7 Years – Wake Me When September Ends

7 Years – Wake Me When September Ends………

IMG_2281      Today is September 22. It has been 7 years since my beautiful, red-headed daughter, Kayla, passed away. The title of this blog is exactly how I feel about it. But, it’s, also, the name of a song by “Green Day.” I only know the chorus to this song and it has been playing over and over in my head since the end of August….”Wake me up…when September ends….” I know what the title and chorus part of this song mean to me. But, what does it mean to the guy that wrote the song? According to a google search, Billie Joe Armstrong’s (lead singer for Green Day) father died from cancer on September 1, 1982 when he was just 10-years-old. On that day, when he got home from the funeral, he locked himself inside of his bedroom and wouldn’t come out. When Billie’s mom knocked on the door, he simply said, “Wake me up when September ends.” I completely understand how he felt that day. And, I have felt this way ever since September 22, 2010.
Just yesterday, I decided to look up the lyrics to this song. There are a few lines that made my heart sink…..”Seven years has gone so fast; Wake me up when September ends……” I couldn’t believe it actually said, “Seven years.” This is so ironic! It is such an appropriate song for what this month means to me. It does mention Armstrong’s father in the lyrics. But, I can just replace it with Kayla’s name and the song instantly feels as if it was written for our family’s heartache during this month (link to the song on you tube is below).
I just can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I’ve seen Kayla. It still feels like yesterday and a hundred years ago all at the same time. So much has changed in 7 years. Ashley is almost 13-years-old and a 7th grader in middle school; she was 5 and in kindergarten when Kayla passed away. Allison got married last May, working as a Dental Assistant and will be 21-years-old soon; she was 13 when she lost her sister and in the 8th grade. My parents are now in their 80’s. Joel and I are both approaching the big “5-0.” I have a job that I love; I wasn’t working when Kayla was sick and in treatment and so grateful that I was able to be her full-time caretaker. Everything is so different now without her here.
We released balloons today in Kayla’s memory. I made cards with gold cancer ribbons and attachedthem to the ribbons tied to the balloons. Inside of the cards, I wrote about Kayla and about September being childhood cancer awareness month. I put my blog name on the card, as well, and asked if anyone finds a balloon to please comment on my blog. That will be so great if someone finds a balloon and contacts me (see pictures). Watching those balloons fly up into the air so high in the sky until we couldn’t see them anymore truly made my heart ache. I so look forward to seeing her again one day……I love and miss you my beautiful, Kayla!!

IMG_2280IMG_2279IMG_2278   IMG_2283

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Dear Attention Seeking Parent

seek respect not attention                                                                                                              Dear Attention Seeking Parent,

When I first heard the news about your child’s traumatic injury, it broke my heart.  I prayed and prayed for him/her and for you everyday and asked God to heal your precious child.  I prayed for God to give you strength and to help you while you were helplessly watching and waiting to see if your child was going to survive.  Thankfully, he/she did, but, he/she would never be the same.

I have, also, had my own devastating experience with my oldest child.  So, I understand what it feels like to watch helplessly as your child is so sick and clinging to life and there is nothing you can do to fix it or to make it better for them.    My beautiful 17-year-old daughter, Kayla, was diagnosed with AML – acute myeloid leukemia on July 3, 2010.  Her horrific illness was brief; she suffered and died just a few months later on September 22, 2010.  Losing my daughter has been the most devastating thing that has ever happened in my life.  I miss her immensely and would give anything to have her back.

I’ve often thought, if Kayla had survived cancer, how would I let others know how she was doing?  Maybe another online journal? A new blog? Facebook?  Twitter?  Instagram?  What would I write about?  I would probably write about how she was physically and emotionally feeling each day, what she did and did not eat, or whether she was up to having visitors or not, etc.  Maybe her thoughts, plans, and fears about the the future.  Basically, I would write about anything she asked me to.  But, the one thing I would have not written about was myself.  Posts and pictures of my personal vacations, shopping trips, weight loss, new hair cuts, new clothes, date nights and personal health issues would never be a topic when sharing with others on a page specifically for and about her.  My private and personal information about my husband, marriage and family would never be shared, as well.  The topic would always be about my daughter, her illness and her life with cancer, her progress and anything she would like for me to share with the world. But, it would never be about me.  Anything about me would be on my personal Facebook page.  Or, it just wouldn’t be posted at all.

