In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am featuring some of my amazing clients that have fought (or are fighting) breast cancer. Today’s story is centered around Amy, Alexis and Kyra White. I have known Amy and Alexis now for 3 years. Alexis was one of my very first Teen clients and at her first Teen shoot I learned that her mom, Amy, had recently been diagnosed with Stage 3a progesterone and estrogen positive breast cancer. Amy was set to go in for a double mastectomy the week after Alexis’ session. I remember listening to Amy talk about her diagnosis and what was ahead of her and I honestly couldn’t believe how together she seemed. Here she was a young mother of 36 with 4 beautiful kids and a loving husband and she seemed so calm and matter of fact about her diagnosis. I couldn’t believe with everything going on that they were there, with me, doing a Teen session. I will admit I was a bit stumped at how I could help and what I could do for them. Amy explained that the most important thing to her was to keep things “normal” and keep the kids as busy as possible. I was honored and humbled at fact that I could have this precious time with them and create an experience for the two of them.
So jump ahead and here we are almost 3 years later and I am happy to say that Amy is doing great after working through chemotherapy, radiation, and 2 surgeries. I have continued to work with this beautiful family through the past 2 1/2 years and got the opportunity to sit down with Amy and her daughters, Alexis and Kyra this week to talk about their experience and reflect on all they have been through. I loved that the Alexis and Kyra spoke openly and freely about how they felt and what it was like as a teen having a mom that was fighting breast cancer. Each one (Kyra and Alexis) cope and express themselves in different ways and it was interesting to hear their perspectives. As a teen and tween, there are so many things that are going on during this time. Your body is changing and there is so much stress around school and extra-curricular activities. Your hormones are all over the place; you’re up one moment and down the next and it’s a struggle to keep your moods balanced. And then there is the friend thing. I think we all can relate that the teen and tween years are tough and filled with lots of friend drama. It’s hard to find the right friends and really get the support you need. Then on top of all of this your mom is sick. Moms are the center of the home in so many ways and when they are sick, it impacts everyone. Here are some of the things that Alexis and Kyra shared on their experience with their mom sick at home.
“I hated it when people would pity me,” Alexis said. “I would walk into a room and people would be like- I’m so sorry. That didn’t help me.” So, what would have helped a teen coping with a mom who’s sick? “Talking to me and having a friend that I could vent with.” I think we all get nervous when someone is sick and sometimes we just don’t know what to say, so we say “I’m sorry” to fill that gap, but Alexis has a great point. That doesn’t go very far in helping us to feel better. In fact- it may make us feel worse. Giving our time to people that are struggling or going through difficult times is invaluable. Sometimes we don’t need to say anything at all, but just being there can help. Offer to go for a walk or take them for an ice cream, and when they are ready to talk, you are there to listen.
“I didn’t like it when people would make cancer jokes,” Kyra added. “They didn’t know what they were talking about and it was just stupid.” It’s one thing to joke about something when you understand it and have been through it to lighten the mood, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you are making jokes on something as serious as cancer and have no idea what someone is feeling. “We would make jokes within our house with each other,” Kyra said. “We would joke with mom about her chemo brain or lack of hair and laugh with each other, but outside the house, I didn’t like it.”
How did the girls feel about helping out with mom sick at home? “Doing all the extra chores around the house was annoying,” Alexis said as she giggled. Well, I can understand that because all household chores are annoying. Amy shared that after her surgeries she had “T-Rex” arms where the doctor’s orders were she could only use her arms from the elbows down, so she couldn’t lift anything. Alexis and her 3 younger siblings had to pick up the slack and put in extra time to help out around the house. “They were a huge help,” Amy said smiling at her girls “since I literally couldn’t do anything.”
So how are they all feeling now that it has been almost 3 years since Amy’s diagnosis? “I feel stronger now in the fact that I feel I can handle a lot more. I don’t stress over small things as much,” Alexis said. It’s become such a part of their normal household conversation that not a whole lot surprises these 2 young ladies. Amy continued to share stories on her ongoing “chemo brain” and how she went a year and would always forget to turn the oven off. “And then there was this day that I went to open the door and didn’t know how to use the doorknob. That was so strange!” she shared. The family continues to joke and laugh with each other on their experience and Alexis says there is always “boob talk” happening in their home. “It’s a normal part of our life,” Amy said. “It’s now a part of our story.”
Thank you, Amy, Alexis and Kyra for sitting down with me and sharing your story. I am so thankful that Amy and her beautiful family are doing so well and are ready for a new adventure coming up as they move to San Antonio, Texas (which I am not happy about selfishly but so happy for them). Amy continues to be monitored and it is such a blessing that her tests are all normal and she is cancer free. After listening to the girls, they reminded me, personally, not to be afraid to talk about the hard things with people. To be open and available to the ones I love and be a safe place for them to talk. To say “how can I help?” instead of “I’m sorry”. I so appreciate the lessons this family has taught me. Oh- and also admitting that yes, chores are annoying! HA!
Love to you all and thanks for reading.