Motherhood & Words

The other night, after meeting some writing friends out for drinks, I biked home along the river. It had rained earlier, but the sun was now out and so were the people. I biked over the Stone Arch Bridge, which draws people from all over the city—visitors and residents alike—because it’s a perfect place to watch the Mississippi cascade over the damns. I kept smiling and saying hello and people kept smiling and saying hello back as I wound my way through the crowds. There were more smiling people along West River Parkway. Two young women in hijab having a picnic waved as I biked by and I yelled back a loud hello! The light was stunning, and as I pumped the pedals up and down I was so grateful for all of these people from different backgrounds out together on this beautiful night. I was grateful to be alive. But I couldn’t keep my tears at bay. I’d been weeping for days, and as I biked up the hill toward home, I just let them go.

Some of you may remember me posting about our friends, John and Tessie Sylvester, a few years ago. Donny and John played soccer together for the MN Thunder for many years. He and Tessie spent their adult lives giving back, spreading love and joy wherever they went. In 2011, John was diagnosed with ALS. In the face of this devastating disease, John and Tessie stayed strong and positive, focusing on what they did have: their two dear boys, Gus (6) and Freddy (5)—their joy and sunshine.

John died a week ago Friday and he will be missed by so many people, most of all his wife and sons. In a cruel twist, just days before his death, Tessie underwent test after test because of some questionable results from a routine check-up. And then the unthinkable happened: just hours after John took his last breath, her doctor called and confirmed that Tessie has cancer and it’s not good.

Tessie has adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands. It’s unclear what the primary source of the cancer is, but it has spread to Tessie’s liver and lymph nodes. Because of this, surgery is not an option for Tessie.

Tessie is terrified by the thought of leaving her sons without their daddy and mommy. She is only 36 years old and she is going to do everything she can to fight this cancer. She will start chemotherapy on Tuesday.

Tessie is self-insured and now a single parent. She will not be able to work during treatment. If you can, please donate to Tessie’s GoFundMe site and please spread the word. Tessie is one of the kindest people I know, and she needs us!


As I biked home the other night, I stopped to take these photos. The light and the warmth of everyone else out that night filled me with hope. I’m holding onto that hope now, for Tessie and her boys. Please help if you can.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Nina on June 26, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Heartbreaking. Made a donation.

    • Kate on June 26, 2017 at 9:27 pm

      I know. Awful, isn’t it? Thank you so much for donating, Nina! xoxox