To my girls, on the eve of my mastectomy

Dear Avelin:

My perceptive, sensitive, smart 6-year-old.

You are most likely to remember what is about to happen. We’ve discussed it. We’ve equated it to your flu shot. A little pain now to keep me from getting sick later. But you already realize the flu shot doesn’t protect you from the stomach bug so what else could get us sick you wonder.

I hope nothing, big one. I hope one day that you or other little girls with brains as amazing as yours have such better options than I have right now. I hope you don’t have to have these talks with your sweet, sensitive children.

I want you to know that I’m doing this for you. Hours after you were born, after she heard your name for the first time, your Grammy Lin left us because of breast cancer. I dreamt that night that she met you. She held you.

She gave you the greatest gift in a father who wants nothing but success and amazing things for you. She also gave me the perspective that I don’t want to leave you ever but especially at that vulnerable point in your life or, God forbid, earlier.

In the short 6 years we have been blessed by you, I know what I want to tell you now, before this surgery.

Do not ever lose your empathy. I don’t know any other child who truly feels for others in the way you do. From tears because Georgie didn’t get to let the butterfly go while you did to pure joy and excitement at Klara’s new wheelchair, you share in your friends’ highs and lows. That will endear you to so many people and someday feed whatever passions you pursue.

Continue to read between the lines. Not only do you feel things intensely, you are amazing at understanding the context clues of life. You figure out new words based on pictures or a preceding sentence. You sense tension and sadness before we address it with you. You give hugs just because you feel someone needs it. And they almost always do.

Do all your research before you try, but if you fall, get up, brush off and try again. You’ve got perfectionism running in your veins, my girl, but don’t give up if it’s not perfect the first time. If you want something, you keep going. Don’t get discouraged.

Always know when to walk away. You are so good at this already and I hope you always are. If drama erupts with friends, if you aren’t comfortable with a situation, you tend to remove yourself. I’ll notice you’ve found something to entertain you in the opposite corner or you’ll come downstairs to see what we are up to. Know where you can go when you need to take that walk. And lead by example in doing so.

You can tell me anything. And Daddy. Don’t bottle up that empathy, those emotions, until you burst. Of all things you have, a poker face isn’t one of them yet. Tell us everything – big or small – that hurts, that makes you happy or that you need help finding answers to. We will listen. We will be here to help.

Thank you for being my sidekick, my understudy mommy, my cuddler, my first born. I love you.


Dear Carys:

My full of energy, creative, wise-beyond-her-years 4-year-old.

What is about to happen might seem huge right now, but I am hoping it becomes a blip on your radar or just fodder for your future Oscar-winning performances someday. I know me and daddy being gone for a week will be hardest on you, but you are also the strongest peanut I’ve ever met.

You were the most amazing surprise when we found out you existed. Your conception forced me to look at my own genetic destiny before I was ready. And you came into this world in true Carys fashion – fast, furious and screaming like hell.

I still believe your Grammy Lin had everything to do with sending us you. The timing, the BRCA knowledge, that was enough to convince me. Then you lost all your jet black hair and became my green/blue-eyed blondie. When I look in your eyes, I see hers. And then you speak. You speak with such conviction that I know you truly believe whatever it is you’re saying and, usually, you’ve convinced at least two other people that you are right. You’re bound to be a leader just like Grammy Lin was.

For you, my middle little, I want the world to recognize that dynamite truly does come in small packages.

Entertain yourself like you do now. Despite your cries that “no one is with meeee,” you’re the child I know can find the fun anywhere. You create whole worlds in our living room, characters in your playroom. You sing and dance and make yourself laugh. As long as you have that, you will never be bored.

Create your own world; make your drama work for you. Your extrapolations of stories and characters and songs floor me on a daily basis. I’ve never seen a child so fluent in creativity and – yes – drama. I can’t wait to channel your obvious talents into something that you truly love. And that we love watching you do.

Surround yourself with positivity. You are magnetic. There’s just no denying it. I want you to attract all the right people and reflect their positive energy. Learn to repel those that will bring you down or show you negativity.

Know when to dig in your glass slippers and show someone how much weight dynamite can bear. Your stubbornness (also a Grammy Lin trait) may drive me crazy on a regular basis, but I know it will take you so far in life. You’ve never let someone tell you that you’re too small, too girly, too young. Don’t ever give in when you know what you want and what is right.

Always give me bear hugs. Please. Whisper in my ear what you need me to know. Don’t hide behind those big blue eyes. Always let me in.

Thanks for always being my spark of life, my laugh-out-loud performer, my apprentice, my consummate middle child. I love you.


Dear Finley:

My danger baby on the brink of discovering the world.

You won’t remember what tomorrow brings, but I will miss your cuddles and snuggles so much over the next week. I can’t tell you how much our week in Disney meant to me seeing your huge smile and watching you take it all in.

You’re my BRCA baby. The one we wanted to finish our family, our perfect final puzzle piece. You are a perfect little bookend, mirror image to your big-big sister, obsessed with your big sister, imitating the screeching, loving the giggles. You look to them to keep your go-with-the-flow attitude.

I want you to always stay my baby, to keep your innocence and happiness.

Never lose your palpable determination. You put that little head down and barrel through hallways and over the dog to get what you want. Always barrel through.

Stay laid-back and flexible. You’ve survived almost a year with us, your crazy sisters and some intense allergies. But you’ve always handled it, rolled with it, helped make it the best experience we could have.

Humor me when I’m crazy, when I baby you a little too long. Humor all of us as we try to keep you young and sweet forever.

Know that you’re so loved, so wanted. I always knew we were waiting just for you.

Keep those big browns wide open. Only hide when playing peek a boo and give the stink face when needed. You'll know when it's necessary.

Always let me cuddle you a little longer, even when all you want to do is go to sleep. Sometimes mommies need that, too.

Thank you for being my final puzzle piece, my sweetest baby, my always baby. I love you.

And, above all, my girls, stand with each other. Because, together, Wells girls can take over the world.


  1. What beautiful messages to give your girls. You are a special young woman and mother, Katrina. Our prayers are with you through this.


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