Mandie Sherman and Natalie Moss: Sisters Outliving a Life Expectancy

Wed Oct 28 10:00:04 EDT 2020
Episode 104

When Mandie Sherman was born in 1989 with Cystic Fibrosis, she was expected to live just 18 years. Three years later, her little sister Natalie was also born with the same disease. As they have battled their condition, the two sisters have endured painful challenges and daily treatments together. And yet, they are determined to take every opportunity and live life to its fullest.

Knowing that our life could be cut short—really at any moment—it allows us to repent of our sins more quickly, seek mending relationships that might have been hurt, search for answers and questions that we might have, take life by the horns, and say yes to that experience, take that vacation, plan that birthday party, visit that person, talk to your neighbor, talk to...your grandparents because you don't know when the last time you're going to be able to do those things is.
Mandie Sherman


Devin Graham documentary about Mandie and Natalie: 

Talk by Elder Bednar that Natalie mentions: "We Will Prove Them Herewith," October 2020 General Conference

Talk about suffering that Morgan mentions: Francine Bennion: A Latter-day Theology of Suffering

Natalie's Instagram account: @natalie_moss

Mandie's Instagram account: @shermanmandie

Show Notes: 
2:06- What is Cystic Fibrosis?
4:42- Day-to-day Living
6:00- Born with a Life Expectancy
10:47- Battling Together
16:59- Medical Progress
21:12- Dating and Marriage
32:00- Personal Decisions about Giving Life
43:20- Truly Living Life
51:31- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Morgan Jones 0:00
Cystic fibrosis was first recognized as a disease in 1938, but it wasn't until 1989 that a team of scientists discovered the cystic fibrosis gene. That same year a little girl named Mandie Rudd was born with CF. At the time, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation registry, the median age of survival was 29 years old. But with Mandie's life experience and birth story, her parents were told she would be lucky to live to age 18. Research and treatments have progressed and today Mandie is 31 years old. Her younger sister Natalie was also born with cystic fibrosis and together they have battled the disease their entire lives. They are now both wives and mothers who are determined to appreciate everything life has to offer. This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Mandie Sherman and Natalie Moss on the line with me today. Mandie and Natalie, welcome.

Natalie Moss 1:09
Thank you.

Mandie Sherman 1:11
Thanks, Morgan. So happy to be here.

Morgan Jones 1:13
This is such a treat for me, I, I watched a documentary, and I'm just going to go ahead and put this out there up front: Devin Graham did a documentary about Mandie and Natalie and their experience with cystic fibrosis. And I will be completely honest and say that I have heard of cystic fibrosis my whole life, but I did not really understand what it was or how it affects someone's life. And watching the documentary was so eye-opening to me that I kept making friends sit down and watch. It's like a 20 minute documentary, I'm like, "You will sit down and watch the entire thing with me."

Mandie Sherman 1:55
That's really sweet. That's really sweet, thank you.

Morgan Jones 1:55
Well, it's true, I think I watched it at least five times.

Natalie Moss 2:04
Oh, I love that.

Morgan Jones 2:06
For those that are not familiar – that are listening to this episode – and may be like, what is cystic fibrosis? How would you describe it to someone?

Mandie Sherman 2:15
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease, so it's something that you're born with. And it actually begins at the cellular level, meaning our sodium chloride channels are impaired, and they don't function properly. That impairment causes all sorts of chaos over our body, our bodies do not digest our food, we have to take medication to do so. Our sinuses are affected with chronic sinusitis and frequent surgeries. And the biggest thing that majority of our community suffers with is in the lungs. And lung infection and loss of lung function. So eventually, most everybody with cystic fibrosis – to continue living – will need a double lung transplant. And we all know that and we kind of just begin preparing for that our whole life and hope that one day we do get those transplants so that we can be here on earth longer.

Natalie Moss 3:13
With cystic fibrosis, our body is already working so hard to fight the disease and breathe every day and just kind of survive. And so our immune – that leaves our immune system already weaker than a normal person. So we are easily able to catch a sickness or a cold and just even a common cold could turn into something really drastic for us and put us in the hospital. So, we just have to take a lot of extra precautions and make sure that we are extra safe because our immune system is so weak as well.

Morgan Jones 3:49
Okay, and what plays into when and how you would receive a double lung transplant?

