Meet Jessica, a fiery, compassionate, smart, RN, wife, and mother of two girls, aged 4 and 7. Jessica currently has been doing Clinical IS/Informatics for the past 8 years and recently moved over to the Patient Quality side. We have always admired how smart and talented she is in her field and how dedicated she is to the patients at her work. She is the epitome of #ConfidentNaturalBeauty and is beautiful inside and out. In her free time, Jessica loves to spend time outdoors and go on hikes and she also loves to create delicious baked goods with her daughters.
We picked Jessica for our Mother’s Day Blog Post because of her story. Women tend to sacrifice a lot when they become mothers and often times they are the backbone of the family and put everyone else’s needs before their own. Jessica’s story is about strength and being vulnerable and recognizing her own needs as a person, mother, wife, boss, and friend. She realized that she had to put herself first and practice self-care in order to be able to be at her best for her loved ones. She practiced a year of “me” and accomplished so much during a trying time in her life. She is an inspiration to not only her family, friends, and daughters, but she is an inspiration to me. Regardless if you are a mother or not, I hope you find inspiration from her story and live your life to the fullest just like Jessica has.
Here is Jessica’s Story:
Rim2Rim – Grand Canyon Adventure!
In late 2015 I had a 6-month-old whom I was nursing, a three-year-old, and I was working on an incredible multi-hospital Electronic Health Record conversion. The work was exciting, challenging, and I was driven to succeed in my new role as an IS manager. Having young children posed a challenge, but I was determined that with my supportive husband, I could have both an exciting and fulfilling career as well as be a good mother!
I was extremely happy in my life, but that fall my father was diagnosed with stage three gastroesophageal cancer. He was 63, an active person and a huge part of my children’s lives. The diagnosis was devastating for my family. Being a nurse, I knew the implications of this diagnosis and the tough times that were coming. His treatment would involve surgery, radiation, and chemo. It was going to be a long, hard road ahead and I knew I was going have to juggle taking care of my father and family at the same time. Shortly after his diagnosis a longtime friend currently living in Phoenix asked me if I wanted to join her in hiking the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim the following October. The hike covers 25 miles and goes from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was in reasonably good shape, but a 12+ hour hike covering that kind of ground would take some training! The idea excited me and scared me, and for both reasons, I said yes!
In the new year (Jan 2016) I did an exercise with a group of female leaders at work. Instead of a New Year’s Resolution our leader challenged us to identify a single word we could focus on all year. This word would help guide us toward our personal and professional goals. I ran through all the things I wanted to do that year, get fit and train for the trip, stay mentally strong for family, be a boss that inspires my team, and make it to a year of breastfeeding/pumping my baby. I kept coming back to the word “me”. I liked it and I hated it. The word seemed self-centered and I was ashamed that I even thought of it. Despite those feelings, I reluctantly shared my thoughts with the group. To my surprise, they loved it and encouraged me to follow my instincts.
For the next 10 months I woke up early to alternate strength training or running. When I couldn’t get up early enough, my husband would do double parenting duty in the evening while I met my sister-in-law to run. In between meetings at work I would walk to the hospital and jog up and down the back stairwell to prep my legs for the incline coming out of the canyon. All the while I was attending my father’s medical appointments, trucking my kids back and forth to daycare, locking my office door to pump breast milk while on conference calls, and reading books and articles about how to be a good boss and a good mother.
As October approached I became nervous. I thought of excuses I could use to get out of the trip because I was nervous about being that far away from my children. I hate flying and was having lots of anxiety about leaving my girls. I never doubted my husband’s ability to be the primary caregiver, it was just me and my own fears. That was when the negative thoughts started coming in: What if something happened to them? I couldn’t just pop in the car and be there. What if something happened to me? I even considered using my dad’s cancer as an excuse not to go! My husband, of course, assured me everything would fine and that I couldn’t let my fear stop me from accomplishing this journey. Physically I was ready. I had met my goals that year for getting fit and I felt incredible in my body, something I hadn’t had in a long time.
That October I got on the plane. I had an amazing time with my friend and her wonderful family. Everything from loading our packs the day before the journey, the road trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, to making new friends, it was all filled with so much laughter and happiness. The hike itself was extraordinary! We started at the North Rim where there was snow on the ground and we saw buffalo! We ate lunch at Phantom Ranch where it was 80+ degrees and covered my skin and face to avoid sun and dry dust from trail. The second part of the hike was all switchbacks and incline. When it started to get dark and we still had 5 miles to go, my stomach flipped for a moment. It was just a moment as the sun went down and we could see the full moon in the sky.
I felt so tiny and so far from home, but also secure in my strength and overjoyed that I was experiencing a full moon inside the Grand Canyon!
The group started to split up and I was paired with a woman I had just met on my trip to Phoenix. Our lives were so incredibly different; she was a stay at home mom, married to a talented surgeon. Before that she was a nanny and traveled the world with the family she worked with. She told me amazing, juicy, stories of her life experiences to pass the time as we hiked by headlamp and moonlight through the switchbacks and up the trail. Our legs felt like lead weights as we slowly made it to the end. When we arrived at the Bright Angel Trailhead I started crying.
That night I felt like the strongest woman alive.
Four months later after my trip, my father passed away. My mother, brother and I spent the last week of his life taking care of him at home. My children turned 2 and 5, and our EHR go-live at work got pushed back. It’s funny, I feel like all that “stuff” I was doing that year would seem like the whole year was busy and negative. But by focusing on my own goals and physical and mental strength, I could give myself more fully to my family and my work. I was showing my girls how to be a strong woman and find healthy ways to deal with the challenges of living while making time to experience the things that bring me joy, like friendship and nature.
It was the toughest year of my life, but also the one I am most proud of. Proud that I met my goal of breast feeding my daughter for a year. Proud that I stood by my father when he was sick and dying. Proud that I got to lead a group of amazing people through a new project. And proud that I hiked Rim2Rim.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than she seeks”- John Muir