It is true that I do write this blog about “A Mother’s Journey Through Life After the Loss of Her Child to Cancer.”  But, it is my way of coping with grief and not a way of seeking attention.  Writing has not only helped me survive this life as a bereaved mother, it has given me the opportunity to connect with so many mother’s around the world who have, also, experienced the devastating loss of a child to cancer.  But, I do try to keep my private life private when writing my blog posts.

So, why am I writing this letter?  I’m not really sure other than just wanting to get it off of my chest.  I’m not expecting you to change anything just because of my letter.  You are free to do whatever you want to do.  It does seem like most of your blog posts are written more about you rather than your child.  My hope is that you would continue sharing how your child is doing and how well he/she has progressed without telling the world about your trips, new outfits, or about your personal health issues. Yes; we do have freedom of speech.  You have the right to write about anything you want to.  I, also, understand that I don’t ever have to read your blog.  And, I really should go ahead and make that decision to let your blog go.

Bottom line is…..No one should ever use their child’s illness, injury or disability to exploit their child to gain recognition, attention or fame.








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Dear Dr. Phil

Dear Dr. Phil,      dr phil


Hopefully, that got your attention. I know you are bombarded with emails and letters from people needing help with relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, troubled teens and more. But, the story that I am telling in this letter is so crucial and necessary for every person to know before they give 1 penny to a charity raising money for someone with a life threatening illness, such as, cancer. **This does not apply to all charities or fundraisers.** There are thousands of real and legitimate fundraisers for people who are sick and in need. But, there are some that are, unfortunately, fraudulent and misleading kindhearted people. I hope you will read my letter and respond to me soon.

I would like to tell you about a mother. She is the mom of 3 beautiful girls. Two of her girls are healthy and living. And, one child is an angel in Heaven. On September 22, 2010, her oldest girl passed away from acute myeloid leukemia-AML. She was only 17-years-old.  She was diagnosed with AML on July 3, 2010 and died just 2 months later. Losing her daughter has been the worst thing that has ever happened in her life. Dwelling over the days leading up to her daughter’s death and being with her as she took her last breath continues to break her heart. She stood by, helplessly, as she watched her girl suffer and slip away. Since her daughter’s death, she pushes herself to get up each day and be the mom and wife that her family needs her to be. She would never wish a life as a bereaved mother on her worst enemy…..This story of a girl with cancer is TRUE.

I’d like to tell you about another mother. She is the mom of 7 children. Her youngest child, a girl, had leukemia. Cancer made her weak and fatigued, her hair fell out due to chemotherapy, and she wore a surgical mask everywhere she went to protect her from bacteria and viruses that could, potentially, end her life.  Her caring community where she lived opened their hearts for the girl and created fundraisers, such as, charity bake sales, sponsored walks/runs, car washes and church donations to help the family pay for the child’s medical bills. The young girl had to undergo counseling to discuss how she felt about dying.  And, as Christmas was approaching, her parents told her the devastating news that this would be her last one; she was going to die.
……..This story of a girl with cancer is FALSE.

The first story is about about my daughter, Kayla; she really suffered and died from acute myeloid lukemia. The second story is about a girl named Hannah. Hannah did not have cancer, but, her parents convinced her that she did. They gave her sleeping pills and other drugs to make her sleepy and to feel sickly.  They shaved her head to give the appearance that she lost her hair due to chemotherapy. She was told by her parents that she would only have one more Christmas and she would die soon after. Teachers at Hannah’s school became suspicious when they noticed stubble growing back on her head from where her hair had fallen out from chemotherapy.  At that time, the local authorities confronted the parents and they confirmed that her daughter was healthy and did not have cancer.  The girl was so happy to learn that she was not going to die.  However, her parents faced fraud charges later. It is such a disgusting and disturbing thing that was done to this young and innocent girl. Her parents were supposed to love and protect her. But, instead, they committed fraud by using their daughter.

