This is a story of life, loss and happiness. This is reality, unscripted. This is a reminder that we are all human and vulnerable and just want to live in the moment.
I met Amy in about 2009. We both worked as Accountants at a public company and became friends. She has a spunky way about her with her sarcastic humor and fun personality. You can tell she’s been through a lot, but she never talks about it. She is a very caring and giving person.
One day, we were casually chatting as coworkers do, and she mentioned that she was diagnosed with Renal Failure as a child. She showed me her shunt in her wrist, which is a vein and an artery connected together just in case she needed dialysis, which was a very likely possibility. Really the question was not if, but when. What I did not realize was that she was telling me she had a terminal illness, but you would never know it. She didn’t make it a big deal, but it was a big deal. The fact is, it was a miracle that she had made it to the age she was, and a miracle that we met at all.
On October 23, 2010, she married, Chris Yañez, a friend from childhood. I had the honor of being her coordinator on the day of the wedding. On August 13,2011, Amy was chosen to be a recipient of an organ donation. She underwent a kidney transplant. Although she desperately needed this surgery to survive, I know it was a tough concept to grasp that someone else had lost their life to save hers. I know she is grateful to that family that so generously donated their child’s kidney to save a stranger in need. She is very gracious for the gift she received, and has become an advocate for organ donation.
With this gift of life comes a lifetime of rejection medication, so that her body does not fight this foreign savior. The medication is hard on the body and causes weight gain. Amy was also blessed with a pregnancy which was hard on her body. Even with this, Amy and Chris were ecstatic and filled with joy as they awaited the arrival of their baby boy. With great sadness, Jacob Lee did not make it past 23 weeks. He was delivered prematurely, and he passed away in his parent’s loving arms shortly after his birth. Amy and Chris were heart broken, and I cried for their loss like it was my own. Again, she used the heartache as a strength. She was determined to beat the odds and have the child that she was told was impossible given her condition.
Amy and Chris found out they were pregnant again. The pregnancy was high risk and Amy was put on bed rest. She never showed any signs that she was fearful of another loss. She let her faith in God guide her. On July 14, 2014, she prematurely delivered Annabelle Alyse at 3 lbs and 3.32 ounces. Annabelle was actually due on my birthday, September 7th, so as you can imagine, she was a frail human when she entered the world. She’s a fighter just like her momma, and she pulled through and is a thriving toddler now. She’s one of the happiest babies I have ever known. I am always filled with joy when I get to see Annabelle.
All of these trials and tribulations led to Amy’s rapid weight gain. Though she tried to diet and exercise, she had forces working against her. The rejection medicine and two pregnancies took a toll on her body that she could not undo without medical intervention. Even though she was uncomfortable with her weight, Amy was present in all photos for her daughter. She did not let the weight gain stop her from making memories. I admire her for that!
On January 19, 2015, Amy quietly underwent a gastric sleeve surgery. She did not announce it, but she confided in me and we planned on doing weight loss progression images with a Grand Finale family photo shoot. Each month, when Amy came to visit me, I watched the weight melt off. She seemed healthier each time I saw her. She was always just as cheerful as she had always been. She’s Amy, no matter what size, she will always be the same humble person that loves her family and just wants to be there for them. To be alive is her greatest triumph, and to be in the moment is a gift that she does not take for granted.
We can all take a lesson from her story. No matter what, someone love’s you and wants to remember you. Maybe the pictures are not Pinterest perfect, but they are your story. Please exist in photos! Do not let anything stand in the way of being present in life and in memories. Thank you Amy for sharing your journey with me and for allowing me to share your story with the world. You are an amazing individual and a gift to us all!