Mandie Sherman 3:59
They, they have like a little algorithm that kind of – they enter in a bunch of different numbers, and the result of those numbers they determine if you would live less than five years with your current lung status, then that is, you know, when they start seeking out transplants. Every CF Center has a little bit different requirement for what they want their patients, the status they want their patients to be at to put them on the transplant list. Usually it's about 30% or under in lung function, oxygen use requirements, their quality of life, different things like that.

Morgan Jones 4:41
Okay. And one thing that blew my mind on the documentary was it showed how frequently you're receiving treatments or you're treating cystic fibrosis in your daily life. So how would you describe how it affects day to day living?

Natalie Moss 5:01
I'll take that one. So with day to day living – it is extremely time consuming. And you have to be able to really plan around your CF and your treatments. So it's really hard for somebody with CF to do something spur of the moment or to say, "Let's go get breakfast. And let's go right now," Like that doesn't really happen for us. Because you really have to schedule out your treatments and live so strictly to that schedule, if you want to take the best care of your health that you can.

Mandie Sherman 5:36
But at the same time as being totally regimented, you also have to be – learn to be completely flexible, and drop everything on your plate anytime, to go into the hospital for a two week hospital admission. So it requires strict routine, but also ultimate flexibility.

Morgan Jones 5:58
Wow. So Mandie, your parents first found out that you had CF when you were born. The doctors told your parents that you would likely live to be 18 years old, they encouraged – your parents – encouraged you to live your life to the fullest. So my question is, when did they first tell you about that life expectancy. And were you scared?

Mandie Sherman 6:23
I actually found out that CF was terminal at a cystic fibrosis clinic appointment. And you know, when you're a kid or a teenager, you're just like, not really paying attention to what the doctors say, or your parents are talking about. And I was 12. I was around 12 at this appointment, and I remember my doctor, in a conversation with my parents talking about it being terminal, or “terminal this,” “terminal that,” and that word stuck out with me and caught my attention. And so I immediately cued my ears in to listen, and I just felt like – first I felt confused, and then I felt, "Not me, that doesn't make sense. Not CF. I mean, yeah, I have CF and CF is like an illness but not to die." You know? I felt that fear and then that denial, and then I felt betrayal for my parents like, "Why have you not ever told me about this before? Why haven't we talked about it?" And on the way home, I asked my mom and I said, "CF is terminal. Are you . . . really? Are you serious? Like, why haven't we talked about this?" My mom was so quick on her response and casual she was just like, "Oh, your dad and I we opted – when we found out – that we weren't going to focus on the life expectancy, or on death of CF, you know, death with CF. We were going to focus on living life, living a good life, focusing on the positives, finding the positives." And that's just how we viewed CF in our family and CF with your life. And it was such a powerful moment, because she gave me a calm and kind response. She wasn't flustered, which allowed me to, you know, think calm, and clearly about it. Her answer was so sure and so sounding, that it just resonated truth within me. And I immediately felt peace, and knew that what she was saying was true. And all of my feelings of resentment and betrayal, literally just melted away within that moment when I was 12 years old. And I was like, "Yeah, I don't need to focus on the life expectancy or that I might die. I want to focus on the life I'm living now and living the best life that I can."

Morgan Jones 8:45
Yeah. Natalie, what about you? Do you remember when you first understood that there was a life expectancy associated with CF?

Natalie Moss 8:57
Yeah, so, honestly, for me, I don't quite remember when it hit me, "This is a terminal illness." I just remember, because it's so common in our household growing up, we would just talk about, "Yeah, CF, the life expectancy is this, but we're gonna do this and this and this, and we're gonna have fun, and we're going to do the best we can. And we're gonna be happy about everything." So it was never really focused on, "This is the life expectancy and it's a grim outcome," and things like that. Like it just wasn't in our household. It was just a positive, happy environment and positive outlook and faith filled outlook. So there wasn't ever a time that I remember where it hit me like, "Man, I really am not going to live as long as somebody else," you know? But I think just over time with hearing and talking about it and having so many conversations about it in our family, that I just kind of came to the understanding like, "Yes, this is a terminal illness, and I do have it, and this is really what my reality is. But that doesn't mean I have to focus on this.” Because our parents taught us, you know, no regrets. If you want to do this, you go and do it, and we will support one hundred percent. And when that time comes, then that's great. It's that Heavenly Father's plan for us. But let's do what we want to do here on earth while we have the energy and while we feel good enough, and let's make the best of it. So I don't really remember exactly a specific time. I think it was just overtime that I kind of came to that realization.