I write a blog about a mother’s journey through life after losing a child to cancer. In the summer of 2013, an anonymous person sent me a private message. They said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but, someone is pretending to be you and your 3 daughters on the internet.” I was shocked and I didn’t know what to do. The anonymous person told me the impostor’s blog name and twitter account name. I began searching the internet to see what I could find. It didn’t take long until I found it; a blog with my content and pictures of my children, as well as, a twitter account.  I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Who could do this? Who could really pretend that they had a child dying with cancer? Many people went to the impostor’s blog and twitter account and demanded that she/he stop what they were doing. Whoever the impostor was refused to back down until WordPress.com and twitter.com got involved.  Thankfully, they were able to shut the impostor’s blog and twitter accounts down. There were news sources from around the world that were sharing this story. We were interviewed by our local news in Atlanta, too. I never figured out who the impostor was. But, I’m still left wondering why would someone want to pretend that they have a child dying from cancer? Who wants that kind of life? Is it really just for attention? Is it a mental illness? Is it both?

Dr. Phil, my hope is that you will consider have a show discussing this topic of “Cancer/Charity Fraud.” This topic needs to be addressed and to prepare caring and thoughtful people to do some research into a charity or fundraiser before they make a monetary donation. Country singer Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly were deceived by a woman claiming that her daughter had cancer and, eventually, died.  This fraudulent act could happen to anyone; famous or not.  Again, this does not mean that all charities/fundraisers are fake. There are so many more that are genuine and really help those that are facing life threatening illnesses.

Thank you for your consideration of doing a show about “Cancer/Charity Fraud.” Please feel free to contact me anytime.

Please see the link below of my interview with an Atlanta news station regarding our experience with the blog impostor.


Amber C.



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Dear Summer,

grief summer

Dear Summer,
Welcome back, Summer! You have always been my favorite time of the year. Thinking back as far as I can to when I was a little girl, summertime always made me happy. It was a time when school was out for the year, I could go swimming at the beach and play outside for hours with my friends in the neighborhood. The 90 – 100 degree weather, with a lot of humidity, never bothered me. As a teenager, I spent almost everyday of the summer at the beach. I never cared about how sunburned I would get. There were many times when I would stay all day at the beach and by the end of the day I would have blisters on my body from being so sunburned. The pain was horrific. But, it never seemed to bother me when I was young.

Seven years ago, everything that I enjoyed about the warm weather months, changed forever. May 2010, Kayla was tired a lot, but, seemed happier than I had seen her in awhile. We took pictures in front of our house to give to my mother for Mother’s Day; it was a fun day with Kayla. But, we had no idea what was headed our way.  June 2010, over the next few weeks, Kayla became fatigued, dizzy and had unexplained low grade fevers.  An unusual red sore appeared on her chin.  She woke up one morning and her face/cheeks were swollen; she looked as if she had just had her wisdom teeth removed. Her pale skin became whiter.  July 3, 2010, Kayla’s diagnosis – acute myeloid leukemia; AML.  September 22, 2010, Kayla took her last breath.  Since then, my summers have not been the same. Now, when there is a hint of warm weather in the air, my mind always goes back to the summer of 2010.  I can still remember the smell of the hospital when walking into it from the heat outside.  It was always so cold in the hospital and I wore a jacket the entire time we were there.  I can still taste the hospital food that I forced myself to eat while worrying if Kayla would survive.  I can still see all of the images in my mind of Kayla slowly slipping away from us. The sound of birds singing in the trees always remind me of the day of her funeral. It was a beautiful sunny and hot day. And, the trees were full of birds chirping; the sound still brings me right back to that devastating day.  And, for a very long time, I could not stand to hear a bird whatsoever.

Thankfully, Summer, the last few seasons with you have gotten a little easier. It took me a few years to get there. The warm weather still takes me back to the last few months of Kayla’s life. But, I am learning to appreciate this time of year again; school is out, swimming at the beach, spending time with family and friends and enjoying the beautiful sounds of birds that fill the trees.


