The Shoes I Hope You Never Wear

By: Debbie Moore

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay.

The moment I found out I was pregnant, something changed me. With this new journey came new feelings and new responsibilities. Life was no longer about me; it was about that beautiful unborn baby living and developing inside of me.

From the moment our first daughter was born, I fell in love. Every day was a gift, every memory was documented, every milestone was celebrated, and every scare was a lesson learned. It is fair to say that over the years, there have been many frightening moments.

Alexa during treatment. Photo provided by the Moore family.

Alexa had an extremely rigorous chemotherapy regimen. She received radiation therapy, chemotherapy daily with a few breaks in between and had to be given TPN because she lost so much weight. Although Alexa has been out of treatment for twelve plus years, just recalling these memories brings me right back in time.

There is this one picture ingrained in my memory that I cannot escape as I type this because her body was so frail it appeared as though she’d break in half.

The photo of Debbie’s daughter that she cannot escape. Photo provided by the Moore family.

I described how something changed when I became a parent, well with this cancer diagnosis another change took place.

I cannot explain how taxing it was to watch our daughter fight for her life and to feel so incredibly helpless at times. From the very first sonogram, before Alexa was even diagnosed, she took the lead and showed us all what it meant to be a fighter.

When I was young, my mom lost a very tough battle with lung cancer ten days after my ninth birthday. I would like to say that prepared me for my own daughter’s battle with cancer, but nothing could have prepared me for that. Six years after Alexa finished her treatment, my sister began her own battle with Ewing sarcoma. You must understand that my sister was by our side every step of the way during Alexa’s battle and we all attribute Alexa getting into Memorial Sloan Kettering because of Aunt Sherrie.

Alexa with her Aunt Sherrie. Photo provided by the Moore family.

Now she was fighting her own battle with pediatric cancer at the age of 46. I would love to tell you that I was at every doctor's appointment and every chemotherapy session, but I wasn’t, and I couldn’t be. Sherrie understood that and she did not want me there as I had two daughters to tend to at home and I was working full time. Sherrie was never alone as her husband, our dad, and her mother-in-law were by her side every step of the way.

I did things for Sherrie that helped her in a completely different way. I went shopping and bought her comfortable clothes she could get on easily after her hip replacement. I bought her new shoes that she could learn to walk in again during her treatment. I took her shopping and ordered her wig lovingly named “Adrianna”. I reorganized her pantry and went shopping for my niece and brother-in-law.

To me, these things were trivial, yet I am reminded daily at the beautiful letters hanging on my bulletin board in my kitchen just how much my sister appreciated my part in her journey of healing. Sadly, her journey was cut short and she lost her battle with Ewing sarcoma in a few short months.

To this day, I am missing a piece of my heart for my sister and best friend. While I take peace in knowing that she is pain-free and probably entertaining all those in heaven with her, I still struggle to understand how and why this happened to her.

Sherrie and Debbie. Photo provided by the Moore family.

For anyone going through this process, whether it is for a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or friend, we all process things differently and we all grieve in our own way. There was one thing that kept us all going. It was the power to believe and the love we had as a family.

I constantly would repeat this phrase while Alexa was in treatment, “stay strong because you ARE and believe because you CAN”.

You have no choice other than to fight, you have no choice other than to believe in miracles and when you are surrounded by love it makes the fighting easier. Sherrie didn’t get her miracle, although she had the will to survive. I’ll never forget her words.

Still, as I type this, tears are hitting the keyboard. This is the reality of cancer.

Sometimes, the disease is too strong, but somehow all these warriors forge on in their fight and for that, they are a force to be reckoned with. With bated breath and frail bodies, they fight on because the will to be here is so strong.

For those people who have never had to try on these uncomfortable shoes, consider yourself blessed. Alexa has returned her shoes. In fact, she wore them out to the point where they are just a part of the past. Each day, as she tries on a new pair of shoes, she glides, she runs, and she soars. We know how incredibly lucky we are that she is here, and we never take that for granted for one second.

Photo provided by the Moore family.

To all the brave warriors that have lost their battles, my heart goes out to them and to their families.

The Moore family has been involved with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for 13 years and Alexa was recently announced as one of St. Baldrick’s 2021 Ambassadors. Read more about Alexa here.

We’re a volunteer-powered charity committed to funding the most promising childhood cancer research grants. www.stbaldricks.org

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