At 8 years old, I remember being a curious
kid with a lot of questions about my faith, my life and
the world. It’s the age I started getting answers
to my many questions. I got my first typewriter (plastic)
and met my late husband, Wesley, the same year. Both changed
my life forever.
I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer.
I started out wanting to write books, then greeting cards
and eventually screenplays—good ones, like the kind that
makes us sit in our movie theater seat as the credits roll because
we are still processing what we just saw, heard and experienced.
While in high school, just weeks before graduation, I wrote
a letter to the president of Hallmark asking him what it is required
to work for the company after college. He kindly replied with
a detailed letter about the range of skills and education Hallmark
employees possess and told me to get in touch once when I finished my
English degree. I still have that letter in my scrapbook.
While in college (my major now changed from English to journalism with a minor in creative writing), I wrote to Ron Howard asking him the same questions about the film industry, but that letter got "returned to sender" because I didn't have his correct address. I would try a few more addresses, but I never reached him. (Opie is a hard man to find.)
Wesley and I married when I was 22. I got cancer at 24.
I survived and our son was born three years later.
My first book got published soon after the birth of our son,
and I felt grateful about experiencing the exact life I had dreamed
about living. We worked at it, but we were a happy and solid family,
and I looked forward to our future.
We could not have known that cancer would be replaced by
Wesley’s sudden onset of illness the day he cleaned out an old cabinet
in our garage. He died a year later, weeks after receiving a double-lung
transplant. He was only 35. I was 32. Our son was just five years old.
None of it was easy. Much of it seemed impossible.
But as Hunter and I moved forward, and I started writing our story,
I clearly saw that ours is just one story, and if I could share our experience and help others through their own difficult plight, then good could come from what had happened to our family and Wesley’s life and death could serve an even greater purpose.
While writing Big Shoes:, the idea for The DON’T WAIT Project® came to me at 5:30am, just weeks before I finished the book. I had thought about a way to help people not wait to do the important things in life that bring joy, satisfaction and worth to each of us. I wanted the Project and idea to be wide open, with no limitations. I didn’t want it to just be about health, business, family, faith or any other one thing—it could be anything. We all have our own DON'T WAIT®.
So far, the stories we are receiving from people who support the Project and
are telling their own DON'T WAIT®experiences are more than amazing. The stories
are life-changing. Sometimes the reality becomes bigger than what we
can dream for ourselves. That is my hope for the Project: the ripple effect will
impact people in ways that are hard to imagine. Just like starting out wanting to be
a writer the same year I met Wesley, I could not have known it would lead me
to write our story in all its joy and sadness. The same is true for the Project and
Lisa Bradshaw hosts Life with Lisa Bradshaw, a television talk show focused on
everyday people and everyday life. She is a mother, cancer survivor, author, producer
and founder of The DON’T WAIT Project®, a 501c3 non-profit organization committed
to raising community awareness about how positive life choices can impact the health
and welfare of individuals, organizations and communities. Bradshaw writes and speaks
on topics ranging from motherhood to patient advocacy and entrepreneurship to organ
donation registry. She has been a guest on national television and radio, including
Oprah Radio and The Rachael Ray Show, and her story has been featured in New York
Daily News, InStyle, Parents, Better Homes & Gardens and on Oprah.com.
Bradshaw founded the Project when writing her second book, Big Shoes: A Young
Widowed Mother’s Memoir, after the tragic loss of her husband at age 35.
Now, 13 years later, her grown son leaves for college and Bradshaw is focusing
on a different story.
“Hardships are opportunities for crossroads not an impasse in life,” Bradshaw says.
“The purpose for the DWP and TV show isn’t about telling my story (although I’ve always
been willing to lend my own story if it helps someone else feel more capable of telling
their own). Instead, it’s about shedding light on the person who is doing the most good
or whose philanthropy needs the most awareness. This project is about true storytelling
in all its heartache and triumph. And it’s what the DWP does best."
Life with Lisa Bradshaw airs on NCW Life Channel (Charter Cable and LocalTel)
and streams live at www.ncwlife.com. Check listings for show times.