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Dear Grief,

grief get through it

Dear Grief,

You’ve been in my life for almost 7 years now.  You might think that you still have control over me.  And, in some ways, you do.  But, I’ve learned to not let you always be the reason and excuse for not living a peaceful and joyful life.  I have finally found moments of peace and joy.  This has been a really hard thing to do.  Along with your controlling ways, your friend, “guilt,” has existed, too. I wouldn’t allow myself to laugh or be happy because of guilt.  It felt wrong to let myself enjoy a funny movie, sing along to a great song on the radio or just to eat a bowl of my favorite ice cream.  And, I’m not saying that grief has disappeared; I know it is always there just under the surface.  Sometimes, grief sneaks up on me from places I never expected and it makes me fall to pieces.  Other times, I purposely visit grief just to make myself feel like I am back with Kayla. It is so painful to go there, but, remembering those last days with her can be comforting…..in an uncomfortable sort of way.

So, grief, in order for me to keep going each day and try to be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I am asking you to please not make any more surprise visits. I understand that you are necessary and expected after the loss of a child.  And, I know you have no expiration date, either.  But, I’ll give you a call myself when it’s time for us to talk.


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It’s been a while…….

Dear Mom Minus 1 Blog,                                                        kayla green shirt

It’s been so long since I’ve been here. I’m so sorry I haven’t visited sooner. But, you are always on mind. Life has a way of steering you in many directions……work, school, grocery shopping, laundry, etc….They are all necessary and give me no choice but to put writing on the back burner. In some ways, I think staying busy has been a good distraction from my grief. I’ve learned if I go non-stop all day, my pain from losing Kayla is not as intense or a punch in the stomach. But, I remember what helped me in the first place and that was starting this blog.

We are approaching 7 years since Kayla died and I just can’t believe it. Has it really been 7 years? There has been so much that has happened in this short amount of time. Ashley will be in the 7th grade this year. Allison recently got married. I found a job that I love, too. We drive different cars now and have new pets since Kayla died. We do still have 1 cat that Kayla loved; he is an old man now. I have many more gray hairs on my head and darker circles under my eyes. We’ve lost some loved ones. And, we’ve made some new friends that never had the pleasure of knowing her. Kayla would be 24 today and I am constantly thinking about where she would be in her life now if she had survived. What college would she have attended? What would her degree be in? Would she be working? Would she be married? Would she be starting a family? Would she have done something completely different from college, career, marriage and family? Would we be friends? Kayla and I had our typical mother-daughter arguments and battles; we are both stubborn redheads, too. Sometimes, I think about what our relationship would be like now. I like to imagine that we would have had a beautiful mother-daughter friendship just like what I have with my mother.

So, how am I doing now almost 7 years later? I’m still a mother who is missing a piece of my heart. I am heartbroken and miss Kayla every day of my life. I will never be over the loss of my girl. But, as each year passes, I feel like I can think about more of the good times I had with her and not focus only on memories of when she was sick and passed away. They say, “time heals all wounds.” My wounds are not really healed. There are still scars of pain and sorrow all over my heart. Time and the grace of God has helped me get the through hours, minutes and seconds when I felt like I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.

The mothers in our support group continue to comfort other bereaved moms, including myself. I haven’t spent much time posting anything on our group page lately. But, there are many new bereaved moms that are joining the group all the time. And, I remember what it felt like when Kayla died; I didn’t know anyone who had lost a child to cancer….I didn’t know anyone who had lost a child at all. I searched the internet looking for another mom who understood what I was going through. But, I just couldn’t find one. If I had just one mom that I could have reached out to in those first few months, I wouldn’t have felt so alone in the world. This is why it is important to me to keep writing and to not let another mom who has lost their child to cancer feel alone.

I will write more soon…………..



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To all bereaved mothers who’ve commented on my blog…..

