My story is one that has taken so many twists and turns throughout my life. Beginning with being sexually assaulted as a young child, being subjected to physical, verbal and mental abuse as a teenager, to being physically, sexually, verbally and mentally abused by my first husband. Many chapters in my life would diminish a person down to their soul, however, I made the choice to rise from each negative experience and create something positive. Creating positivity is not easy, in fact it is the hardest thing to do because it requires hard work from deep within. One should also seek to forgive those who have hurt them because in forgiveness comes healing and taking back control of your life. Teaching yourself, learning and knowing you are an amazing person no matter what someone else has done to you. Throughout the twists and turns, ups and downs in my life I often found myself thinking, “This must be the hardest thing I will face in my life”. 

As any mother knows, having the honor of being a mother is the most loving, rewarding, challenging, learning and life changing experience a woman will have. I am a mother of two amazing young men; Lannce and Hunnter. I was a young mother with much to learn as well as teach my sons. After getting the courage and strength from my sons and leaving my abusive ex-husband, I was faced with being a single mother. I never saw myself getting married again, as I never wanted to open myself up completely to another man, until I met Jeff, my husband. I had found that rare man that knew how to treat me and the boys the way we deserved and that loved us unconditionally and once again we were a ‘family’. I felt I had finally achieved the good life that I deserved.  As I look back now, there was never a hint that my world could and would crumble so quickly into a darkness that words cannot begin to describe.

On July 10th, 2017, Hunnter would be diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I remember being in the emergency room with Hunnter and hearing words being formed into a sentence, “The test results show that your son (Hunnter) has leukemia.” My heart felt as if it stopped, the air left my lungs and the room, time seemed to stand still as I was taken to a place in my mind of true horror and fear. Then after what seemed to be an eternity, which was probably a few seconds, I felt Hunnter’s warm soft hand squeeze mine bringing me back into the present reality. I looked into Hunnter’s eyes, we spoke so honestly to each other without a word being said; I knew he needed my strength…and I needed his. Hunnter’s strength and bravery would surpass mine over the next 28 days as he battled with everything he had to fight his leukemia diagnosis. Jeff, Lannce and other family and friends would be with Hunnter and me during the days, but at night it was Hunnter and I alone talking and trying to keep each other positive and focused on his fight. Hunnter would lose his battle on the morning of August 7th, 2017, just 13 days shy of his 18th birthday. I was alone with Hunnter when he took his last breath. I stood by Hunnter’s bed with him having trouble breathing, grabbing and holding his warm hand for the last time. It was the same hand Hunnter had used to squeeze mine just 28 days earlier to give me strength. I looked into Hunnter’s eyes and told him, “I Love You Baby."  Hunnter was not able to talk at this time due to treatments, but he looked back at me with so much emotion in his eyes saying, “I Love You Too Momma." Hunnter had been sitting up in the bed, he pulled in one last short breath, his eyes closed, and he began to fall backward onto the bed. Hunnter’s hand that was once so warm and full of reassurance had gone cold and motionless. Then the worst sound I have ever heard echoed in my ears, the machines flat lined as Hunnter lay there lifeless. My world stood still for what felt like an eternity, as hospital staff tried to revive Hunnter and I kept hoping to hear the machines pick up Hunnter’s heartbeat again. No sounds would come that would ease my fears and the silence that filled the room is an emptiness that still haunts me.  

The morning that Hunnter passed sent my world spiraling in so many directions and into a darkness that no one can ever imagine. I am still struggling to find my way back. At times, I am not sure if my world is even moving. I close my eyes at night and Hunnter’s eyes are there, looking back at me, trying to give me the strength and courage I need. The silence in my home sometimes echoes the sounds of the hospital machines even though I know the sounds are not there. The emptiness finds a way into every day and I fight through it, or fight to suppress it. Since Hunnter’s passing, I along with Jeff, Lannce, other family and friends, have chosen to honor Hunnter by continuing his fight against cancer. We connected with the local Leukemia Lymphoma Society in our town and formed “Team Shaggy” (Shaggy was Hunnter’s nickname) in Hunnter’s honor and participate in the annual Light The Night Walk. As Team Shaggy we raise awareness and funds to help further cancer research to hopefully end cancer one day. Telling Hunnter’s story allows us to honor him, keep his memory and fight alive, and helps ease some of the pain inside. 

I have been told that I need to get over the loss of Hunnter and move on. However, I am still in many ways living in July 9th, 2017 (before diagnosis) and re-living August 7th, 2017. My mental state wants to stay in a place where Hunnter is physically here with me, while my body continues to move forward in time. Every minute of each day creates new memories without Hunnter physically in them, reminding me of my loss. I live each day trying to enjoy the time and memories with Jeff and Lannce, family and friends, knowing that is what Hunnter would want. I know my experiences are still being seen and felt by Hunnter as he watches over me and all of us. I want Hunnter to see that his strength and courage are still helping me get through each day until we can be together again.    

I have always felt a connection to the Beautiful Disaster brand with the messages it shares by connecting it with different struggles and aspects of my life. The Beautifully Broken collection was one that I connected with after Hunnter passed. The most recent collection, Perfectly Imperfect, gave me a better understanding of my grief with just two simple words. Grief is an individual, unique experience that many can relate to. You can never truly understand another’s emotions as they grieve and there is no set pathway for grief other than the path you take as an individual. Grief is Perfectly Imperfect; Perfectly unique to a person’s individual experience and emotions; Imperfect by the reality of other’s perceptions of your grief being other’s will feel the need to have you grieve in a way that makes them comfortable, not the way you choose. Perfection is perception as it is the perception of someone that makes perfection reachable as perfection is constantly changing around you.

My life, my story, is one that so many have likely experienced in their own way/lives, and one that can be related to with the pain and gratification of overcoming the negative influences and reaching a place of knowing you will be alright and that your journey is still moving forward in life. Whether you find yourself beginning your journey, thinking of your journey or well into your journey, never let the negative overcome or consume you; rather embrace it, learn from it, and allow it to push you forward to a better place. Nothing is more powerful that the feeling of love; loving yourself, loving others, loving life.

Thank you for allowing me to tell my story!

Suzanne La Mar-Schaeck


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May 28, 2021