Morgan Jones 10:40
Yeah. Mandie, and Natalie, so one thing that I have admired from a distance now for a little while is the sweet relationship that the two of you have. And Mandie, you were only three years old, when you learned that, Natalie, you would have a little sister and that she would also have CF. You said in the documentary that that was one of the biggest blessings God has given you. What has it meant to you to have someone who understands what you're going through? And then I'd love to hear I, I've been curious about how the two of you navigate CF differently, and how you admire each other for the way that you've navigated this.

Mandie Sherman 11:27
So you mentioned that I was three when Natalie is born, and that's true. And I thought everybody did what I did. I thought everybody took as many pills and treatments and stuff. And so, of course, my sister was going to do that too, because that's just the way it is. And so it wasn't until I was older, that I realized how lucky I was, you know? I had her as my partner through everything. Somebody who understood, like really understood what a CF stomachache feels like. Someone who really knows exactly what I'm talking about when I'm like, "Oh, my Gosh, like I have a plug right here in my lungs," and you can feel like a part of your lungs that is blocked off. I had that all growing up. And I was grateful for it. But I didn't realize the magnitude of how special that was, until I was 25 and I met a girl who, she introduced herself to me and quickly shifted the conversation saying "My little sister has CF, and we don't know anybody else." She doesn't know anybody else that has her disease, "Would you please talk to her?" And I just immediately, my heart went out to her and I was just like, that is so lonely. I couldn't imagine how lonely her path in life had been up until that point. And I was so astoundingly grateful that I didn't have to go that – right from the very beginning, God gave me somebody who would be by me through the whole process. That we could lean on each other, and how special that was. And yeah, I definitely say that Natalie is one of the greatest gifts that God could have given me. Because having somebody to understand and relate to you on such a unique path is really priceless. And I'm so thankful for her.

Morgan Jones 13:21
So then Natalie, I'll have you tell me – how do you feel like Mandie approaches CF and a terminal illness differently than you do? And what do you admire about that approach?

Natalie Moss 13:35
Mandie navigates it a little bit different than I do with her cystic fibrosis just because she is three years older than me, so she will always have three years on me, of the disease progress. So, it's been really helpful to be able to rely on her and lean on her if I have something that is new to me. For example, if my lungs start bleeding, and I'm coughing up blood, and I had never had that happen to me before, I can call Mandie, and she can tell me, "Look, this is what you need to do. Do this, this and this, and this will help you." Another way that she navigates a little bit differently than I do, is that she has more lung infections than I have had or a little bit different infections than I have had. And I have more sinus disease than she does. So we both have a little bit different parts of our CF that are more prominent. So, when I have something wrong with my lungs, I can ask her or when she has something wrong with her sinuses, she can ask me and we can help each other out that way. And I just admire her so much with her daily effort that she puts into doing her treatments and especially now, me being a brand new mom and watching her be a mom and trying and figuring out how to find time to take care of your baby and to do your treatments and to eat everything I need to eat for the day. It's a task, it's real hard. So that is something that I really admire, no matter how many times she goes in for a clean out, which is our two week hospital stay, she always just puts forward her best effort and a positive attitude. And she just goes in there, and it is what it is, "And this is what is gonna happen. And I'm going to do the best I can."

Morgan Jones 15:32
Yeah. Mandie, would you say anything about the way that Natalie handles it and what you admire about that?

Mandie Sherman 15:40
We're literally right now, we're in the middle of the COVID-19 respiratory pandemic, and Natalie is being so brave. The way that her path laid out for her during this time, she has to work in a public location surrounded by hundreds of teenagers, being a teacher. And I, I just don't think I could do that. And Natalie is doing it. And she's showing up, she's doing everything she can to be safe, and to educate her students on germs spreading and that they really, really need to be, please be careful around her. But, man, I am like, so scared for her. But she, you know, stands up with her courage and shows up every single day for those kids and for her job. And, you know, clearly Heavenly Father wants her to be there because no other options worked out for her at this time. And I just think she is so brave right now working in a public setting in the middle of a respiratory pandemic, which, if we got, would be totally devastating for our health and our life.

Morgan Jones 16:57
Yeah. So we mentioned earlier that originally, the life expectancy, Mandie, for you, was 18 years old – you are, how old now?

Mandie Sherman 17:10
I just turned 31.

Morgan Jones 17:12
Heyoo, we're the same age. And so I just wonder, has the prognosis for CF progressed as you've gotten older? Or how does that work?