I have not written here in such a long time.  Life has kept me very busy.  But, that really isn’t an excuse to stop writing.  I decided to visit my blog today and noticed that I have several comments from mother’s who’ve lost a child to cancer.  I want to apologize to each one of you for not responding to you.  I am just like you and I have a missing piece in my heart and soul.  I know what it is like to see kids around Kayla’s age (now 24) who are married, have children, going to or finished college and have begun their careers and wonder what she would have been.  I was recently talking to a mother who lost her child a few years ago.  And, we both agreed that the “finality” is one of the hardest things to accept.  We will never know what our children would have been, who they would have married, or how many children they would have.  I’ve, also, wondered, how would she be wearing her hair now.  What kind of music would she like?  And, just what would she be like at the age of 24?  I had Kayla when I was 24, which is hard to think about.  I was not finished when she died.  I still had so much more to say and do with her…..To all of the bereaved mothers who’ve commented on my blog and I have not responded, again, I apologize for not being there for you.  I will be getting back with each one of you, hopefully, this week.  If you would like to part of the online support group for mothers who’ve lost a child to cancer, please let me know and I can send you the information.  Each one of you are in my heart, thoughts and prayers………..Amber

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Kayla’s 22nd Birthday Poem

kayla Christmas ornamentToday is Christmas Eve and Kayla’s 22nd birthday.  While anticipating this difficult day, I wrote a poem to honor my daughter and to help me get through missing her today.






T’was the morning before Christmas;
still dark in the house.
something was stirring
and it wasn’t a mouse.
The blankets and sleepers
were folded with care;
I thought I was ready,
but, I wasn’t prepared.
As I slowly rolled out of my bed,
I had no idea what was ahead.
Discomfort and stress
had fallen in my lap.
What was I to do?
There were still presents to wrap.
As the pain became harder
I wondered what was the matter.
I looked in the mirror,
“Wow! I’m getting fatter and fatter!”
Away to the car, I flew like a flash.
I had to be quick
and tried not to crash.
Racing through red lights
while the pain continued to grow.
I was almost there;
just a few miles to go.
As the pain progressed,
it was perfectly clear;
it was time for the arrival
and to let go of my fear.
Pushing and hurting
with tears in my eyes;
I was anxious to see
my Christmas surprise.

When what do my wondering
eyes did appear;
my first born child
with no worries and no fears.
A girl with blue eyes and bright
red hair;
weighing only 5 lbs
and skin that was fair.
I looked at my girl with happy tears;
I didn’t know I’d only have her
for 17 years.
My time with you was far too short
and I wish I had another day;
I look forward to seeing you again
and I’ll never let you go away.
I wish I could see you in Heaven
to hug and say to you…
Merry Christmas, Kayla
And Happy Birthday, too.



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A Time to Remember

One night, I was sitting in the living room of my childhood home. Instead of resting on a chair or the couch, I found comfort on a high-top wooden table. I was high enough off of the ground where my feet could barely touch the floor beneath me. Without thinking about it, I found myself leisurely swinging my legs back and forth. It’s funny how sitting on something slightly elevated off of the ground can make you feel like a kid again. I was seated directly across from my mother when I noticed how young she appeared. It was as if she was 20-years-old again. As I was admiring her youthful presence, she looked at me directly and intently. “I know you are hurting about Kayla, Amber,” she said to me…..without saying a word.  I silently responded with, “Mom, I am fine. Please don’t worry about me.”  Honestly, I was really having an overwhelming moment of grief and didn’t want to tell her because I knew she would worry. But, amazingly, we seemed to be communicating telepathically with each other. I wanted to verbally tell her how I truly felt, but, I simply could not speak; nothing would come out of my mouth. Maybe this explains the bond between a mother and her daughter. Somehow, we have the capability to just know how the other one is feeling. A mother never stops worrying about her daughter….no matter how old she is….And, a daughter never wants her mother to worry about her. But, I have learned over time that it is impossible to take all of the anguish and anxiety away from a mother when it comes to concern for her children.

While visiting with my mother, something unbelievable happened.  When I stood up from sitting on the wooden table I felt something in my right hand. It was not painful or uncomfortable; it was just there. I looked down at my clinched fist and carefully opened my hand with one finger at a time unsure of what I might find. Surprisingly, there was a message written in the palm of my hand. The ink was very black and looked like it was written with a Sharpie pen. When I read the message, the familiar feeling of shock overwhelmed me. It felt like a lightening bolt went through my entire body. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Mom, I am okay. Love, Kayla.” How was this possible? My heart began to pound harder and faster. My breathing intensified. Immediately, I started looking around the room for her, but, she was no where to be found.  The room was spinning and I was in a panic. And, then in a blink of an eye…….I woke up.

