A Warrior Story for a Warrior Mama

Oh friends, it's been a long time since I've posted on the L&L blog! I'm so excited to share this post with you today, though, and hope it touches your heart the way it touched mine.

This season I decided that I wanted to provide a special session opportunity for a community that is near and dear to my heart - MAMAS. I'm lucky that in my profession I get to meet a lot of different types of Mamas, and the common threads I've found are their strength, incredible love for their children, selflessness, and capacity for so much more than I ever thought possible. Their stories have been incredibly captivating and unique, and documenting those stories is always such an honor. 

Segue to, the L&L Warrior Mama Session giveaway. I asked you guys to nominate a Warrior Mama in your life to receive a complimentary session with L&L. I wanted to hear you tell me in your own words the story of why she was a warrior, and one story in particular stood out so beautifully.

Enjoy, readers, this is worth every minute of your time, and thank you to all the people that took the time to submit a story! 

Submitted by Chaz Engelkes, about his warrior wife Kate

Over ten years ago I had a crush on this girl and she had a crush on me. I’m a runner. She isn’t. For reasons I don’t quite understand, she wanted to impress me. I was headed out for a run, and Kate decided to join me. She kept pace and while I yammered on and on, she breathlessly nodded and huffed. This is to say, that was the last time I saw her run.

I’ve run solo since.

We fell for each other. Got married. Fled the country for a few years. Fled back to Iowa and eventually had two boys.

In the month of August, this warrior gave birth to our new lion, Leo. That night while laboring in our bedroom, she was simultaneously finishing up an annotated bibliography for grad school. No worries. She got the paper in before her deadline. Once we got to the hospital, in less than a half hour, Leo came into the world making a fierce bright-eyed gaze directly into Kate's heart. He stared me down too. We instantly welcomed the love we felt kicking months earlier.

Along with the newness of life from Leo, a new strength of spirit was born inside her. She figured if she could birth two boys, surely she could do more. And she did. She started slow on a treadmill. In the dreary months of winter, she’d walk and walk. One day she snapped. Kate started running. That run turned into a mile. The next day she added another mile. She wasn’t out there to impress anyone other than herself. She wanted to see how else she could push her body.

Caring for two boys can be pretty taxing (we also have a three and a half-year-old). It got heavier in the month of February.

Kate has a lovely complexion. Her freckled skin is filled with constellations. Over the past three years or more, one of those stars began to grow. It rested on the edge above her left eyebrow. I ignored it. Kate did too. Time passed and worry was swallowed. We pursued ignorance until we couldn't bear it any longer. With a swallow of pride and many pushes from friends and family, Kate made a phone call.

Once at the doctor’s office, her anxiety swelled. The doctor was all, “Uhhh yeah… that needs to come off immediately.” Soon enough she was scheduled to meet a plastic surgeon. The star gained a name, Moleficent. Get it? Following the first procedure, the doctor called Kate. I'll say it again. The doctor called Kate. This isn't a thing that happens to us.

He said this word, "melanoma."

Our world stopped spinning and stood still. Thoughts such as, "how could my body betray me," and ,"it'll be alright," and, "this is deadly. This. is. cancer," entered her head. "We'll have to take skin from above your right eye and transplant it to the new hole we'll be making above your left eye. The hole where the cancer is. It's a skin graft. Meanwhile, we'll also have to put you under for this. We'll sew your eyelid shut so as to better help the graft take. You'll have to sleep in a recliner for two weeks. Nothing can bump it. You can't pick up your toddler. You can't sneeze. You can't pick up your baby. -You're going to look a lot different."

Of all things, vanity crept in and accompanied her fear. Issues of judgment and acceptance whispered lies of rejection and potential loneliness. The operation took over three hours.

She came out stronger. In the weeks that followed Kate balanced learning to rest and recover while mothering two boys (Eli, a boy running towards risk; and Leo, an infant learning to take in the world’s wild wonder), teaching high schoolers how to write thesis driven analysis essays, and being married to me.

In an act of embracing her newness, Kate recently chopped her hair into this asymmetrical, buzzed half of her head, pompadour. No longer hiding behind strands of hair, her scars are visible for all.

The scars are now part of her story. They’re part of mine too.

And although we’ll walk from time to time, if you look close enough the scars will blur, but they’re there. We’ll cast our insecurities aside. We will run, hand in hand, side by side into this world.

Together.