Mandie Sherman 17:23
CF is a progressive degenerative disease. So the longer you have it, essentially, like the stronger it gets, it's a domino effect, right? It starts taking over and you know more of your body is scar tissue or damaged. And so yes, as I have gotten older, my disease has definitely changed, it's gotten stronger, it's been more prominent in my life. But at the same time recently, November 2019, so not even a full year ago, the FDA just passed a new medication that is life changing. And Natalie and I both had the opportunity to actually be a part of the clinical trial for this medication. And I can say that it was life saving for me. Two years ago, I was actually in-patient at the hospital, when I finally got to take the drug versus placebo. I ended up having placebo for like all, all three stages of the trial, which was very frustrating and very – relied on faith with Heavenly Father that He had His hand in that and that it was meant to be. But I finally got the medication. And I was in the hospital, I was under 100 pounds, I was wearing oxygen, at that point in time. I was entering the hospital for two week treatments about every six to eight weeks. And my quality of life was so low. And I had 32% lung function. And I've been on that medication now for two years, because of the way the clinical trial timeline has been with the FDA approval, and I, I haven't – I've been hospitalized two times since I got the actual drug. I am exercising, I am not on oxygen. I am – I ran a half marathon in January, and it has totally saved my life. I was on the road to transplant and you know my husband was – my husband flat out told me the other day, at this point in time, two years ago, he thought that I wouldn't be here and he thought he would be navigating life alone with our son and for me to be here and be laughing without coughing and having energy and joining them on like drives around the mountain like he is so thrilled at what this medication has done and how it has changed my life and ultimately our family.

Natalie Moss 19:56
So, the prognosis like Mandie said when we were growing up, it was – when we would go to our doctor's appointments, it was a pretty grim outlook. Like it was just the doctors, of course, are just, "Here's the facts," Blah, blah, blah, you know. "Here's the facts and here is what is expected." And throughout the years, as technology has developed, as new medications have come out, it is really cool to see not only the doctors perspective starting to change, but to be able to experience that in our own lives as well. It's just really honestly been life–changing to have that drug and be a part of that trial. And I know that that's why Mandie went to that hospital, because we were both meant to get in the trial and get this drug. And that's the reason why she was led to go to that hospital.

Morgan Jones 20:53
I love that because I think so much of the time, we're only hearing the negative about all aspects of life, and we don't have that inside view into progress that's being made and good things that are happening. And so I appreciate you both sharing that good news. One thing that I have loved about following along with – especially Mandie's account because I was connected with her through a friend but – in, in watching the way that the two of you live your life, you really have embraced that perspective that your parents had, and what they tried to instill in you, that "We're gonna live our lives" and you haven't missed out on, on these big things, the things that really matter. And so you both have gotten married, and you both have had a baby. And in in the video, Mandie, your husband says, "I figured if I could be with her 2 years or 20 years, I would take it." And then Natalie's husband said something similar and added that he knew he would have eternity with her, so however long he gets in marriage is perfect for him. How do you approach having a terminal illness in dating and then in marriage?

Natalie Moss 22:15
So approaching CF in dating and marriage . . . when we were dating, it was really important to us to be upfront and honest with the person that we were dating. Because this is the biggest part of our lives, and this is us. So take it or leave it pretty much. Like, even on the first date, we would just drop the bomb on them and be like, "And look, here it is! Here is a part of me." And – you know?

Mandie Sherman 22:44
Seriously. Dating . . . is extremely overwhelming.

Natalie Moss 22:47
Oh yeah.

Morgan Jones 22:50
But on the flip side, you weed people out pretty quickly, I would guess. Part of the beauty of it.

Natalie Moss 22:53
Exactly. "No second date? Okay, you're not it." So like, we would just always be straight up and honest with them and kind of tell them, "Look, here is what it is, and this is a part of us. And this is, you know, this is how it is if we want to date or if you want to continue dating or whatever." You know, some people couldn't handle it. And that's okay, because it's a lot to handle. It takes a really, really special person to be able to handle not only our crazy personalities, but our crazy disease as well. And so it really does just take somebody really special. And, you know, life with CF is just a roller coaster of emotions. Always. It's, you know, we have a really good high and then we have a dip and then the good high again and a dip. We always joke about in our family, like, you know, you think you know about CF until something happens, and then everything you knew previously, it just goes out the door. And this is a new problem that we have to face or something new that everything we have prepared for and learned about, it throws us for a loop. And so we always joke about how as much as we know about CF, we really don't know anything. And really, like you have to find somebody who is wanting and able to stick with you on the roller coaster ride and it really does take a special person. And that's why when I found Al I just held on to him as tight as I could because I knew he was someone special and somebody I wanted to stick by me and ride this crazy ride of life and CF. There's this quote I love and I really think it describes my husband and CF spouses really spot on and it's something that I think about really often in the hard times – and in the easy times as well with me and my husband and it says, "Find somebody who chooses to be by your side in the happiest of moments and only presses his feet further in the ground during the moments of struggle and defeat." And I really think that that just explains the roller coaster of CF, because there are happy times and he sticks right by my side. And there are really hard times and he only digs his feet further into the ground and is right there with me to take on anything that comes our way. And so, with CF in marriage, it's really important to just be honest, and talk about your feelings, and being able to express the good things and the worries and the hard times and the stresses and be able to have that open communication, because it really only makes your love grow stronger for one another.

