At 14, Joel was diagnosed with medulloblastoma – a cancerous brain tumor. I was 11 and probably out there doing 11-year-old things, not realizing my future husband was battling for his life against cancer.
During his diagnosis, Joel underwent a high risk surgery to remove his brain tumor at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He then had extensive amounts of chemo and radiation.
Fast forward 11 years later. Joel is healthy, cancer free and working at Mott as a child life specialist. And for me? Well, I had found my way to Michigan. After losing a very close friend to cancer, Myles, I knew I wanted to make an impact on pediatric cancer and with my skillset, that was through fundraising and through Make-A-Wish. I worked at Make-A-Wish for several years, but ultimately, I ended up on the Michigan Medicine development team doing my part to fundraise directly for pediatric cancer research.
And that brought me to Joel. I remember the first time I saw him at Mott. We were doing a telethon and he came into the room to hop on air for an interview. I remember thinking (even though I had a boyfriend at the time whoooops), he’s cute 😬. From Joel’s perspective, he remembers seeing me and thinking I looked young 🙄. We never talked that day but I certainly didn’t forget him.
The next time I saw Joel was literally 3 years later. It was December 2015. I was working another event at Mott and he was too. This time we talked. I remember him introducing himself, having small talk, and then he was on his way. I must have aged or something, because this time he looked me up on Facebook after 😉. He learned I was in a relationship and didn’t message me. GOSH DARN IT WE WERE SO CLOSE.
In March 2016, I received a newsletter from Make-A-Wish Michigan. I opened my email to see Joel Maier standing in Mott and read his story about his cancer survival and his wish. My jaw about hit my desk. I couldn’t believe he was a wish kid. If you know me, you know how much that organization means to me. Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure I could feel what God was up to. I didn’t hesitate and found Joel on Facebook. I sent him a message and after some back and forth conversation, we decided to hang out. And now, a year and a half later, we are engaged. Woah!
Hang on as I get sentimental. I remember the first serious conversation we had about his cancer. We were snuggled up on my couch and I was confused when he called it a blessing. He went on to say he wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it made him who he is today. Can we talk about who he is today?
If you know Joel, you’re lucky. When you meet him, I promise he will be able to make you laugh within the first 2 minutes of your conversation. Heck, he can make a cranky check out clerk smile. In fact, it’s often his goal. When we have a cranky encounter with someone out in public, he will lean in and whisper, “Watch, I’m going to make them smile.” Before I can warn the person, he will say something absurd and I roll my eyes apologizing and jokingly telling him to stop. But do you know what? They smile. Every. Single. Time.
In those moments, I smile too. Not only because of his silliness, but because of the moment with him. A moment I might not have had if it wasn’t for God and the doctors at Mott.
Dating Joel has been the best journey of my life. This man has taught me so much about living with a grateful heart and loving others. I mean the guy sends me encouragement every single morning reminding me to love others and be thankful for another day. His positivity and love for life shines through in everything he does. He truly is a blessing to me and so many others and somehow, I’m lucky enough to get to do life with him for the rest of my life.
I say all of this to tell you that Joel and I have decided to give back this month. September is pediatric cancer awareness month and we are fundraising for cancer research at Mott Children’s Hospital.
We both feel incredibly grateful for what we have and want every child facing pediatric cancer to get a chance at love and life like this. We know it can’t happen overnight, but we know we have to try because there is so much more work to do. So we are asking our friends and family to please make a donation (of any amount) to research Mott Children’s Hospital to help us #BlockOutCancer. It would mean the world to us.
Thank you for considering.
God is so good.
Shae & Joel