Pay It Forward
Kathy opens up about Victoria's struggle.
Hello everyone! Thanks for checking in with me again this week.
Excuse me while I grab another tissue. While watching this episode I ran the gamut of emotions. I experienced it all -- happiness, shock, love, sadness, and pride.
So you finally got a chance to see the sweet and sensitive side of Joey Gorga, which all who know him love. He is so proud of Melissa and happy to support and encourage her dreams. As little girls, our fathers represent such a strong presence in our lives. Our heroes. After all, more often than not they are the first man in our lives that we had so much incredible love and respect for. What a gift when we are lucky enough to fall in love with a man to pick up where daddy left off.
Hello! Can you say carbon copy? I’m talking about Melissa’s childhood home video, of course. I couldn’t believe how much little Antonia looks just like her mama when she was a kid.
Who else fell in love with Antony? When Melissa shared her desire to pursue her dreams to sing with me, I immediately thought of introducing them. He’s adorable and so talented. It feels great to be able to connect gifted people. Can’t wait for you all to see what lies ahead!
Honesty is the best policy. Rules are meant to be broken. Just say no. How many times have we all said these things. Well you never know what your kids are going to say next. I’m sure you can imagine what I must have been feeling and thinking when my kids were renewing their contracts. We have been discussing drug and alcohol abuse along with appropriate behavior with Victoria and Joseph since they were very young. They do know what we expect and what we will accept. So when Joseph admits to us that he may have a drink when he’s a senior or junior in high school, I just about wanted to faint. Both my kids know very well that under age drinking is illegal.
Unfortunately, being in denial that your kids may experiment during their high school years doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. However, after my initial shock, I realized that, the most important thing with kids is to keep the dialogue going. We may not always like what we hear, but we always encourage them to be honest. Honesty we can deal with, lies on the other hand, not so much.
Overprotective, sheltering, paranoid. Yup, guilty as charged. Especially when it comes to my kids. There’s a reason for my madness. Now you know why! I never would have thought when naming Victoria, she would fit her name so completely, victorious! That is truly what she is. Victoria has been through a lot at such a young age, as you see in this episode. Rich and I want everyone to understand that deciding to share this with you all was not an easy decision, there were a lot of things to think about. First and foremost, it was Victoria’s decision to make. After carefully considering the pros and cons, we decided to go forward. Our hope is that by sharing our family’s experience, someone in a similar situation may find comfort and strength. I’m going to take this opportunity to share a little more about her.
Our family was in Florida on spring break seven years ago. Victoria was ten years old. Victoria fainted on the beach, and my mother’s instinct told me to take her to the ER just to be safe. This had never happened to her before. The doctors ran a series of tests, and then just before she was going to be released, the ER doctor decided to do a CT scan. (For the record, we refer to that doctor as an angel.) When the doctor returned to me, she tearfully gave me the news. Victoria had a brain tumor. It was the size of a tennis ball.
What? This has to be a mistake, impossible! My child had never even been sick, never showed any signs. Victoria was very active and did well in school. I think I can safely say, this was probably one of the scariest things that any parent could hear. So many things were running through my head and nothing was making sense. I knew though that we needed to get Victoria home near our family and friends. We had no idea what lay ahead for Victoria and our family.
The weeks that passed were a complete blur. Almost like an out of body experience for us. I did not allow myself to get side tracked with emotions or the heart break that I was experiencing. The best way I can explain it is that I was on auto pilot, almost like a robot with a recording device. I listened and absorbed everything the doctors told me about Victoria’s surgery and prognosis. The only thing I allowed myself to do that wasn’t medically related was pray. I prayed for everything, from the nurses getting home safely, to the surgeon going home to a peaceful dinner with his family the night before her surgery. I made a deal with the Lord during those dark days. If He should restore our daughter to good health, I promised to make sure that her life was not one lived in vain. If we were granted this wish, our family promised that we would always try to "pay it forward."
Never before had our faith been tested in such an extreme way. We learned a whole new dimension of the word trust. The most difficult thing that we have ever had to do was surrender our daughter to the hands of the doctor’s and say goodbye to her as she lay on the operating table. We didn't know what the outcome would be and how she would be returned to us.