Morgan Jones 25:53
Thank you. Mandie, anything from you on that?

Mandie Sherman 25:57
Kind of like Natalie said, in dating, I was so open about it on the first date I was like, "Hey, I have this." And, you know, I was that way growing up, I was always very open about my cystic fibrosis, because it was the same with friends. You know, some people can handle it, and some people couldn't. And I didn't ever want anybody to think I was keeping a secret from them, you know, if they found out about it later, and it, it allows people to weed themselves out, remove themselves on their own terms when they need it. And that's okay, like Nat said, it's okay, because not everybody can handle that, and I respect that. Not everybody can handle cystic fibrosis, and I respect that.

When it comes to dating Rick, he and I, we were actually set up on a blind date. And I was going through a divorce, when my friends initially started talking to him about me. And we were at the time, our friends, you know, started telling us, "Hey, there's this really great girl, or "There's this really great boy", neither of us were interested in dating, obviously, I was still married, in the middle of a divorce. And over time, you know, our heart softened to the idea as I found healing through therapy and connecting with Heavenly Father more than before, when I felt I was ready to date again. I went on dates with other people before because Rick was long distance, he lived in a different state, and I just, I don't know, I wasn't ready for serious dating or, you know, really putting in that much effort for a long distance relationship. But obviously, you know that in the end, it did work out. And one of the things that we laugh about is, my, my friends, when they were air quote, "pitching" me to Rick, they described me as, "Oh, she's so fun. She's so cool. She's athletic, and plays volleyball and has a lot of energy and is just really sweet. But she's dying. She has this disease." That was like, I don't even know if he knew my name. But he knew that I played volleyball, I was in the middle of a divorce, and I was dying. And he didn't run, he didn't, you know, shove me off to the side, and I just admire him so much.

Because how many people are going through a divorce and think they'll never find love again, or feel that they're worthless? And then same thing within our community, that people just feel that they are a burden on others that they don't deserve to be married, because they don't want to put their disease or their health issues on somebody else. And I always remind them like, "You are not a burden. You know, you and your disease are not the same you are you and you have this disease or you have illness, or you have this documentation that you've been married before, or you have a kid from a previous marriage, whatever it may be, but you are you and all those things are bonus that comes with you. And there will be somebody who doesn't run. There will be somebody who accepts all of that. And not only will they accept that they will love you for all of those things. And they will love you with all of those things." And I think, you know, it's really hard when you're single or just having a hard time dating or finding people today or we all have crazy challenges in life. And so many of us have a desire to get married and I just want to say like, I am a living testament that you could have a lot of things wrong with you, or "baggage," you know, air quotes and there's still going to be a great person that accepts all of that because they see you for who you are. And to not give up and to keep going.

Morgan Jones 30:03
Thank you. That's so well said.

Natalie Moss 30:06
Can I say one more thing real fast? Yeah. So just as me and Mandie are talking, I know that we are encouraging and we're saying, you know, like that if you have a lot of baggage, or if you have a lot of things that you carry, or like, you think you're a burden on other people, please know that that's not to say that, we don't struggle with that. Because both me and Mandie, we still struggle with that. And that is something that we work on daily and constantly. So please don't think that we have mastered that skill of separating "This is us," and "This is our disease." It really is something that you have to work on a lot. And we are not perfect at that by any means we still struggle greatly with that. But it is something that we try really hard to get better at every day. And it's just baby steps, step by step by step that you work on improving those things and overcoming those in your life. So I just felt like I should add that part.

