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February 28, 2022

Loss and Impact

October 31, 2003, my mom Carolyn Hoagland took her first Avon Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk by herself. A two-day walk at South Street Seaport went through all five boroughs and ended at South Street Seaport. It was a fantastic event that had an outpouring of love and hope. My wife and I were there to see my mom off on the very first day of the walk. We took some beautiful photos that day, and we watched her walk with the fighters and survivors of cancer. Now, at the time, her beloved sister, my aunt Vionne was the only one in our family who passed away from cancer, and her dear mother, my grandmother Mrs. Leotha Blount, was a cancer survivor. She dedicated the 2003 Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk to both of them. She was proud of the amount she was able to raise in their honor and for the cancer society. She spoke about how everyone was so friendly to her on the walk. She listened intently as guest speaker took the stage to shared their personal and moving stories. She recounted to my wife and I, how all the participants had tents set up under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, where they all slept and awoke the next day to a delicious breakfast to aid them onto the second day of the walk. She had forgot my wife and I met her at the bridge and spoke with her through the fence. When I reminded her of that, she just laughed and said, “That’s right, and we had so much fun!” It was a great experience to see my mom as part of a meaningful cause. On the second day of the walk, we supported her to the finish line. She cried tears of joy when she saw us and said, “I did it, I did this for Mama and Vionne.” 

Let’s fast forward to the walk of 2014. This walk holds a number of significances. My aunt Joan, who was diagnosed with cancer, my mom, my cousin Danielle and myself all participated in this walk. We walked for my aunt Debby, who we had lost to cancer in 2010, my aunt Joan who was a survivor, and several other family members we lost to cancer. It was a day filled with joy, laughter, sadness, and hope. It would also be the last walk I would be taking with my mom Carolyn Hoagland and my aunt Joan.

In November 2016, I lost my beloved aunt Joan to cancer, and in November 2017, I lost my dear mom, Carolyn Hoagland, to breast and ovarian cancer. And as I look back to the walk of 2014, I realize my mom was fighting cancer and didn’t even know, and here she was walking for others when in reality, she was walking for herself. 

How could a someone who’s never even caught a cold could pass away from 2 types of cancers? This is a question I ask myself and God daily. But I am beyond grateful that I was there to assist my mom through every moment of her fight until her very last breath. 

The loss of my mom, who was not only my photographer but she always supported, encouraged and never let me give up my dreams, deeply impacted my career. After her passing in 2017, I felt lost. Being an only child, I had to take care of her affairs and felt that I could not mourn in the way I needed. But after taking two solo trips to Niagara Falls for reflecting and healing, I started to slowly get back into the groove of writing songs and performing. I loved being back on stage, it was very therapeutic for me. It helped with my healing. I knew my mother would not want me to give up on my dreams because she passed away. She would want me to continue moving forward and become a master at my craft. Giving up would be so selfish, I had a selfless mother who continued to give and encourage me even during her darkest time.

I am glad I never gave up my dreams, and every year I continue to keep my mom’s legacy alive by walking in Avon Strides Against Breast Cancer.

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