to think quickly and be decisive, and high level communication skills. What’s not to like?!