Smarties, I am SO excited to introduce you to this week’s lovely Smarty Mom, Samantha Kuhr. We’re going off the Smarty tracks a little this week because Sam is actually a West Coast mom of two boys. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to highlight her here because she’s got such an inspiring breast cancer survivor story that resonates no matter what city, state, or part of the country you’re living in. When I sat in carpool a few weeks ago and read what she’d written about the shock of finding out she had breast cancer, the treatments, and parenting through it, I wiped my tears and knew I had to introduce her to the Queen City.
Sam and I met through my work with CSP and were, by chance, in Rome with our families at the same time a couple of years ago. It was such a delight to meet her and her precious family “in person” rather than just over email – especially when the meeting was at a rooftop bar overlooking St. Peter’s and the stunning Rome skyline. 🙂 My husband and I still marvel at the way she and her husband have been able to make travel a priority in their family. I’ve loved following her family’s travels on social media the last few years (I may or may not have drooled over that Taj Mahal photo above an embarrassing number of times – it looks like a fake back drop! And who looks that stylish while traveling in another part of the world?!). I hope to be able to expose my kids to at least some small fraction of those life-changing experiences travel gifts a child.
If world travel with kids seems daunting to you, keep reading. Sam’s got some great tips that will inspire you to pack those suitcases and head for the open road (make sure to click on her links!). And, if getting your mammogram seems even MORE daunting, this one’s for you. Make your appointment – it could for sure save your life. Make sure to follow Sam on her blog or on Instagram – trust me, it’s SO fun to see this mom-thing happening from another part of the country.
Oh, and make sure that when you read Sam’s answers, you do it with that “British voice” in your head. She’s British. Makes it even better. 🙂 Grab your coffee, relax, and enjoy getting to know this super-cool West Coast Smarty Mom, Sam Kuhr!
Smarty Mom: Samantha Kuhr
Smarty Mom: Samantha Kuhr
Married to: Tom Kuhr, married for 20 years in April
Children: Sebastian (16) and Julian (12)
Hometown: Derby, England
Currently live in: Hermosa Beach, CA
Alma Mater: Derby Tertiary College, England
You have a very inspiring breast cancer survivor story. How were you diagnosed and what has your journey been like since diagnosis?
My world as I knew it changed on March 27, 2015. I was a 43-year-old mom of two very active boys, wife of 17 years to Hot Hubby, active, non-smoker, with no family history of cancer. I was getting ready to go on vacation, and my annual mammogram was on a large to-do list of pre-vacation prep that included things such as buy band-aids, get highlights, and put a vacation stop on the mail. I thought about rescheduling, but didn’t. You can read here the details of the whirlwind week of ultrasounds, biopsy and getting the diagnosis. My immediate concern was to create stability for the boys during this unpredictable and stressful time. This obviously rocked the whole family to the core, and I wanted to minimize the worry for my boys as much as possible. Once I was diagnosed I needed to move very quickly to determine my plan to remove the cancer. It’s a very personal decision and ultimately I opted for a double mastectomy.
What is one thing you want every woman to know about breast cancer?
Preventative care and annual doctor visits are critical, but especially with a cancer diagnosis. Four months can literally be the difference between living and dying. I want people to know that cancer can sneak up on you and come from nowhere. I had no family history, was (relatively) young, ate well, exercised and I didn’t feel a lump or feel ill. It literally came as a complete shock and was caught just as it was starting to spread. Had I not gone in for my routine mammogram at that time, my diagnosis, treatment plan and recovery would look very different.
When a friend or family member is diagnosed with cancer, we all want to help. What are some ways your friends and family helped you the most?
Oh gosh… I cannot even tell you how my little tribe rallied around us. What was most helpful were the food and meal deliveries. The minute I was diagnosed I spent every spare moment researching doctors, driving to doctors, meeting doctors, and all of this was done while my boys were at school. I tried to be present for them after school, and grocery shopping was the farthest thing from my mind. My friends quickly created a meal train, and I felt so thankful that my family was eating healthy and nutritious food, while I was focused on fighting for my life. It was one less thing for me to think about. One of my friends would stop at the farmer’s market and drop off fruit and veggies on my doorstep for me to put into the boys lunches or give them for snack after school. We were so very grateful, and it was funny when my 10 yr old said “Mom, at least one good thing about cancer is that we are getting good food!’…. it made me smile in a very stressful situation.
Another way is to help drive children to their activities and get them where they need to be. A cancer diagnosis is physically and mentally exhausting, and it was great to have people take my boys to soccer so I could spend quiet time on the internet researching such delights as lumpectomies, chemotherapy side effects and genetic testing.
How has surviving breast cancer changed who you are today?
Breast cancer has taught me that nothing is more important than family and friends, and that I am not afraid to die. Before learning the stage of my cancer, I felt strangely calm and was already planning next steps for my boys. Thankfully this wasn’t my path and I feel content with my life and have no regrets.
How do you think it’s made you a better mother and wife?
I think it’s made me a better mother and wife because I feel incredibly grateful for the little things. We all do. I know that it can all be taken away in one second, and I want to appreciate every minute, not live with regrets and know that if this were all to end tomorrow I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Our family can do hard things. We can face a scary diagnosis. We can figure out a treatment plan. We can manage the treatment. We may not want to do it, but we can. That feels pretty awesome.
Where can we give? What’s your favorite foundation for breast cancer awareness and research and why?
