The Mighty Logo

Finding Hope After the Tragedy of Losing My Daughter to Brain Cancer

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a quote by Desmond Tutu that really spoke to my heart: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Life is tough right now for so many around me. My loved ones are scared and facing colossal life challenges. Some of them for the very first time. And I can simply watch from a distance, all the while praying for a miracle for each of them.

When life hits us out of nowhere sometimes darkness is all you can see. I’ve been there. I get it!

I remember vividly the moment I realized Olivia’s life on this earth was going to come to an end.

We were driving back to Wyoming after yet another MRI and chemo treatment in Denver. I felt exhausted in every way imaginable. My twins were sleeping in the back seat and the song “Worn” came on by Tenth Avenue North. The lyrics spoke to exactly where my heart was at that moment:

“I’m tired I’m worn, my heart it heavy from the work it takes to keep on breathing./ I’ve made mistakes, I’ve let my hope fail, my soul feels crushed by the weight of this world./ And I know that you can give me rest, so I cry out with all the I have left.”

I laid my head back in the passenger’s seat and the tears began to flow. It was at that moment I really felt just how worn we all were. Olivia wasn’t getting better. Her tiny body was giving out. Her passion for life was waning. And my heart was hurting in a way it never had before.

I had no hope left. I no longer believed a positive outcome was possible. It was a terrifying reality.

For so long my hope for Olivia to beat cancer was all I had. It was why I fought so hard. Why I put my baby through so many horrific treatments. She had to beat this. She had to.

And if a cure wasn’t coming then what was the point of any of it? At what point were we just torturing our girl? These huge questions flooded my mind and I felt physically ill.

Nearly a month to the day later we did get the news Olivia was going to die. And five days after that she went home to Jesus on October 22, 2013. As I watched the coroner leave my home with my 20-month-old little girl I didn’t think I would ever be hopeful again.

I thought my heart would be filled with darkness forever.

But one day I opened my eyes and the light started to come back in. I think the light began to return when I started to see all the good that came from everything our family had gone through. Finding purpose in the pain gave me back my hope. And the hope I got was a new kind of hope — one rooted in knowing no matter what, God is good and He can bring me through absolutely anything.

Olivia Caldwell last chemo photo

Life hasn’t been perfect since then. It has actually been really, really hard at times. But when I keep my eyes pointed up and I refuse to let the darkness win, I can keep my hope.

And you can, too.

The Olivia Caldwell Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research. You can learn more and donate by visiting

This post was originally published on the Olivia Caldwell Foundation Blog.
Originally published: August 29, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home