Morgan Jones 31:19
No, and I'm so glad you did. Because I think that there - that is what the beauty of sharing our experiences is, it's not to say that we've mastered something, but often times when we've experienced it, then we're able to speak to that emotion or that pain, because it's like, "Yeah, I've been there. And these are the things that I've prayed about, or I've studied about or I've worked at, and I'm not there yet. But I'm – I've come a little ways, and then I'm able to help other people." And so I think that that is beautiful. Mandie, another thing that I wanted to touch on, you were miraculously able to have a baby. And you were encouraged initially to abort the baby due to the amount of risks associated with someone with CF having a child, what played into your decision to go forward with that pregnancy? And let me just tell everybody on here that Hawk is so adorable.

Natalie Moss 32:32
Yes, he is.

Morgan Jones 32:35
So on behalf of all of us, we're so glad you went forward with it. But what played into that decision?

Mandie Sherman 32:41
Thank you. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, the first people that Rick and I told were my doctors. We knew that what had happened, the ability for me to actually conceive was in and of itself a miracle. It was going to be a hard road. And we needed all hands on deck. What we didn't realize was really how difficult it was. But my doctors realized that. And you're right, we went in naive being like, "We're pregnant, isn't this a miracle? This is so wonderful, help us move forward with, you know, having this baby." And everybody's initially pretty excited about babies. And that lasted for about two minutes. And then you're right, they encouraged us to terminate and said, "This is not good, This will – our job is to keep you alive and keep you healthy. And this thing directly affects both of those. So our professional medical opinion is to, is to abort. And it would be in your best interest." Rick and I were so taken aback. Initially, you know, our guards threw up and we're like, "Oh, no, we can't do that. We have strong religious views, that that is not what we're supposed to do." And, you know, we left, and when I said we needed all hands on deck that's medically as well as spiritually.

We met with a Bishop and Stake President, you know, just seeking spiritual advice on how to navigate this path and told them what our medical team recommended and they said, "Well, actually, when it comes to the Church's stance, if it's a direct threat to the woman's life, and that's accessible, and you know, you can't rely on – in this situation – you can't say, 'Oh, my religious standards are a ‘No,’ because you don't you are in that unique situation where your life is directly threatened, and whatever road you have to take that is between you guys and your Heavenly Father, and whatever road you do choose to take, you know, Heavenly Father will direct you and you won't have shame." You know. And Rick and I are just like, "Wow, yeah, we do fall into that category. And this is really, really hard." And he and I, we delve right in, I mean, we're praying people, anyways. But you're, when you have a situation like this on your hand, your prayers just become way more intense and severe and constant. And your brain is in overdrive trying to think of, you know, all the situations, and what if's and we did lots of pondering and studying of the scriptures.

And ultimately, we both came to a decision on our own. And we both had separate feelings. And then we got together and talked about it. Both of us, we only got one answer, and that was that this baby needed to come to earth. We never got any peace or comfort, if the baby was going to live a long life, we never got peace or comfort, what was going to happen to my life, or what my outcome would be of the situation. And what we didn't mention is that we had been married at this point for three months. And we were six weeks pregnant. And so three months into our marriage, we were making this life or death decision. And it was crazy emotionally, crazy spiritually, but what we both knew was that this baby had to come to earth, and I had been chosen to bring this vessel to earth. And no matter what the outcome was, for my, in regards to my life, if the last thing I ever did was bring this – allow this spirit to have their earthly body, you know, there's no more beautiful gift than I could have – I could have done or could have had. And so that's what we, that's when we knew we had to move forward.

And like I said, we never knew what was going to happen to me. The gal that lost her life, four months before I did in labor, both her and the baby passed away in delivery. And my pregnancy was so difficult. We had so many complications and hospital stays. Both Hawk and I should have died multiple times during my pregnancy. And we were both saved. And I felt pretty calm and confident during my pregnancy, because I knew he had to come to earth. I knew this baby had to come. And so I was like, "All right, like this is this is going to be okay. These are scary moments. But I know it's supposed to happen. Oh, like we'll make it through this." In delivery was when I was nervous, because I knew that that was when the other CF woman had passed away. And I had been talking to my grandfather a lot. And I was very close to my grandmother and she had passed away before I had been remarried. And I was talking to him. And I was so sad that she wasn't going to be a part of this. And I asked him, "Can I pray for grandma to be with me during the delivery?" He said, "Absolutely." He encouraged me to pray for whoever I wanted to be there on whatever side of the veil.

