Rachel Then and Now

Then: Rachel never thought she’d be a self taught cancer then grief and loss first hand expert. It wasn’t until her life was thrown a grenade that she discovered levels of strength she never knew she had!

Rachel moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul “Twin Cities” to go to the University of Minnesota as an 18 year old, not knowing one person. When she was 19, she met Grayson, 7 years her senior. When she was 22 they married and assumed they’d live happily ever after. They did live very happily for many years as young Rachel and Grayson bought a house, a puppy and planned on starting a family. In January of 2011 what they thought was the flu turned out to be acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They gave it all to God and trusted in the medical team and the process. Over the 23 months of Grayson’s illness Rachel became a cancer and illness expert, navigating it all between working full time and her own health issues. The love and laughter they had together kept them going, along with their faith of course, until Grayson’s death in April of 2013. It was then that Rachel had to become Rachel 2.0 whether she liked it or not. She continued to lean on her faith, use humor, gusto and gained more levels of strength she never knew existed. The years following Grayson’s death, Rachel moved on while simultaneously grieving and choosing positivity, gratefulness for what she had with Grayson, and to be better not bitter. 10 months after his death, Rachel decided to honor Grayson and help all those who are and will be in similar shoes, by putting her journey and the plethora of the resources she gathered and learned; all down on paper. It’s her hope and dream that her story can help others feel less alone and to provide support in ways she so badly didn’t know she needed, nor how to ask for, when she was going through it all herself.

Now:

Rachel just marked 21 years of living in The Cities. She enjoys spending time with her husband, young step-daughter, dog Greta, friends, FaceTiming with far away friends and family, reading, kayaking, walking, cooking, baking, binging sitcoms, anything Bruce Springsteen or Ernest Hemingway, volunteering and thanking God for everything that brought her to present day.

Giving Back

Rachel strives to live a balanced life of practicing mindfulness, giving back for all the support she received during those challenging years, and to honor Grayson.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: 🩸LLS is very dear to Rachel, as it’s where she received priceless support during her husband’s illness and after his death via the Team in Training athletic event and fundraising program. In spring 2021 Rachel and a small team of friends raised $51,000 to fund a research grant in Grayson’s name to go towards cutting edge research 🔬, patient and family education 📚and support. Please check out www.lls.org to Save Lives!

American Red Cross: 🚑. Every 3 weeks Rachel donates platelets in honor of Grayson. She wasn’t prepared for how eye-opening this experience would be, the first time she donated. Thinking of how her late husband, and other cancer patients are tethered to needles and infusions for hours on end was very sobering. She’s thrilled to give back 3 hours every few weeks to save (3) lives with each platelet donation. She watches Netflix with headphones on and eats snacks afterwards. To Rachel, it’s just a drop in the bucket to give back for all Grayson went through and the dozens of blood products he needed to survive! Rachel is even more excited to do this as her 82 year old dad has donated 11 gallons of blood over several decades and continues to do so! Please consider donating platelets as there’s always a shortage, consider donating blood or plasma! 🩸 Find a donation center here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/giveplatelets.html

Dee Dee Jackson Foundation: 🎼🥁💜. Rachel became a board member of DDJF after being featured twice on the Power of Love podcast with Taj and TJ Jackson, and expressing interest in helping their organization’s mission. DDJF was created to honor the memory of Taj, Taryll and TJ’s mother Dee Dee who was murdered, to offer music therapy classes to grieving children and teens in Los Angeles, CA, as well as the weekly podcast with expert grievers and helpers of loss. Rachel enjoys this greatly and is thrilled to be connected to and helping along side the Jacksons and the other talented DDJF board members. Just like their Uncle Michael sang, we have to “Make that Change.” Please click here to find out more about this unique organization and to donate! https://www.ddjf.org/

~Strength~Faith~Courage

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