Nadia Parkinson works at a Walmart in Orlando, Florida. Here, she shares how the Thrive Challenge helped her and her family through a particularly difficult chapter.

When my wife, Erin, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, it made me think about how fragile life is. We’d only been married two years and we were enjoying life together as a family with our 11-year-old daughter, Aleene. We were planning to travel and buy a house. Suddenly I didn’t know whether we would have a future together, and I was fearful. But I’m a firm believer in hope and l started the Challenge to focus on gratitude and giving back, to appreciate my life more. I had to make sure that I was there for my wife, mentally and emotionally — and also to be there for myself.

“I started writing in a gratitude journal.”

I document things and people I’m grateful for, like helpful co-workers. Then I look at what I’ve written and decide how to actively show gratitude, like sending handwritten notes or bringing healthy snacks into work, like breakfast bars, for people who’ve shown kindness. When Erin had her chemotherapy treatments, I wrote to her oncologist saying how grateful I was that he and his team were going the extra mile for her. I’m thankful for little things too. For example, if I’m driving and need to get somewhere quickly and the light turns green, I’ll say, “I’m so grateful!”. It makes a big difference to how I feel.

I say affirmations every day, like, “I am blessed; I am strong enough to handle anything; Nadia, you can do this!” And I chant them in the shower! I put pictures of things I want for my family, like a house, on a vision board, which hangs above my nightstand. There’s a picture of my wife on the board with a sign saying: “I am cancer free.”  

“I’ve become a great cheerleader for Erin.”  

She’ll wake up, and say, “I wonder if I can pull through?” and I always say, “No, honey. It’s not wonder. You can pull through.” When Erin’s long hair fell out in her hair brush, and she was almost in tears, I said, “Stop right there, the hair will grow back. Your life is more important.” And she went through her treatment like a champ!  

“I have gratitude meetup groups on Zoom with friends.” 

We talk about everything we’re grateful for. I’m encouraging everyone not to miss any opportunities to express gratitude. My aunt Marlene passed recently, and I realized there were a lot of things I appreciated about her, like what a good person she was, that I didn’t get to tell her, and that I’m sure she would have been happy to hear. 

“Giving back gives me purpose.”  

I was raised in Jamaica and worked as a teacher before moving to the U.S. Now, I donate classroom equipment to the school where I used to teach, because it’s underfunded. I buy book vouchers for students in need and donate money for care packages, which include groceries for those kids whose parents are unemployed because of the COVID crisis. In 2021, I plan to buy a few tablets for kids in Jamaica who are really struggling and cannot afford the devices they need for online learning.

“I appreciate the simple things in life, like having dinner with my wife.” 

I make it special, setting the table nicely and cooking something delicious like salmon with corn on the cob. I create a “restaurant” ambience by serving our (non-alcoholic) drinks in wine glasses decorated with a slice of pineapple or a cherry for an island look.   

I don’t go to bed without praying, and in the morning when I wake up, I’m on my knees. It’s  become an important part of my daily routine. I write down prayers on strips of paper and put them in a prayer box. And let me tell you, my box is magical — because we’ve just found out Erin is cancer-free! And she’s starting the Challenge. My sister is also downloading the app.

When Erin got her diagnosis, she said: “Now we’re not going to be able to go away anywhere.” And I said: “You’re going to beat this and then we’ll go on a lovely vacation.” Now, one of my goals is to take the family to a Caribbean island when the pandemic is over, so we can breathe in the air beside the ocean and enjoy nature. 

“The Challenge is heart and soul work for me and I am super, super happy.”

Gratitude is helping me stay present and grounded. It’s opened me up and I don’t feel any weight on my back anymore. It gives me peace and contentment and I don’t take anything or anyone for granted.  

—Nadia Parkinson, Walmart Pharmacy #5315; Orlando, FL; $3K Winner

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