And I, in that moment, I knew what I needed to do. And I began praying for all of the ancestors that came before me, all the women that gave birth that I was related to from the time of Adam up until now, they gave birth in scary situations unmedicated situations on the plains, in a boat, wherever they had survived pregnancy, and I needed them to help me survive this. Do this task at hand, and then hopefully, be able to survive some way. And I – the room. As time went on during my labor, the room became increasingly hotter and hotter and hotter. And I knew it was because more and more of my female ancestors were showing up to the room to help me do this task to help this spirit child make its way to earth and its earthly body safely. And it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I, I knew that my Heavenly Father and my Savior were there. I knew – I felt when their hands took over my body. And it was, it was an almost out of body experience. All of – I turned my body and my life over to the Lord and I saw and felt Him work His miracles through me. And both Hawk and I made it safely through that experience. Five years later, we're both still here. We're both healthy, and I never felt more beautiful, more connected with my ancestors and the heavenly spirits than in that moment. I felt my Heavenly Father's love and His arms, and I felt the miracle of childbirth. And I knew that this is what life is about, you know? It's, it's about family. It's about – you know, no matter what your family looks like now or in the future, or what it has looked like, Heavenly Father knows your unique family experience your unique family design, and he has His hand in there, and is helping you and will help you along the way.

Morgan Jones 40:41
I got full body chills when you were telling that story. So thank you for sharing that. Natalie, you on the flip side, were just able to have a baby through surrogacy. What does it mean to you to become a mother? And this is fresh, this is very fresh.

Natalie Moss 40:59
It is! One month today. I have wanted to be a mom my entire life. Like that has been my dream since I was little. I have just dreamt about it, and my heart has wanted that, so, so badly. And I just never knew if it was going to be in the cards for me and my family. And after seeing what Mandie went through with her pregnancy and hearing what the doctors had to say and talking with them. Me and Al took it to the Lord. And we prayed and we fasted, so, so much about what we should do. And we came to the personal decision that we were going to do gestational surrogacy. And that is a very personal individualized decision that somebody needs to make, and we knew that it was the right decision for us. And we knew that because we had multiple undeniable experiences, where we saw Heavenly Father saying, "This is what your plan is for you –not for everybody, but for you personally, and here's how I'm going to make it happen for you." And it was just truly the most faith building testimony to me that Heavenly Father has an individualized plan for each of us, none of our plans look the same. And it is your personal decision on how you create and come to bring your family to earth. And me and Al, me and my husband, knew that that was part of our plan. And that was our decision that we had come to, was to start our family and bring our child to earth through gestational surrogacy.

Morgan Jones 42:59
Well, we are so happy for you to be a mom. I just want to say that. I just am glad that that that was able to work out. I think that one thing that I wish, it's kind of like this, it’s kind of like how sometimes I wish that I was a convert to the church, because I think I would appreciate it more. And not that I would ever wish that I would have CF because of what you've all have described. But I admire and feel, kind of this like, holy envy, for your ability to value and appreciate the gift of life and the beauty of our mortal experience kind of going back to what Mandie said, just like the ability to come to this earth and have our spirits gain a body. And what do you wish that people could understand about valuing and appreciating that gift more?

Mandie Sherman 44:06
Nobody is guaranteed a certain amount of life. And that is at the forefront of our experience here on earth. And you're right. We have been blessed with that knowledge early on, so that we were able to live life intentionally. And not very many people are able to walk that unique path. But I hope that anybody that takes the time to listen to this podcast and learn of our experiences, or meet somebody else that might know that they have a shortened life span, that it changes them and that they make the decision to live life intentionally. To be intentional with your time, intentional with your entertainment, intentional with the people that you spend your time with. And to live with no regrets. Natalie mentioned that is our family motto. And we've had that our whole life and having that motto and knowing that our life could be cut short, really, at any moment, it allows us to repent of our sins more quickly. Seek mending relationships that might have been hurt. Search for answers and questions that we might have. Take life by the horns and say yes to that experience. Take that vacation. Plan that birthday party. Visit that person, talk to your neighbor, talk to your grandma, talk to . . .your grandparents, because you don't know when the last time you're going to be able to do those things is and so seek those opportunities. Don't let anything left on the shelf to do that later. Really, when you have an opportunity, take it. Whether that is mending a relationship or making a trip happen.

Morgan Jones 46:09
Thank you, Mandie. Natalie?

