Honoring the Beautiful Spirit of a Mother

“Aside from her striking beauty, my mom was endlessly selfless and energetic,” Kayla describes her mom.  “I try to honor her spirit, embodying love and light, every day to everyone I meet.”

After losing their mother last year, Mother’s Day will not be easy for Kayla and her sisters, but she focuses on sharing the love her mother gave.

Kayla with her mom

Kayla’s intimate relationship with breast cancer began in 2012, when her mother was first diagnosed.  Her mom had discovered the lump in December 2011, but she didn’t want to ruin the holidays for her girls.  A few months later, after building the courage to get it checked, cancer was confirmed in her breast and lymph nodes.  She immediately started chemotherapy.  Once her treatment was complete, she underwent a mastectomy.  Her tests were consistently promising.

My mom became one of the many brave women who’ve battled and survived,” Kayla proudly notes.

During the summer of 2016, her mom began complaining of back pain.  “We thought it was simply attributed to the rapid weight gain she experienced from the medication.  But, when she had to be wheeled out of work to her car, we knew something was wrong.

Unfortunately, the breast cancer had returned and metastasized to her mother’s spine, bones and liver.

Upon receiving that news, my sisters and I knew the real battle was just starting,” recalls Kayla.  “Our father had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.  So, we felt like we were on our own.  We were 18, 26 and 28 at the time, living in three different cities, while our mom resided in Cleveland.  Little did we know the willingness of the community around us to help.  This was my first experience, though certainly not my last, to the stress of being a caregiver.

At the time, Kayla was working as an assistant volleyball coach for the University of Cincinnati.  She quickly resigned and moved home to care for her mother.  She wanted her younger sister to attend, as planned, the University of Tennessee on a full-ride volleyball scholarship.  But, transitioning to full-time caregiver is never easy.

Initially, I struggled with this ‘new norm’.  I went from only having to care for myself to having to be physically and emotionally available for my mom.  24/7 was really hard for me,” admits Kayla.  “I really craved the structure and routine from my years in collegiate and professional volleyball.  But, I quickly learned it doesn’t exist when caring for others.  We had our spouts.  Though what I remember most is how quickly our relationship changed from mother-daughter to true partners.

A determined fighter, Kayla’s mom was back on her feet by Thanksgiving.  With the right cocktail of therapeutics, her doctors were managing her pain and she was showing improvement.  A few months later, Kayla was approached with an opportunity at Northwestern University in Chicago.  She was excited, but hesitant to accept and leave her mom.  Even leaving to visit to her older sister in Florida created anxiety.

Kayla in Chicago

“Being my selfless mom, she told me to go.  She said, ‘If you stay here, you’ll resent me forever.” 

So in the fall of 2017, Kayla moved to Chicago.  Her mom’s health had stabilized and she spent the next year traveling to visit her daughters in three different states.  In December 2018, they took the family trip of a lifetime to Barbados, the source of her mom’s lineage.  Her mother had not visited in over 20 years and it was the first time Kayla and her sisters were able to meet their mom’s relatives.Unfortunately, shortly after their Barbados trip, her mom’s health declined significantly.  Kayla, again, moved home to care for her mother.

“We thought it would be the road to her full recovery, but instead it was the final months we would share with her.”

Kayla got involved with The Lynn Sage Foundation, because she wanted to do her part to support research.  While Kayla is dedicated to fitness, she is also a lover of Chicago’s food scene.  Naturally, she hosted a brunch fundraiser to connect with friends and raise much needed funds for breast cancer researchers.  Kayla was particularly keen to support research in Chicago, because she is concerned about the prevalence of breast cancer in the minority community.  Chicago patient data includes a larger portion of the minority population for further study.

“I wanted to connect with a story, organization and community that helps find a cure.”

If you, or someone you know, would like to get involved with The Lynn Sage Foundation reach out to info@lynnsagefoundation.org.  We look forward to getting to know you.