As you probably saw from my Facebook wall, my friend Amy passed away on Saturday. Both she and her daughter turned 34 and 3, respectively, in November (the same exact ages as me and Aidan). Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid 2010, a little over a year after me. In October 2011, Molly Grantham (WBTV news) was highlighting survivor stories in honor of the Susan G Komen race that month. My story aired one week and Amy’s aired the next. I didn’t know her then but wanted to meet her as soon as I watched it because at that time, I only knew 3-4 young survivors in Charlotte. A few weeks later, I met her at the Komen race after I recognized her at my friend MaryGeneva’s “after-party” (yes, we go all out for Komen race day, Amy especially in her butterfly costume and pink wig). Amy started our young survivor group the next month and it has grown to about 20 girls over the past year. It spread just by word of mouth and by us meeting other young survivors either at doctor appts, or friends of friends putting their friends in touch with one of us. All of us are at different stages in the process, different surgeries, different types of breast cancer, # years out, etc.
Amy was witty, always joyous, and very into her faith. She always made people laugh and had the best wit of anyone I have ever known. She grew up in Charlotte, went to West Mecklenburg high school and was really into Young Life over the years (even worked there for a number of years). She attended Hope Community Church and married her husband Adam 6 years ago. Her last blog post (not to be confused with her Caring Bridge site) was dedicated to their 6th wedding anniversary (www.adamandamyp.blogspot.com). Adam quit his job a while back and has been graciously taking care of Amy and their daughter Charis throughout the difficult times. And by difficult, that is an understatement. Her cancer spread to her chest wall right before her Molly Grantham interview. From there, it went onto her lungs and eventually invaded other areas. The lung metastasis was the worst of it though. The cancer had wrapped itself around one of her lungs, completely collapsing it. Her other lung had constant fluid that always had to be drained and she was labored for breath for many months. We started off with the same oncologist, but she ended up transferring to Duke, having to drive back and forth practically every week over the past year as she tried chemo after chemo, none of them working. She eventually had to go on oxygen and towards the end a ventilator. Before she passed, she knew it was “time” and was “prepared”. She was so into her faith and looking forward to meeting Jesus, while at the same time sad to be leaving her family behind. I saw two friends at her visitation/funeral that I didn’t realize knew her as well. She had SO many friends. Her service poured out of the church and into overflow seating space. The only funerals I had been to previously were my grandparents and elderly. Amy’s funeral was filled with youth. Her best friend gave the best funeral monologue I had ever heard. It was a tear-filled day. Our young survivor group was very sad and somber, for we knew she was our group leader and if it wasn’t for her, the rest of us wouldn’t be so close. A few of us are mothers and for some reason, I feel like that’s what makes me the saddest. I told someone I was not only sad for her daughter, but also for Amy, who wouldn’t be able to watch her daughter grew up. I really appreciated when that person told me “yes, she will; she’ll just be watching from Heaven”. I know Amy knew this. Please continue to pray for her family. Amy’s dad is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and her mom (also a breast cancer survivor) is battling stage 4 melanoma. I met Amy’s mom at her visitation and thought they looked just alike. Amy has a sister (who I don’t know but seems to have her same funny wit) and two brothers (who seem like great men and fathers). And of course Adam and Charis – please continue to pray for their entire family. Always.
Over Christmas break, my parents were going through their storage room and found a ton of old stuff from our childhood. They put together bins for me and my sisters. Inside one of my bins were some stories I wrote when I was little. Thought I would share them. Who knows, to you, they may be dumb and not the least bit entertaining, but I found them funny. Here’s the first one. It’s called The Bear, by Danielle Kragnes, dedicated to My Family (I drew pictures on each page which you will just have to imagine).
This is a bear.
His name is Fuzzy Wazzy.
A bear looks like This.
And I have tow friends That have one two.
And Their names are Brigid and Lizzy.
The bear went into The forest.
And he met another Bear.
And Then They were playing baceball.
And the one that won the game was the bear that met another Bear.
Then They went out to find a new frined.
And Then They Saw a beautiful butterfly.
And They tried to catch the butterfly.
And Then They caught the butterfly.
They took the butterfly home.
And They named him daidogy.
And Then Fuzzy Wuzzy put him in a cage.
Fuzzy Wuzzy took him to bed.
Fuzzy Wuzzy made a bed for him.
And he got a friend.
And They were playing together.
And so They all lived happily ever after.
P.S. Hello. My name is Danielle and I am in 3rd grade. When I wrote this book I was in 1st grade. Bye.
So out of the 20 girls in our young survivor group, 2 of them have been considered stage 4. Many of us were stage 3 at diagnosis, including myself (young women are diagnosed later in the disease because they, or their doctors, ignore suspicious things because of their age). Amy was one of our stage 4 girls (that’s the latest of the stages). Sara is the other. Sara needs your prayers now. The day before Amy passed away, Sara had to be rushed to the hospital for pain. Her cancer has spread to her lungs, brain and bones. The bones were what was causing her the pain but her latest scan results show growth of the brain lesions as well. Please pray for her healing and pain management. Please pray for hope that the doctors can cure her. Please pray for her to be able to go to Puerto Rico, where she wants to go relax and get back on her raw diet. Both Amy and Sara had/have the BRCA mutation and their cancers are considered Triple Negative. There are several different forms of breast cancer, depending on where it starts, the hormone status, size, grade, etc. Inflammatory and Triple Negative are probably the two worst, with HER2+ being the third worst (out of about 10 different kinds). (mine was HER2+) But there are many factors that play into things so those are just general statements. Anyway, please pray for Sara. One of our other young survivor friends (Alethea) and I had to tell Sara the news about Amy yesterday, just a few hours before the funeral when we went to visit her in the hospital. She hadn’t heard the news yet but we knew we had to tell her. Sara was really upset to hear of Amy’s passing and distraught that she wouldn’t be well enough to attend her service. Alethea and I procrastinated telling Sara and made small talk for a long time as doctors came in and out. She got up to use the bathroom, then asked “has anyone talked to Amy?” When she came out of the bathroom and both of us were cyring, she asked quietly “when did it happen?” After Amy’s service and convening at the Carolina Breast Friends Pink House (where our young survivor meetings are held), a larger group of us went to visit her. Please continue to pray for Sara, and her dad sitting by her side (her mom passed away last year from a sudden brain aneurism).
Funny #2 – (Story #2) Another story my parents found in their attic: The Taxi, by Danielle Kragnes, dedicated to My Family
Once a boy named Milly was digging for gold and instead he found a taxi. Then the taxi driver came. His name was Mike. Then Mike said, “Where do you want to go?” “Ummmmm…..I want to go to the candy store,” said Milly. “Oh, but their candy is awful.” “OK! then I want to go to the toy store,” said Milly. “Ok but their toys always break,” said Mike. “Well, what store is there?” said Milly. “I don’t know. You decide that on your own.” said Mike. “You are older and you lived in this world longer. You know more stores than me,” said Milly. “Ok! I’ve decided. Just take me home,” said Milly. “Are you sure?” said Mike. “Yes I’m sure. Just take me home and get over with it.” Said Milly. “Ok” said Mike. “No no! I just want to dig for gold again,” said Milly. Then Mike goes home and Milly goes digging for gold again. About the Author: Danielle is eight years old and is in Miss Couet’s third grade class at Marion Jordan. She likes to collect stickers and swim.
It is no surprise that even at the age of 8, the story I chose to write about had to do with shopping and candy.