This month we are passionate about shining a light the heroes fighting breast cancer. We want to bring awareness and no one embodies a Warrior Mom more than cancer Warrior, Elise Angelette. Read her story and help if you’re able.
Liz & Lisa
I grew up in a family of 5. I have 2 parents that love me and 2 big brothers that loved me enough to teach me how to be the roughest toughest tomboy out there. I still live barefoot and have the random bruises and skinned knees to remind me of my tomboy roots. Yet, the one girly thing about me was that I always, always, always wanted to be a mama. I mean, I needed somebody to teach how to climb trees, right? Ha!
My parents split up when I was very little girl, which brought my mom to her knees. That was the moment the she dug her very deepest and made the decision to become the rock of faith for our family. We’ve all remained very close, and we’ve all had a lifetime of ups an downs, but that example of faith and courage is exemplified in the life of all of us because of my mom’s example. She began a new career in the arts as a theater teacher and director while beginning a teen prayer group as well. Both avenues that she travelled impacted each of us, as my brothers and myself each had (and still have) a huge passion for music and theater as well as our faith. I danced all of my life, gave much of my time to musical theater, and still do as the costume designer and choreographer for the plays. Before becoming a mom, that was my passion, so as a mother, it only seemed fitting that just begin bringing them along. Becoming mom only made each of my passions for both the arts and my faith that much more fulfilling. Faith is key for all of them, especially. Faith keeps me going. Faith is what revives me so that I can keep giving and giving, as we so often do as mothers. Being a mom only made all that was ever important in my life, seem that much more gratifying.
I have five children that I could go on about for days. I have four girls and one boy right in the middle. Yup, he’s the ladies’ man! Each of my children have a passion for their faith, each and everyone of them have been born with my quirky sense of humor and imagination for days, and each love a good party… especially if it involves dancing. Yet, each is unique in my relationship with them. Bella, my 12 year old, is my “Sidekick”. She’s wonderfully creative and intuitive and can assess a room in minutes. She knows and says my thoughts before I say them, which is a blessing and a challenge. Especially when I’d decided not to say a certain joke, and she just can’t help it. She’s hilarious and goofy, yet has a beautiful quiet strength within her a well. Sophia, my 10 year old, whom I call “Sunshine” is my little St.Therese. She can light up any room on the darkest day and aims to do so as much as possible. She has a huge heart and cares deeply for others, so deeply that it pains her when she can’t fix a situation. She will never say no to more sugar and more sparkles. More is more. And it suits her well. She can always find a way to add more sparkle to any day. Jude, my 8 year old (Jude “The Dude”), is a man with a plan. And boy does God have big plans for him. He’s incredibly smart with an imagination that never quits. No dream is too big, no task is impossible for him. He is passionate to a fault and wears his heart on his sleeve. But when he dances, when he holds my hand to sing me to sleep, when he makes a whole medical journal of his own just to heal me and “heal the world” as he says… I melt. Naomi, my 5 year old, my “Firecracker” is just that. She’s full of fire, wonder, fun, and all things powerful. She can score a touchdown on ya while wearing a dress and beat any boy to the top of a tree with her strawberry blonde curly pigtails bouncing happily the whole way. She barely flinches at physical pain and wears a pretty tough face on the playground, yet she’s the first to run and get a blanket and a cough drop for me when I’m sick. She’s tiny but mighty with a kind and loving heart. Nora, my 2 year old (Snuggles) is a beautiful, snuggly, happy go lucky caboose in our family. She makes us laugh for days and never lets you leave without a hug. However, don’t let her sweet smiles fool ya, she runs the show in this house. She’s the boss over here and he also won’t let us forget that.
My GREATEST challenge is actually quite simple: recognizing that I am not and will never be really “in charge”. God is in charge and my kids are just on loan to me from Him. That’s actually pretty cool to me. Once I embraced that I’ll never really “have this whole thing down”, because I’m not in charge anyway, my shoulders dropped a few inches. I didn’t know what I was doing anyway. Who does Life changes all the time. I rather know that the bucks stops with the Big Guy upstairs, I just gotta do my best and ask forgiveness for the rest.
