Gema: I’ve learned that joy is not a feeling and it does not depend on the situation that I'm currently experiencing. Joy is a choice I must make daily and many times pray for. Joy is that giddy feeling when you don’t know why you are what others call “happy”, even though all the odds are against you. Joy for me is having peace that I'm heading somewhere regardless of the hurtles I must jump at that moment.
Gema: Joy is brought to me by feeling loved. Having the certainty that I'm loved and daughter of a king brings me joy. It is not easy to explain in words, it is something your soul recognizes. I'm loved, I feel loved, and because I'm loved first, I can love others. It is a cycle of joy.
Gema: I hope there aren’t any tears as I explain this time in my life. When I speak of it now, I can’t stop being amazed by the grace that was given to my family and I during that time. A couple years back, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer, with a 15% chance of living.
I was senior in college, working part time, oldest of three, only girl in a Mexican family and my whole world was falling apart. The doctors gave us NO HOPE, they were very bold (I appreciated) that my father only had one week to live without chemo and 15% of surviving with chemo. My mother, a woman of great faith, said “Let’s fight it!”. It was the longest 9 months of my life. My dad was permanently hospitalized due to the severity of treatment and his conditions. I was now focusing on increasing hours at work to help out with bills and pay for school. Parenting my younger brothers, feeding them and keeping with homework, while my mom was attending my father and juggling her own work schedule too.
We now reflect back (including my father, who survived, yay!) and only see a miracle. My dad not only beat the odds the doctors had given them, but somehow God sent people with groceries to our home, our community helped us with rent and most importantly there were people all over the world praying for healing. Literally all over the world, even in Italy and Japan (pretty awesome). My faith was tested, my joy was stolen during that time. I was on survival mode.
Gema: Good question. I still don’t have a human explanation on how I made through. I was a mess, but I graduated with Bachelors in Psychology and we had a double celebration with dad being home for the graduation. I can only see God’s hand in the works, I struggled with keeping a smile on my face but I did.
Gema: To be quite honest, there were moments when I did not choose happiness. But then, I had moments of happiness when I was in the hospital room watching soccer with him, those are the moments that I chose to be happy regardless of the location or the situation. I was focused on taking care of others during this time. I remember feeling happy the moment we got the news that he was completely clean from any cancer cells, the doctors were so shocked they had to double check their test.
Gema: I learned that I have a choice. I learned that joy is a daily choice. I don’t need to be in a perfect situation to be joyful or feel guilty for choosing joy. Joy brings me strength through struggles.
Gema: It is a process. It takes a lot of internal dialogue (self-talk), engaging in activities I enjoy (reading, running, family time, etc.). It is not easy, but is a choice that brings me strength.
TJB: Thanks so much for sharing your story! It's so hard to have hope with prognoses like that, but it's amazing that you all did, and that he beat the odds! I'm so happy to hear that. To catch up with Gema outside of this post, you can find her at any of her sites below:
For information on the illness: