In honor of Mother’s Day, we recently asked our readers to nominate an awesome mom in their lives. We received more than 30 nominations of moms who are making a difference in their families, communities, workplaces and in the world. After careful consideration, our editorial team selected Oklahoma City mom Jami Watters.
In her nomination, Jami’s best friend Susan Bell wrote: “Jami lost her son, Jamison, to leukemia in October 2009. She never stops fighting for a cure or keeping her son’s memory alive. She’s a pediatric intensive care unit nurse and saves lives daily. Her surviving son, Tyler and her precious daughter, Emersen, help to bring light back to her sometimes-breathtaking darkness. I can’t truly describe her strength, passion and love for her family and her desire for kids to have a better way to fight cancer. I am blessed beyond words to not only have her as my closest friend, but an awesome ally in our childhood cancer fight.”
“I was completely in shock to find out I had been selected,” Jami explains. “I didn’t even know that Susan had nominated me. She called me at work and told me that I had won. I was so overwhelmed that I almost started crying.”
“When Jamison got diagnosed, I clearly remember the doctor sitting us down and saying ‘this is not a death sentence’ and I believed her. Unfortunately, even with an 85 percent cure rate, my two-year-old little boy was gone 18 days later. We were in shock. It took two weeks before the oncologist told us Jamison had died from neutropenic entrocolitis, a rare complication from the chemotherapy,” Jami recalls. “It was so hard knowing that he was gone when we had just started fighting and when his chances of beating it were so high. I vowed in that moment that I would not let his death be in vain. If I could save one child, one mommy from this horrible pain then I owed it to Jamison.”
“I know several children in Oklahoma that are battling cancer and I really wanted any money raised [for childhood cancer research] to stay in our state. So I joined with the Children’s Hospital Foundation and set up a non-profit organization called Making Cents 4 Jamison, because we can’t make sense why children get cancer, but we can make cents for change,” Jami explains. “Our goal is to raise $13,000 by September 13, 2013, which would have been Jamison’s 6th birthday. All the money raised will go directly to the Children’s Hospital Foundation for Pediatric Oncology Research.”
Here’s more about how this 36-year old native Oklahoman is hoping her family’s loss can help provide a bright light in the fight against childhood cancer.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
How truly lucky I am to have such an amazing and supportive husband. The last few years have been incredibly difficult for our family, and I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through it without him.
What are you passionate about?
Raising awareness for childhood cancer. I had no idea how little funding [childhood cancer research] receives until Jamison got sick. Less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute budget goes to fund childhood cancer and that is just not acceptable. Our children deserve more.
How has motherhood changed you?
I had no idea how much I could love someone until becoming a parent. It also has shown me how strong I am. I always said I could never handle it if something ever happened to one of my children, but when Jamison died, I had no choice but to go on. Seeing Jamison sick was excruciating. Chemo is hard on adults and way worse on a two year old. Tyler was only 4 and he had just lost his baby brother, I vowed right then and there that he would not lose his mother, too.
How do you banish stress?
Having some nice quiet “Me” time.
What inspires you?
All the random acts of kindness that have come from losing Jamison. It has amazed me how so much good can come out of such a tragedy. It inspires me to pay it forward wherever and whenever I can.
Along with your job as a mom, what do you do?
I am nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit. Jamison got sick and passed away just 8 weeks before I graduated nursing school, and I almost gave up on nursing completely. Now I am so grateful I stayed because I think this is just where I am supposed to be.
What do you like most about your job?
I am so blessed to have a job that I truly love. I love that I only work part time, which allows me so much more time with my children and husband. Most of all I love that I have a job where I feel like I am doing something that really makes a difference.
What is on your wish list?
I wish for childhood cancer to get the recognition and funding it deserves. My wish is that one day, a cure will be found so that no child, no family, will have to fight this fight again.
What are you most proud of?
One of the biggest compliments I get as a parent is that my kids are always smiling. Hearing that I have happy children makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
What motivates you?
My children. I read a quote once after Jamison passed away from a mother who lost her little girl and she said, “I often think about her sitting up there looking down, nudging the other angels with a big smile saying, ‘Hey that’s my mom!’” I think of that a lot and strive every day to make all three of my children proud of their mommy.
How do you find balance in your life?
At the end of the day I just have to remind myself what is most important and try to remember that the little things are just that.
Advice for other moms?
Never take one moment for granted, take lots of pictures and videos, never pass up an opportunity to snuggle and tell them you love them.
What’s the biggest challenge in your life?
Continuing my life as a mother of three when I only have two of my children at home with me. Jamison is and will always be just as much a part of my life as Tyler and Emersen. I am very blessed to have a group of family and friends who never hesitate to share memories of Jamison when I need them.
How do you help others?
After I lost Jamison, I had a complete stranger reach out to me that had lost her son a year before. She was probably one of my biggest comforts in the beginning because I knew that she had been through it and survived. Now I pay it forward by reaching out to other newly bereaved moms.
What is your parenting style?
I am pretty laid back, but at the same time I feel it’s important to set rules and boundaries so you don’t raise a self-entitled child. If I could teach my children anything it would be to be kind, compassionate and empathetic towards others.
Favorite quote or advice about motherhood?
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well being ahead of your own, to teach and do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is… and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.”—Donna Bell
Quick Facts About Jami
- What are 5 words that describe you? Funny, outgoing, sensitive, compassionate and dedicated.
- What’s your favorite TV show? Dexter.
- What’s your favorite meal to cook for dinner? Indian Tacos.
- What’s always in your handbag? Chapstick.
- What’s your guilty pleasure? Pizza.
Jami is just one of the many outstanding moms who was nominated in our Awesome Moms contest. Read the stories of other nominees here.
Brooke Barnett is the Assistant Editor of MetroFamily Magazine.