I prefer to give and work with the smaller organizations, where 100% of the donations are actually going to help someone. Dr. Kristi Funk saved my life, and she and her husband are striving to help women with no insurance or who are unable to afford services, with the newest chapter of her practice, The Pink Lotus Foundation. This is a nonprofit organization that enables underprivileged women to receive free breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment services. Simply visit their website, pinklotusfoundation.org, to apply for care or donate. I also love Boarding For Breast Cancer which is a non-profit foundation that advocates early detection and a healthy, active, and sustainable lifestyle as the best means for breast cancer prevention.
You and your husband are committed to traveling around the world as a family. You’ve taken some amazing trips with your two boys in tow – tell us about some of the places you’ve been.
Yes Yes! We have always traveled for fun, and we vowed when we had children we would continue to show them different cultures and areas of the world and create global children. We were recently in Bhutan and Nepal, but have also been shark cage diving in South Africa , surfing in Tavarua Fiji, and we’ve camped in the Sahara Desert, Morocco.
But one of our very favorite trips was hiking to Machu Picchu, Peru.
Where did your love of travel come from?
I was born and raised in Derby, England. Derby isn’t particularly a glam town, but during my pretty traditional childhood we were fortunate to take annual holidays to Europe. Not that I appreciated them during my surly and tumultuous teen years, regardless, my parents forced such atrocities on us as traveling to Spain, Italy, France and Yugoslavia (when it still existed!). Although I would never admit, these holidays were fantastic, and stirred a yearning for different countries, cultures, and people. I realized the world was accessible and exciting.
Your most recent trip to India looked AH-MAZ-ING as I followed it on Instagram. Did you and your husband ever feel overwhelmed by such a big trip or was it easier than you thought it’d be?
Yes, India is a pretty intense country and it definitely overloads all five senses! We really do not blink an eye traveling to third world countries. We just sort of know that even if something were to go wrong, we can figure it out and fortunately we have been able to work through the inevitable hiccups along the way.
What are some Smarty tips for traveling abroad with kids/teens?
My first tip is to be flexible and open minded. We have very rarely visited a country where it was exactly as we expected it to be. Also we need to make sure we have food on a regular basis. Julian and I both get ‘hangry’ so having almonds or granola bars on hand can be a life saver in case the line at a museum is longer than expected.
Where were some of your favorite spots to travel with the boys when they were younger?
One of our most memorable trips when they were younger was traveling to Moorea. We swam with sharks and sting rays, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We also had a great time in South America visiting Brazil and Argentina. Or course we visit Europe every year or two since we have lots of family there.
How do you pick your destinations now? Do the boys have a say now that they’re older?
It’s super fun actually. We hold regular family meetings and we all bring our list of places we’d like to visit in no particular order. The Wonders of the World are at the top of all lists, and we’re trying to work our way through in no particular order. Much depends on climate, time available, finances and world events, and then the ‘perfect location’ just sort of organically works its way to the top!
What’s next on the Kuhr Family Travel Bucket List?
Gosh, having a junior in high school is really cramping our travel schedule. Much depends on college tours etc. But we are all dying to visit Indonesia, Iceland to see the Northern Lights, Israel, and explore more of Africa.
Now for some light-hearted Smarty questions to get to know you and your family better…
Family’s favorite home cooked meal? The boys like to eat… a lot… so a pasta with lots of meat sauce is always a crowd pleaser in our house.
Best place you’ve EVER visited? Honestly that is so tough, but I will say that hiking to Tiger Nest Monastery in Bhutan and sitting with chanting monks this past June was a magical experience for us all.
Last book read? – Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania – Frank Bruni. We are in the thick of the college process with my 16 yr old, and it’s quite a ride I can tell you! ☺
Favorite way to stay in shape? – I love to walk with my girlfriends early in the morning and I also sometimes take a cardio and weight class at the gym. I really mix it up and try to do something active super early each day before the boys wake up.
Best part of raising teenage boys? There’s something really heart-warming when my 16 year old puts his arms around me, rests his chin on the top of my head and asks me how the air is down there. My 12 year old still enjoys cuddles, and I’m trying to relish each and every one since I know that those days are numbered. But they really do make me feel like a princess (when they are cooperating of course!).
Most surprising part? The variety of smells that drift from their rooms at different times. It’s really quite impressive when you stop to think about it.
Secret for keeping your sanity? Tequila and girlfriends! Not necessarily in that order…ha! No matter how busy life gets, I definitely take time to connect with my girlfriends. We support each other, are going through different issues with our children, and knowing there’s a tribe of amazing women in my corner is so comforting.
Best thing about living on the West Coast? The pleasant climate. It’s seriously sunny and mild 330 days of the year. We also are lucky enough to live steps from the Pacific Ocean, so I get to see the water every day.
First place a Charlotte mom should visit when she arrives in Hermosa Beach? The Gum Tree Café is owned by a friend of mine and is a globally inspired gift shop with a café attached that serves delicious coffee, juices and healthy sandwiches and salads. The best place to sit and chat with your girlfriends for a couple of hours!
Guilty pleasure? Dark chocolate, tequila and reality TV!
Three things you’d do on an unexpected day off? I’d go for a long run on the beach, then I’d drive to Santa Monica to have lunch with Hot Hubby. Afterwards I’d send out a text to my girlfriends saying that I’m serving cocktails on my deck for happy hour and hope a few stop by!
Finish this sentence: I want my boys to know that I… will never stop loving them…ever…even when they screw up, I still love them more than life itself. I also want them to know that if I happen to die sooner than expected, I will walk through walls and haunt them if I ever see them disrespecting a woman or snapchatting their private parts!