Natalie Moss 46:12
Yeah, something I wanted to add is that, in the general conference that just happened, Elder Bednar said, you know, there are tests in life. And the best way that we can prepare for them is to study and prepare the best we can. And I think that that is something that is really important for all of us. Preparing in hard times and in life might not mean studying this, this and this. It might mean taking this chance in this opportunity to make this memory. And I think it can be viewed in many different ways. Because life is a journey. And life is not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. You know, like, there are some hard things in life. And we just have to remember that each hard thing that we are given is part of our plan that Heavenly Father is giving us and it's part of our test that He is handing to us and saying, "Kay, Natalie, tell me how you are going to accomplish this little test today. I want to see if you can do the best that you can, and if you can grow through this experience."

And something that I like to think about when times are hard, or just when I'm having a little bit tougher time maybe appreciating the moment or appreciating and valuing my life is, I like to think that in heaven for example, with CF – okay, so with CF, something that came to my mind very clearly one day when I was having a hard time in the hospital, and this very clear picture came into my mind, and it was in heaven. And it was a group of people. And it was Heavenly Father at the head of us. And he was just saying, "Okay, now on earth, we are going to have this trial." And He said, "Who wants to volunteer to have the trial of cystic fibrosis on earth?" And I remember, I stood up and I said, "Me. Me. I will take that trial of having cystic fibrosis on earth. And I will do it, and I will be so happy to do it. And I will do the best I can." And I think that that is just a clear testament that we each have our own trial, and each hard thing. And even though our earthly mind and our earthly bodies might not be able to comprehend that, if you have the eternal perspective, you are able to appreciate each moment and each experience that much more. You just have to really, really focus and practice on having the eternal perspective. And constantly training your mind to focus on the positive and enjoying every moment and learning something from the hard moments, not just enduring them, but – and pushing through them, – but taking that and using that to learn something and better yourself for the next time.

And I think that by doing that and preparing ourselves for the ultimate test of returning back to Heavenly Father, that there are just so many things that we can learn here on earth and through our lives, that can help us be able to focus on the positive and grow into that Christlike human that we all want to be. So um, I think that that is something that people in general, and us, in hard times can focus on is just keeping that eternal perspective and being able to know that we each have this hard time or this experience in life for a reason. Everything we have is for a reason. And so let's take it and let's think about it. And what are we going to learn from this to improve and better ourselves? I don't if that makes sense.

Morgan Jones 50:22
No, it makes perfect sense. And I think – it reminds me I was just rereading one of my very favorite talks last night, which is in the book At the Pulpit, and it's by this lady named Francine Bennion called the "Theology of Suffering." And in it, she talks about how there are a lot of different theologies and doctrines from different religions about where suffering comes from. And she talks about how in our Church, we believe that in, in the council in heaven, two plans were presented. One was Satan's plan and one was our Heavenly Father's plan, and our Heavenly Father's plan revolved around agency. And it also included suffering, and that – that we chose that. We willingly chose it. And I just think that when we think about it that way, it puts everything like you said in this perspective of, "This is what I signed up for." And I don't know how all of that worked in heaven. I don't know, maybe it was exactly like you described Natalie, but I think that that's a beautiful way of looking at life. My last question for both of you is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Mandie Sherman 51:32
I think what it means to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to allow God and Jesus Christ to touch all aspects of my life. Keep them involved in everything I do, not just in gospel, in church, but with health, with work, with travel, exercise, recreation, school, everything I have, has been given to me through them. Remembering that and including them in everything is what it means to be all in.

Natalie Moss 52:02
To be all in in the Gospel of Jesus Christ means to me that each day, you purposefully put on Christ's jersey. And you make that decision every day, that you are going to do the best you can. You're going to have a positive attitude. And you are going to take each moment and learn from it to better yourself.

Morgan Jones 52:25
Two thumbs up.

Natalie Moss 52:26

Morgan Jones 52:27
Maybe only gives you one thumb up but I give you two thumbs up.

Mandie Sherman 52:34
An automatic thumbs up though.

Morgan Jones 52:39
Such a good time. Alright, guys, thank you both so much.

Natalie Moss 52:43
No, thank you. Like I said, I'm like your number one fan. I've listened to every episode.

Morgan Jones 52:47
We are so grateful to Mandie Sherman and Natalie Moss for joining us on today's episode. Be sure to check out the incredible documentary created by fellow Latter-day Saint Devin Graham, all about Mandie and Natalie and their journey. We'll link that in our show notes. You can also find links to Mandie and Natalie's Instagram accounts and follow along with them there they are both so inspiring and I highly recommend it so check out LDSliving.com/allin for all of those links. Thanks to Derek Campbell from Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode and thank you for listening

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