I’ve had a lot of lows. But I guess, I’d say my most challenging has been my diagnosis with breast cancer. I was diagnosed with STAGE 3 INVASTIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA in late July of 2014, went through chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, radiaton, you name it. It was hard. But, God was good to us. People were good to us. I was never afraid, because, like I said previously…God’s in charge, not me. Recently, in early September, I was diagnosed again with now STAGE 4 METASTATIC BREAST CANCER in my lungs, liver, and lymph nodes of my chest wall. Once again, I have no fear. I don’t fear the treatment. I don’t fear my diagnosis. I don’t fear cancer itself. Yet, what helped me survive most when we battled this before and is helping me to not only survive, but LIVE each day now is my daily prayer to fight the fear of losing my motherhood or “What will happen to my kids and my family if something happens to me?” So each day, I pray: I give you my body. I give you my family. I give you my husband. I give you my kids. I give you my kids. I trust in you.” That’s the only way I can really keep going. First I have to let go of that fear. I have to let go of grasping at my motherhood rather than just living it.
When I was first diagnosed, I immediately reached out to a long time friend, who had fought the breast cancer battle twelve years before and made it. She just so happened to have been my cheerleading coach in high school, and grew to be a family friend. Her name is Angelle Albright, the founder of Chemobeanies (www.chemobeanies.com) . I called her immediately because my oncologist, Dr.Jay Saux, had been hers and saved her life. He mentioned her name to me because he’d never had two patients with such crazy identical levels and diagnosis. How amazing that in God’s divine providence, I knew that woman so well. She became, again, my coach and mentor. She prompted me to begin my blog, told me step by step how to prep for each leg of my journey, and she signed me up for YouNight, an empowerment program for women that builds their confidence from the inside out, trains them to be actual runway models, puts on an entire HUGE runway show for these cancer survivor rockstars, and leaves them with a whole new family as your support system without going to your usual “support group session.” My YouNight class and alums have become a true family to me, along with all of the family members, friends, and community that were already showing so much love. I’ve been so blessed by my medical team (their sense of team doesn’t end in the office/operating room/chemo chair. They have been here for me through thick and thin, night and day. I’m blown away by each of them). I’m blessed by my community whom I already knew, and the many people who came out of the wood works to pray for us and love my family. When you ask if I’ve been supported, I want to shout from the rooftops, “YES!!!!” God is good.
I love the way a mother’s heart never stops growing. Some think that you’ll have to divide your love between you and your spouse when you have a child. That’s not been my experience. I have found that with each child, my love just grows bigger. You learn to love in the biggest, most self sacrificing, most challenging and beautiful ways never imaginable before. I heard someone called motherhood “Bruitful” before, that’s so true. It’s brutal and beautiful, all at once. My motherhood gave me the tools to already know how to sacrifice, how to be strong, how to find joy in all moments, and how to see that no matter how crazy things can get…. you still have this love that no one can take from me. No matter what happens to them, or to me, my heart will never shrink back.
Being a mom got me through cancer before and I know it will now. Mom’s live not for only themselves, but reach out beyond themselves to live for another. On my toughest days, if I didn’t have this big ol’ family, I could very well choose to stay in bed and feel how very sick I am. But getting up to make their breakfast, pushing through to pack those lunches with little notes, and propping myself back up after being knocked out from all the chemo and all of my crazy nausea just to be present at homework and dinner or bedtime… means everything to me. And the fact that those simple things mean so much to them, gives me all the satisfaction to keep going. They love so simply and so purely in just the littlest things. And I love that.
1- I know my friends want me to mention my Go Fund me account, and I will. But I first want to mention my non-profit that I’ve just begun for families in crisis, called BUNA’s HOPE: www.teambuna.com We plan to 1– gift families with love, laughter, faith and hope through specially designed care packages packed by families for families as well as 2– bless families with special “Hope Day Getaways” where we send families away on specially designed days of fun for their family to step away from their stress and enjoy one another. We appreciate all the help we can get to keep this dream alive.
2- My dear friends, Angelle Albright (again!) and Kim Hill have created a GoFund Me account to help our family in the present and long term situation, as my disease is not curable. In other words, I will live with breast cancer and be on treatment inevitably. Yet we will fight and attack my current tumors in order to get on a maintenance chemotherapy that I will remain on for life. My account link: