the dKol la femme project: breast cancer
Their story is intense, it is emotional, it’s sad, and it is personal, but most of all it is celebratory and inspiring. This is the story of Loretta, Christine, and Jamie; a mother and her two daughters. A mother and her two daughters who have been through so much, have struggled, and have fought. A mother and her oldest daughter diagnosed with breast cancer; tragic and heartbreaking, yet this mother (Loretta) radiates with nothing but positivity. The love between these girls is so overwhelming you can actually feel it.
As Loretta told us her and her family’s story, from the first doctor appointments all the way to their present cancer-free state, her positive outlook was both overwhelming and beyond inspiring. In every part of her story she always found the light at the end of the tunnel. She shared with us a quote she has always lived by, and one she has instilled in her daughters since they were little girls; “Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.”
Just by listening to Loretta and spending a few hours with this family, you get the feeling of how much of a rock Loretta has always been to her family and her girls. Her strength is mind blowing, and her story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Loretta was the first to be diagnosed after experiencing what she thought was heartburn. She was not fond of doctor visits and without her nurse, who convinced her to get a mammogram, it may have been too late. Loretta calls this nurse her guardian angel, who not only saved her life, but also her daughter Christine’s.
Following Loretta’s diagnosis Christine was screened at the young age of 34, as a precaution. Loretta explained to us that if she was not diagnosed herself, Christine would not have been tested. She said that her daughter would have went on to have children and the hormones associated with pregnancy would have only fed the tumor. Unfortunately, following chemo, after many efforts including the freezing of Christine’s eggs, Christine is unable to have children. However, they are exploring adoption and are excited for this process.
Christine said, “My life was turned upside down in a matter of years, but I am alive and here to share my story, so I consider myself blessed and lucky. Not everyone would see this situation as I do, but I am going to be here in years to come to share this story!” Christine considers her nurse Tammy her guardian angel through it all. She found that learning to let go of control and let people do things for her was an even bigger hurdle than chemo.
Loretta went on to share how hard the process of losing Christine‘s hair was for the both of them. They countered that expression of emotion and pain Christine, and Loretta as her mother, went through, during this process with, of course, their infamous humor, laughing about the wig shopping experience.
Jamie, Christine’s sister, was present at the event and full of emotion as well. She was a major support system for Christine and Loretta during their journey, and there was also concern for Jamie’s health during the diagnoses process.
This beautiful family told us every dark, happy, sad, and tough turn they have experienced over the years. From stories of extreme snow sports that ended in hospital visits, to shopping trips, to “pochemo” nights that served to lighten the mood, all the way to the struggles they and their family members faced and still continue to face today. Loretta, Christine and Jamie want to thank all their family and friends who where their rocks through it all.
Loretta expressed how there are good things that came out of their struggles, and she also expressed her own personal struggle with stepping back and realizing that as a mother “you always think somehow you can do a better job” and that sometimes she had to “be the mother and not the husband.”
Christine and her husband become closer during her journey through breast cancer and she is grateful for how supportive he is/was. She mentioned that he cleaned up things that no one should have to and that although she may have felt embarrassed by it, she is forever grateful for him.
Although Loretta was, and still is the rock that holds her family together, she too had her moments of weakness. She expressed that after Christine’s diagnosis she often let her tough exterior drop in her moments alone, specifically on the way to work. She told us that she would often cry all the way there; even having to pull into the nearest parking lot on occasion. “I needed to be strong, but would have changed places with her in a heartbeat,” she said.
They also shared their struggle with dealing with the fears of those around them, not knowing what to say or do. But most importantly Loretta, Christine and Jamie shared with us what it means to truly be a family, to truly love and find humor and positive vibes in anything, and how to be brave. They taught us that life is fragile but with a support system anything can be beat. We thank these women for letting us in and sharing their personal stories. We thank them for making us realize just how amazing life is, and how positivity can help to improve any situation. We thank you for your braveness, your boldness, the laughs, and for teaching us to continue to look where we are going. So we celebrate and say cheers to you and your journey; the one that has already been written and the one that has yet to be.
We also want to thank Loretta, Christine, and Jamie’s neighbor, Kristen, who is also a part of their support system and responsible for nominating them. Here is the touching, and emotional piece we received from her:
“We meet new people every day. Although it may not happen right away, sometimes, something blossoms. And from it comes the most beautiful of friendships.
They are my neighbors – Loretta and her daughters, Christine and Jamie. Three amazing women I am honored to know and call my friends. Always a smile and a funny story to tell, they are a force to be reckoned with. I suppose you have to be when faced with it – not one, but two of them. THOSE words, so small, yet so horribly powerful – breast cancer.
Loretta had been diagnosed in May of 2010. She faced her disease with dignity and grace – staying true to her character. After a year passed, while just completing radiation, more tragic news followed. The kind you close your eyes to, hold your breath, hand on heart and feel tears flow down your cheeks. Christine, Loretta’s first baby, now 35, had found a lump. A random, never been there before…lump. So now, as Loretta made her way out of the perils of the last year, she was thrown back yet again, only this time to comfort and care for her daughter. It was a haunting déjà vu.
Through this storm, these women held each other close, as they always had. They relied on the love they knew to carry them through the roughest of days. These women are heroines, in not only my eyes, but to so many in our community.
Lest we forget Jamie, Loretta’s second baby…sweet and smiley Jamie, just barely 22 when confronted with all of this. Never missing moments, always counting blessings, Jamie held hands, comforted and stayed strong when her mom and sister couldn’t – she’s also deserving of so much.
Flash forward to today, celebrating birthdays a plenty and planning futures, this family, so deserving of an honor, and a tribute to all three of them. I write these words as their friend, as an admirer of what family is, what the definition of resilience truly is.”
Loretta, Christine, and Jamie we commend your strength and power to be so brave. You are truly heroines as Kristin has said. We hope that your story can not only touch, but inspire those that read this. Maybe your strength and positivity can go on to inspire and affect others that may be going through something similar.
The dkol la femme project is a platform created to give a voice to you and your unique struggles by telling your story through art. la femme is where vulnerability meets liberation. What is confidence and empowerment to you? What is VULNERABILITY, and how does it affect you? You, as in the generalized you, the one that isn’t gender specific, or defined by your struggle or labeled by medication. OR maybe you are and want to advocate so your story is heard (insert dKol la femme). At la femme you are allowed to free yourself of the need for perfection. Here you will evoke your self-confidence and take pause so you can reflect on your soul.
Be heard through #thedkollafemmeproject
Originally posted on 11.26.14
Written by Kaylyn Romeo