Let’s Get Real- McCleve Family in Farmington

I’m so grateful to have had the chance to interview Hanna for my second Let’s Get Real Blog Post!

Hanna is a loving mother of twins, a deeply kind person, an athlete, a photographer, and a cancer survivor! She shares a little of where her family is at right now, her cancer story, and her outlook on trials. I’m so grateful for her openness and honesty about what she’s gone through. Enjoy!

What’s special about this time in your life?

I’m a mom to 5 year old twins. I feel like I am at a pivotal time in my life. My kids are about to go into kindergarten, which will give me a lot more “me” time. I was freaking out a little bit before Covid hit because for the past 8 years, it as been nothing but fighting Cancer to stay alive, then being pregnant, or taking care of the kids. The thought of all the time I will have on my hands sacred me because I felt like I didn’t have any hobbies, passions, or interests to fill that time. The pandemic hit and I found myself at home with my kids 24/7. It gave me the unique opportunity to focus on us and our relationship. We’ve been playing lots of games, coloring, singing, and dancing. I realized that there is nothing wrong with just being a mom. In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts there is. It has taught me so much and I have grown in so many ways. I’m grateful for this time we have had the last few months to remember that being a mom is hard, rewarding, frustrating, exciting, fun, tiring, and one of the most fulfilling jobs one could have. So I’m not sure what I will do for my “me” time but for now I’m grateful for being a mom!

What are your kids doing well at? What makes you the most proud of them?

My kids are so good at making friends. They are so aware of others and those who don’t have friends or who are left out. They love to meet new kids and then play for hours and hours. If there is one thing that I can teach them that will stick with them forever, it would be to have that Christ-like love for everyone. The reading and math can come late. ( Although they are already pretty good at that and might be better at it than I am.)

If you could give advice to other moms with kids your age or in similar situations, what would that be?

Soak up every single moment. They truly don’t stay little for long. Also to focus on what they are teaching you. I find that I am learning more from them than what they are learning from me. It’s amazing to view the world from their eyes and try to apply it to my life. Sometimes it’s the simple things we need in our life.

What is one of your recent triumphs as a mother? What do you know you’re doing right?

We have had a lot of family and friends either have babies or getting pregnant lately. Which has brought my kids asking me questions like “Mom, are we going to have a baby brother or sister ever?” or ” Do you have a baby in your tummy?” I have found that when they ask that it stings a bit, knowing that that will probably never happen for us. Tillie asked me that question the other day again and I simply told her that I was trying but that sometimes we don’t get what we think we want. She looked up at me with the most loving eyes and simply said ” Mom, all you need to do is pray to God and He will make things better.” I knew right there, despite the many days I have felt like I failed as a mom, that I at least did something right. They know where to turn to during hard times in their life.

Tell us about you overcoming Cancer and having Miracle Twins!

I grew up in a small town in Palmer Alaska. When I was a senior in high school I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I went through 12 weeks of chemotherapy and a month of radiation all while trying to go to prom and graduate high school. Once I was done with radiation I told my mom I was moving to Utah to find a job and start school in January. Two years later in 2011, I married Sandy in Alaska and moved to Salt Lake City where I started my job at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital as a Medical Assistant. 10 months into our marriage, we got the news that Sandy’s father, Darren McCleve, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. It hit us all pretty hard. Sandy’s family had already suffered a loss of a 7 year old brother and son. My heart broke for them and what we were all going to have to endure. November of 2012, my cancer had returned with a vengeance. It was all over my chest and spread to my abdomen. Due to how fast my cancer was growing we didn’t have time to harvest any eggs or do fertility options. That left us with the news that the chances of us having any kids was about 5%, even with infertility treatments. It was a lot for a newly-married couple to hear. We were now faced with not only having to lose Sandy’s father at a young age, but also enduring some tough treatments to save my life. 3 weeks after I was diagnosed, Sandy’s father passed away. He became my angel on the other side helping me through some very dark days.

A year after my bone marrow transplant, April 2014, we found out we were pregnant despite all the doctors telling us it wouldn’t happen. We were so blown away! In May we went to our first ultrasound and found out, much to our surprise, that we were pregnant with twins! All we could do at that appointment was just laugh. You think ugly crying is bad? Try laughing and crying all at the same! Let’s just say it wasn’t my most glamorous moment. Simply put, we were in shock. Twins don’t run in our family line. On November 25th, 2014, Tillie and Darren ( his full name was after his grandpa Darren) were born healthy and happy.

Sandy and I faced a pretty dark and trying time. I had given up on hope in a happy and healthy life. I felt like my life would be nothing but fighting cancer and the effects of the treatments of cancer would leave behind. Sandy truly held it together for me. He believed that miracles could happen. He chose not to listen to what the doctors told us about not having kids. Despite all that Sandy has been through in his life, he never gave up hope. That’s one of many lessons I learned- to never give up hope. No matter how dark a trial is, no matter how many times you have had to face it, not matter how long it takes, never give up hope. Better days are to come! I can’t promise they will come in this life or the next but they will come. Maybe not to how we want it to come but with hope all things are possible. I am not sure why Sandy’s family had to lose their father when they did, but I know he had a hand in getting our twins to us. I will forever be grateful for the tender mercies in my life and the lessons I have learned along the way. Remember with God, all things are possible!

I’m so grateful to Hanna for telling her story and I’m grateful to you all for reading! If any of this resonated with you, please share this link or comment below and thank Hanna! It’s not always easy to be vulnerable and open on the internet, but I truly believe these real stories are what can bring us together and help us all feel a little less alone in what we’re going through!

Xoxo,

Natalie

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