NORMAL, Ill. — Breanna LeMonnier and her sister, Kelsey, were making Play-Doh cookies and cupcakes at the kitchen table of their Normal home, even after their parents, Molly and Ed, excused themselves from the operation to sit beside each other on a couch a few feet away.
But Breanna, 5, was listening to her parents' conversation and adjusted her work accordingly.
At one point, she walked up to her mom, handed her Play-Doh molded into a shape and said: "I made this for you because you had cancer. I'm glad you're better."
Molly looked down and saw that the shape was a heart. They hugged. Breanna rejoined Kelsey, 2, at the kitchen table. Molly composed herself and smiled.
"They (Breanna and Kelsey) knew that Molly was sick, but we never shared the story," Ed said. "When we look at old photos, they ask, 'What happened to mom's hair?' We say, 'Mom was sick but mom is better now.'
"But we never discussed the details of treatment. It's OK that they're hearing it now."
The story that Breanna and Kelsey were overhearing in detail for the first time was that their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28, was treated and then gave birth to a healthy Breanna, then had a recurrence and was diagnosed with stage IV cancer (meaning it had spread), underwent treatment, had an amazing recovery and gave birth to a healthy Kelsey.
All by age 34.
"Before she was diagnosed with cancer, I thought it was something old people got," recalled Ed, who with Molly, shared their story as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month that began Tuesday.
"When things get stressful, I think, 'I've gotten through cancer — twice. I can get through anything,'" said the soft-spoken Molly.
Molly, 36, and Ed, 37, have been married for 12 years. But this story begins on the night of Dec. 12, 2005.