This is a story about my mom. A story of love. A story changed by breast cancer, but not defined by it.
My mom was my best friend. She was the only person who could encourage me to tape together the homework I had just ripped up. The only person who always asked me how my day was… multiple times a day. She was the person who sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ each and every morning. And, she was the person who spent exactly three minutes with me before going to bed, unless she fell asleep in bed with me, which was my favorite, and she never ever left the room without saying ‘I love you.’
Like everything she did, my mom dealt with breast cancer the way she handled the rest of her life - with grace, style, and elegance. She didn’t let cancer define her, so I don’t let it define my story of her.
My mom, Maureen, was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with my little sister, Katelyn. It was late 2003. Katelyn was born in April of 2004, when I was only two years old. Whether in active treatment or in remission, the cancer lurked within my mom. Everything felt normal… up until August of 2014.
Across the span of those ten years, between 2004 and 2014, there were a few times where I was very confused, wondering if she would be okay. I was especially confused when she went home after a doctor's appointment instead of going back to work. I was curious when she put on extra mascara because she was losing her eyebrows. It was always strange when we would visit her at the hospital after a surgery. However, even with all those confusing moments along the way, there was always a ‘good morning sunshine,’ my three minutes, and ending the day with an ‘I love you.’
Those moments were the normal moments, and the things I truly remember. I remember her picking me up early from school to go to the library, taking us to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, playing two squares with my little sister in our driveway, making cinnamon rolls for us on Sunday morning before church, and so much more.
6 years. 7 months. 29 days.
That was the last time I heard my mom say ‘I love you, Kyla.’
I didn’t know that this would be the last time I would hear those words. It was just another Monday. I still remember looking through the passenger window, jumping out of our Honda Odyssey, and waving to my mom. Seconds before, we were making plans for my mom and dad to pick me up after school to go get dinner before I had to be back for my volleyball game. It was normal. Like every afternoon, I would blow up my parents’ phones asking where they were and when they were going to pick me up. But instead of a text, I got a call from my dad. He said that he and my mom were right around the corner at the hospital. I didn’t think anything of it.
I didn’t realize that was going to be the last time she drove me to school. That it was going to be the last time I saw her smile. That it was going to be the last time I heard her laugh. The last time she would watch me play volleyball via FaceTime in her hospital room.
October 20th, 2014 was a day of lasts.
October 21st, 2014 was the day my mom’s life stopped, and mine continued.
October 21st, 2014 was a day of firsts, new firsts, and lonely firsts.
One by one, the firsts unfolded - my first Halloween without her, my first Thanksgiving without her, and my first Christmas without her.
I was numb to everything; even my family. Lying alone in a ball in the middle of my bed wrapped up in the blanket my mom had sewn for me. I just wanted to talk to someone who would understand, but more than that, I wanted to talk to my mom.
She is my WHY. She is my sunshine. She is my love story, and I won’t let her love story end.
She is why I wanted to create #pinkkids. I wanted to create something larger than my story. A way to remember her. Not my mom with breast cancer, but my mom who lived a purposeful life while dealing with breast cancer. To connect stories. To have a place of true understanding. A way to get out from under my blanket.
I didn’t want to talk to counselors. I didn’t want to talk to therapists. I didn’t want to talk to teachers. I didn’t want to talk to my dad. I didn’t think they would understand. I wanted to talk to someone my own age, but I didn’t know anyone who was going through what I was going through. So I kept everything in.
And if that is you, then this is the space for you.
A space for you to say something as simple as ‘I am scared’ or as complex as ‘My mom just passed away. What should I do?’
Kids supporting kids. Loving each other. Being there for each other.
This is our space.