We waited for what seemed to be an eternity, the longest ten hours of our lives. The surgeon wheeled our little girl towards us. I know I didn’t imagine this. There was an unmistakable glow that surrounded her. You can call me crazy if you like but, in my life I had never seen anything more beautiful. Victoria was sitting upright holding an oxygen mask in one hand and waving to us with the other. She knew us, and she was moving her arms and legs, and through the mask she was holding to her face I could see she was smiling!
The surgeon was able to successfully remove the tumor without it affecting or damaging any part of her brain or it’s function. As with any surgery there are risks, especially when the brain is involved. I am overjoyed to share with you that the tumor was BENIGN. As you can see by watching each week, Victoria is a perfectly healthy and strong young lady. I remember lying next to Victoria in bed that evening after the surgery when everyone had gone home. Victoria was caressing my hair and she said to me, "Mommy, It’s OK to cry now, I’m going to be OK." Can you imagine, my baby was comforting me.
I often look back to that time and wonder how we all were able to get through it and remain focused. So many people have asked me, “How did you do it? How did you remain so strong?” My answer is always the same. “I didn’t do it. God carried us through!” I believe that the power of prayer and the amazing love and support that we received from our entire family and our friends is was what carried us through. Victoria had a least sixty visitors a day popping in to give a smile, a hug, or just a little love. I will never forget the all of the incredible doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the different hospitals where Victoria was treated. My family and I thank you all so much for taking such good care of her. Our sincerest gratitude goes out to a very dear family friend Dr. Rex Ghassemmi. Without his help, we would have never been able to have met Dr. Neil Feldstien. Dr. Feldstien is Victoria’s neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital. He is one of the kindest, most gentle men we have ever had the pleasure to meet. He truly has a gift. To him, we will be forever grateful for performing the surgery that saved our Victoria. We do believe in miracles. Through this horrible experience, we can honestly say that it has changed our lives for the better.
Pay it forward. The day we took Victoria home, I remember thinking to myself, “How did we get so lucky?” Why do we get to take our daughter home?” As we looked around and said goodbye to the other children and their families, we couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty. It wasn’t fair. Even though we were completely overjoyed that we were taking our daughter home, we still felt so bad. We discussed that with Victoria and asked what she thought about the other kids that were not able to go home. We mentioned that we would like for her to share her story of courage and bravery with other kids that might be facing a similar situation. She responded, “Sure, maybe one day.” After that we didn’t bring it up again. However I always hoped that the day would come when she would be ready to share her story and be interested in helping others that may be facing a difficult journey.
I was so excited when she came home from school one day and told me that her best girlfriend, Natasha, had approached her with the idea of starting a club/charity at their high school. The two girls formed this club and are trying their best to raise money and awareness for causes that they and the members feel connected to in one way or another. The club is called “Stand up for a Cause.” They try to run monthly campaigns for different causes. So far they have organized a holiday dance to benefit St. Judes Children’s Hospital. They held a toy drive for a local women’s and children’s shelter. They also bake cupcakes and cookies for monthly bake sales. During the month of February they sold roses to raise money for The American Heart Association. This episode covered her trying to encourage her brother to get more kids involved. It was an important month for her, because it marked her seven year anniversary of a clean bill of health. For the record they didn’t end up raising money for brain illness or injuries that month as planned. That was the month they decided to give their funds to the American Red Cross for the relief effort in Japan.
I am very proud of Victoria and Natasha for trying to make a difference at such a young age. They continue to get more organized and try to get more of their peers involved. Their club is only in the beginning stages, but off to a good start.
So now you know a little more about what makes us Wakile’s tick. Why I sometimes seem to take things so seriously and why Rich’s constant joking is just what the doctor ordered. We try to live each day to it’s fullest and grab the good.
I will leave you with best wishes for a fantastic week ahead, and a reminder to pay it forward.
Lots of Love,
Follow me and my family on Twitter @kathywakile, @richardwakile, @victoria_wakile, @josephwakile. Find me on Facebook and “Like” my Public Profile page. The launch of my website is coming soon!