This mom's journey through divorce and illness reminds us why single moms are heroes.

Being a single parent can be tough. It can be even tougher when you're coping with serious health issues.

Allison Brown and her husband have been separated for some time, but they co-parented their son, Jed, equally up until two years ago.

Simultaneously she has antiphospholipid syndrome, which makes her prone to blood clots, and as such, she's already had two pulmonary embolisms — one right after Jed was born.


It was also recently discovered that she has a genetic oddity on the BRACA2 gene and a family history of breast cancer, so she's made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2018.

Allison and Jed Brown. All photos via Allison Brown.

Jed wants to be with her in the hospital, and while she's always been open with him about her health issues, this feels like uncharted territory. He's been with her through illnesses before, but this surgery will change how she looks and no doubt have an emotional impact, so she's apprehensive about letting him see the aftermath.

"I'm not entirely sure what the 'right' thing to do is," Allison writes in an email, "but I go back to one of our family reminders: We can do what we can do. And sometimes we can do hard things."

As it turns out, Allison isn't alone in her concern. Many families struggle with knowing what the "right" thing to do is, but they still manage to #familygreatly.

Family Greatly

Myth: There’s one perfect way to family. Truth: There’s a billion ways to #FamilyGreatly.

Posted by Kraft Brand on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The truth is, there isn't one "right way" to be a parent. And, through her relationship with her son, Allison's come to realize that.

She cherishes Jed, and together they've successfully navigated some difficult times. But mostly she tries to savor every moment with him that she can.

"He is kind, he is moral and thoughtful, he is just a lovely person a lot of the time," writes Allison. "He is working hard to be responsible and I really appreciate that. I think we are very close, in part because we are a household of two, in part because I'm pretty unflappable."

Jed on the soccer team.

Of course, as Jed grows up, she's realizing he doesn't need her as much. It's a hard reality, but she knows it's what needs to happen.

"I know I'm not all he could ever need nor should I be anymore," explains Allison. "Life is bigger, and his world is wider."

But even though Jed's a teenager now, they've maintained their tight bond thanks to a few unique traditions.

For example, every night at dinner, they hold hands and share a "moment of gratitude," which can be anything that happened in their day that they're grateful for. Since Allison can't be there all the time, it's a great way for them to reconnect.

She also makes sure to be there for all the big events, like Jed's soccer games and choir concerts.

She wishes she could be around more often to encourage him to stop staring at phone/computer/television screens all day, but that's likely a struggle that would exist whether she worked or not.

Jed and Allison Brown.

And really, at the end of the day, Allison believes she is enough for Jed because she's proud of the man he is becoming.

"The world is big, and there are a million ways to be successful and measure success," she writes.

Time with your kids goes by fast — Allison knows this better than most. So instead of worrying about the future, she hopes parents, like herself, can stay in the present with them as long as they can. After all, that's what truly matters with family.

Life may throw you curveballs along the way, but as long as you can come back and share a moment with your kids, you're nailing parenthood.

It doesn't matter if you're a family of two or 10, if you're celebrating around a big Christmas tree or eating leftover pizza while watching your favorite show — if you're spending time together, that's what makes a great family.

This holiday season, Allison and Jed will be taking their traditional trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to see the lights festival. It's just something that makes the month of December a little more special for them.

Families are made by these traditions that make them unique, no matter how big or small they are. And that uniqueness outshines perfection every day of the week.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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