Catching up with ... Amy Owens

Amy Owens had undergone a cancer diagnosis, a total mastectomy and chemotherapy when I first met her in 2007.

She had generously agreed to meet with me once a month for a year as she recovered from a rare form of breast cancer, invasive triple negative ductile carcinoma, as part of our Making a Difference partnership with Wellness House.

I talked to her again in September 2009, about a year after my story was published and days before she celebrated her second year of being cancer-free.

I've kept tabs on Amy over the years, seeing her kids' names appear in the paper (especially in 2012 when her son was quarterback for the Red Devils) and occasional photos of her popping up on Facebook. But we hadn't met face-to-face for almost 15 years until last week.

We met at the Starbucks by Whole Foods on Ogden Avenue, where most of our interviews during 2007-08 took place. Her hair is longer than it was then (it was still growing out from her chemo treatments) but she looked the same.

Of course her life is much different now. Her kids were 13, 10 and 7 at the time the article ran in August 2008. Now they are 29, 26 and 23. All three have graduated from the University of Illinois and live in the city. Brian Jr., the oldest, got married about three years ago. Claire, the youngest, spent a year at home after college before moving out last week.

"That was it - the last hurrah," Amy said. "Brian and I are on our own. The last one to actually leave was a little harder than we anticipated because now you know no one is coming back, and it's been 30 years that someone was in the home being taken care of."

As her kids got older, Amy kept busy working with her interior design business, Two Spruce Girls, which she started with friend Jenn Freeman 10 years ago.

"I just love it to death," she said. "We go into people's home and spruce up a particular room - they might want their family room done. We do it in a day. It's similar to HGTV. We ask you to leave for the day."

When the two aren't on assignment (they handle about two clients a week), Amy plays paddle tennis, takes Pilates classes and participates in a book club.

"I feels like there's never a dull moment, that's for sure," she said. "My weeks go by very quickly."

She and Brian also love to travel, and have made recent trips to Florida, Arizona and New York.

I enjoyed hearing about all the great things going on her life. But eventually I had to ask the question I was most afraid to ask. Amy responded that she has been cancer-free for 16 years.

"Honestly, until you contacted me, I don't think of it much," she said. "But I think I need to be sometimes more grateful - not grateful, just remember what I went through and that I'm here and that life is good.

"You may think about it every day after it first happened. Then it becomes a week and then it becomes a month. Now I'm grateful that my life is just moving forward and I closed that chapter behind me."

Annual mammograms can be an occasion for fear to creep in, she acknowledged. And special celebrations - like graduations or her son's wedding - give her pause.

"It's like those moments, the weddings and things like that, that's when I think about it," Amy said. "I could cry. You're just so happy to be here."

I'm so happy she's here, too.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean