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Growing Up with a Sick Mom

Coming to college and discussing childhood with my friends has been a fascinating exploration. My roommates and I come from different backgrounds. While we all grew up under similar circumstances, all American, UNC Chapel Hill-bound children, there are variances that I find striking. Listening to them recount their childhoods is always slightly surprising, and brings out the nuances of my childhood that were contrary to those of my friends. I have begun to recognize how different growing up with a sick parent actually makes your life - the before, after, and during. 

 

Ashlea and her mom, Kristen
Ashlea and her mom, Kristen
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You Never Know What's 'Round the Corner

James Herriot, a British veterinarian of the last century, tells a story about a cow that had ingested some wire, which would have to be removed.  The vet performing the operation was on a big kick about cleanliness and presentation, so he arrives at the farm in new, sharp clothes and then dons a “brilliantly white smock.”  He has his assistants lay out all the polished tools of surgery on brand new metal trays.  The farmer asks if he can watch, and the vet is only too glad to show off for an audience.

 

He cuts through skin and muscle and arrives at the cow’s first stomach (they have four).  Before he can cut open the stomach, it bulges out through the opening in the skin.  He presses it back in, but it comes out again, bigger!  The vet suspects gas is causing the stomach to expand.  They go back and forth several times, with more stomach coming out each time, until finally it is so large outside the cow that he can barely hold it with both arms wrapped around it, and it’s at his eye level!  It takes two men to wrestle the thing down, at which point the vet quickly makes his cut.

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Faces of Holley Day: Mikki Jeschke, Metastatic Breast Cancer SurviveOar, inspires others

Mikki Jeschke describes her ten years with breast cancer as an “up and down journey.”  Some of her journey has been by boat. Dragon Boat, that is.

 

In 2009, Mikki underwent a mastectomy and fought through subsequent radiation and chemotherapy. Three years later, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her bones.  Soon after, the former student adviser now turned amateur paddler found Inheritance of Hope through a friend. The Jeschke family--Mikki, husband Doug, and sons Benjamin (then eight) and Daniel (then five) attended the May 2012 Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ to Orlando.  

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Faces of Holley Day: Friendships formed on Kendra Scott-sponsored IoH retreat inspire a family reunion

You’ve heard us say it before: IoH is a family.  And what do families have? Reunions! 

 

Four IoH families: the Boisses, Earles, Carters, and Suttons reunite in Washington 
Four IoH families: the Boisses, Earles, Carters, and Suttons reunite in Washington 

 

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Faces of Holley Day: Ann Camden on how to find your voice like Holley Kitchen

I didn’t know Holley Kitchen but I visualize her face when I hear her name. She has cute blonde hair and expressive eyes. When I first searched online for metastatic breast cancer in 2016, her powerful video was one of the first advocacy pieces that I saw. I cried at the computer when I watched and then I called my husband to sit beside me so we could watch it together. I handed him a Kleenex. Like Holley, I was a young mother that will be fighting cancer until my journey on earth is over.  

 

Holley Kitchen used her voice for good
Holley Kitchen used her voice for good
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Remembering Holley Kitchen

At Inheritance of Hope (IoH), we talk a lot about legacy.  We know firsthand that when faced with a life-threatening illness, nothing can be controlled, except for how we want to be remembered.  On the fourth annual Kendra Scott “Holley Day,” Holley Kitchen’s sisters share that today, she is still remembered as a spunky and fun-loving “momma bear” who loved her children with deep intent and purpose.  

 

Holley Day
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Faces of Holley Day: Ann Camden on friendship and IoH

I have never met Kendra Scott or her friend, Holley Kitchen, but I think we have a lot in common. I’ve seen enough photos to know that we each appreciate statement jewelry, selfies and the strength of friends that are so close that they feel like family. (Sometimes, it’s even better than family.) But, the thread that links us together feels more like a noose – we are strong women who faced the demon of metastatic breast cancer. 

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Faces of Holley Day: Jake Anderson honors his wife’s memory by paying it forward

Jake Anderson can’t describe his wife Becky without mentioning her smile, “You don't have to say anything else--you could just see her smile.”  That smile was a window into how Becky lived with her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis amidst raising three young children.  

 

According to Jake, Becky was always hopeful, and while he can't pinpoint exactly how she maintained her hope and faith, he does have a name for it, “I think if you knew her, well, there was a grace about her.  She would put everyone else at ease,” he says. “It felt like everything was ok because she was ok. She made it easy for everybody and always looked on the bright side--right from the beginning. I think the word for her is grace,” he pauses, “and then, there was the smile.” 

 

Becky’s bright smile showed her love for life
Becky’s bright smile showed her love for life
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Faces of Holley Day: Kendra Scott connection inspires service to Inheritance of Hope families

Two weeks before Kendra Scott’s company-wide event, Ally Dee knew Holley Day was “something big.”  As a Kendra Scott sales associate, Ally especially enjoyed meeting guests and welcoming nonprofits that benefit from the jewelry designer’s generous philanthropy.  Holley Day would prove to be even more than she expected.

 

Ally remembers, “The energy that day was different. Kendra Scott stores have a lot of events, but we all knew this was special.  I always liked talking to the people who came in from different organizations and learning about what they do, so I started talking to the Inheritance of Hope rep, not really thinking it was going to be this big. I’m glad I did!” 

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A Letter to be Read at My Memorial Service

October 26th, 2019, marks the seventh anniversary of Kristen's death. She revised the letter below in February 2012.
 
Dear loved ones,
 
Watch Kristen's story in 4 minutesAs I write this I admit feeling a little sad. Sad because my greatest earthly desire was to grow old with Deric … 17 years of marriage was not nearly long enough. Sad because it is a mother’s job to be there to comfort her child when that child experiences her first broken heart, or when he sits on the bench during a much-anticipated game. Sad because my heart hurts to think I will not be there to share in my children’s joys and inevitable accomplishments, their weddings, or for the births of their own children. Sad to leave my mom and my sister with yet another loss after the premature death of my dad. Despite the sadness this illness has brought, when I consider my life I quickly realize that God has blessed me abundantly … how can I feel anything except overwhelming thankfulness?
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