HealthLinks Charleston Sept/Oct 2022

www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com | 21 Harmon Kerrison was only 14 when her carefree, self-absorbed teenage world suddenly crumbled. It was at a typical family dinner where she noticed the unusual sadness in the eyes of her parents as her mom announced to her and her older sister, Legare, that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. However, their mom, Hunter Kerrison, was not one to wallow in self-pity or to let her family fall into that place. She quickly determined that getting an excellent medical team was the most important step. With her entire professional life devoted to health care, she knew exactly who to call upon for the very best treatment protocols. For Harmon, the Kerrison family dynamics suddenly changed. She remembers, “I disconnected from my personal, everyday activities – which no longer seemed as important – to spend time with my mom.” Some days seemed like being on an emotional roller coaster: “The days when Mom came home in severe pain and I could hear her crying, even though she tried to hide it, were the worst. Before, I always wanted to be out of the house with my friends doing my own thing, but now that felt selfish, and I wanted to be with my mom, doing things together with her instead.” While the initial surgery was stressful, Harmon mistakenly assumed the worst was over. The beginning of chemotherapy, with the characteristic hair loss, nausea and other side effects was a second, unanticipated battle. Although her mother doggedly continued to work and tried to keep the family routines as normal as possible, the effects, of chemo challenged her self-sufficiency and her ability to maintain the professional attractiveness that her daughters were so accustomed to seeing. Observing her vulnerability was a new and painful experience. Harmon recently graduated from high school and is optimistically looking forward to majoring in architectural studies as a freshman at Tulane. she said. “I feel more mature. My mother and I did so many fun things together during her battle with cancer that our relationship is much stronger and more adultto-adult now, but I do sometimes worry about what if it comes back.” If she were to advise other teens dealing with a parent with cancer, she would encourage them to get deeply involved and go to appointments and treatments, even if that means pushing the boundaries a little. The times she devoted to her mom have enriched their relationship, and for this young woman, family is now a top priority. THE KERRISONS “I am changed. I am much more mindful of life and of setting the right priorities,”