I remember sitting down on my couch and pulling a pillow on my lap. I was playing with the tassels to try and distract myself. I pushed the pillow against my lips to try and hide my face but I still wanted to make eye contact with my dad. Tears were streaming down my face as I heard the word, “cancer.”
My dad had been sick for a while.
I remember him complaining about his throat hurting and just not feeling well. Which was strange because I never heard my dad complain about pain. So I knew it wasn’t just allergies like the doctors kept telling him for months. I just didn’t expect it to be cancer. What I was not told on the couch though, is that it was stage 4.
At first, the doctors thought they could get all of the cancer by surgery. What was supposed to be a relatively short surgery ended up being double in time. The cancer was larger than they initially suspected. They ended up having to remove 1/3 of my father’s tongue. If that wasn’t enough, he also had to start chemo and then radiation came all while having to relearn how to swallow and talk. I never heard my dad complain once. It put a lot of things into perspective when I would complain about a boy that didn’t like me or not getting a grade I wanted on a test when my dad was single-handedly fighting for his life. Never once complaining. If I am being honest, a lot of my father’s cancer journey is a blur. My therapist says it’s normal that I subconsciously tried to block it out. I do remember though, how anxious I was throughout.
My stomach would go into knots when I thought about losing him.
I wouldn’t let anyone talk to me about my emotions when I was younger because I did not want to even think about losing my dad. I just bottled up all my emotions.
11 years later, my family is so incredibly blessed to have my father with us and healthy.
I realize how lucky we are, and unfortunately, many families do not get the same outcome. The stress and anxiety that I felt from my ACEs experience had lasting impacts on me. According to the CDC, 61% of adults have had at least one ACE. Science tells us how exposure to early trauma affects the developing brains and bodies of children. It also tells us how vital resilience is in overcoming trauma and living to our fullest potential. Resilience is critical to learn as it provides the ability to recover and adjust to misfortune or change.
My mission stems from my past.
While I realize that I was so fortunate to have a support group around my family and access to therapy, so many other Americans do not. It is key to promote what ACEs are and to build resilience in children. Through my recovery journey, I learned that trauma may not be preventable, but education empowers people to be proactive and seek support to mitigate the impacts of ACEs. These efforts will result in a brighter future for all children no matter what they have gone through.
Jordenne Butler is a graduate from Viterbo University, where she received degrees in Marketing and Creative Media. Jordenne currently works at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions as their Campus Recruiter. Outside of work, Jordenne is involved in the Miss America Organization. She currently serves as Miss South Central and competed for Miss Wisconsin in June, where she placed 4th Runner-Up, Her passion is her social impact initiative titled, Building Resilience for Healthy Futures. Jordenne provides social awareness and support for at-risk youth who have gone through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In her work, Jordenne has been able to work with many nonprofits on advocacy and development of ACEs training. Jordenne loves spending time with her family, friends and dog, Bentley!