I began having vivid dreams when I was a very young child.  The dreams were always in color and usually incomprehensible.  Years ago, I had a crazy dream that I was walking through a giant box of Bryer’s vanilla ice cream with tennis rackets tied to the bottom of my feet to use as snow shoes….Ha….I wouldn’t know where to begin to try to interpret a ridiculous dream like that.  However, this dream about the message from Kayla, seemed so real.  It felt like it really happened.  I can still visualize every detail from the high-top light oak table I sat on to the scent of the marker in my hand.  I can remember that it was a very dark night with the sky lit up with stars.  My mother glowed with youth and a time long before she lost her oldest grandchild.  Everything in this dream seemed like I could reach out and touch it.  But, as I was slowly opening my eyes from a deep sleep, reality quickly set in.  What seemed so realistic was only a dream.  A huge wave of disappointment washed over me as I awoke.  It seemed so unfair that my brain would take my thoughts hostage and manipulate them into convincing me that this dream really happened.  But, at the same time, having an opportunity to receive a message from Kayla gave me comfort and peace.  The closest way for a bereaved mother to see her child is through her dreams.  We often pray and ask God to please send our child to us in our dreams.  And, even through the disappointment of reality upon waking, I still had a very precious moment in time that I will always appreciate and never forget.

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Where Were You On that Day?

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve written anything.  Sometimes, I forget that writing still remains as my best source of grief therapy.  No matter how much I stay busy being a mother, wife, etc., I need to take the time to write.  Expressing my thoughts through my own words written on paper or typed on a computer have saved me and I am going to try to do more of it……………….

September 11, 2001……I can remember the day like it was yesterday.  It was a beautiful, sunny and warm morning.  I was driving to work when a news flash was announced on the radio, “A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”  Like many others, I thought it was an accident or a mechanical problem with the plane.  I continued to listen intently to the radio station announcer.  “Another plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  Another plane?  This was, obviously, not a mechanical problem.  Was it the end of the world?  For a brief moment, I did think that Judgement Day had arrived. As the minutes and hours went by on September 11, 2001, I continued to watch the tv in horror; I couldn’t stop watching it.  All I could think about were the people who died tragically and their devastated families.  There was not one person on that day who thought their life was going to end not long after entering the doors of those buildings.  There was not one family who knew that they would never see their loved one again.  Other than the horrific individuals that caused this tragedy, no one knew that the entire world was going to change that day.  And, I had no idea that just 9 years later in the month of September we would be facing Kayla’s last days on earth.

I, also, remember another significant day; July 3, 2010.  After some blood work was completed for Kayla, I was contacted by her doctor and was told to get her to the ER immediately and to be prepared for a blood transfusion.  Later that day, her doctor walked into her hospital room and said those dreaded words that no parent wants to hear, “We believe she has acute myeloid leukemia.”  We were both shocked.  I was speechless and before I could say anything, Kayla asked, “Cancer?”  .The doctor replied with a heart-breaking, “yes.”  Kayla and I held hands and through fear, shock, and tears, we tried to process this devastating news we had been given.  That day changed our lives forever.

September 22 is just days away.  It will be 4 years since I’ve seen Kayla.  I still can’t believe that so much time has gone by since she died.  But, this year will be a little different.  On September 23, Allison will be one day older than Kayla was when she passed away.  Allison is 17; Kayla was 17 when she died.  I didn’t even realize this until Allison told me.  As a bereaved mother, I can get caught up in my own heartache and, at the same time, forget that Kayla’s sisters grieve for her, too.  I feel terrible for doing that to them.  And, I wish I could take all of their pain away.  But, we all wish that Kayla was here with us.

In a blink of an eye…..in an instant a person’s life can change forever…….And, while I was closing this post, I looked at the clock.  What time was it? 9:11.

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