Her Story: Kelly Wehman

Kelly Wehman Talks Cultivating Community

At the age of 26, my husband and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child. On January 13, 2014, I gave birth to a sweet baby boy we immediately named Andrew Stephen, a name we had picked out early in my pregnancy if we had a boy. And that’s where our story takes a quick and dramatic turn. On that day in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I was a new mom to a baby boy diagnosed with Trisomy 21. Down syndrome. Additionally, Andrew was rushed to the NICU for an upper respiratory infection and diagnosed with a minor heart defect.

Fast forward 18 months, and I was three months pregnant with our second child. Meanwhile, our sweet and seemingly healthy and happy baby boy was then diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Cancer. That scary C-word is any parent’s worst nightmare. The fight was on. #AndrewStrong became our mantra, our purpose. We had a six-month chemotherapy treatment plan to get Andrew cancer free before the arrival of our second child. After logging days and weeks in and out of Riley Children’s Hospital, Andrew was cancer free just three weeks before the arrival of his baby sister, Lydia.

I have learned so much about the value of community in this life with Andrew. Therapists have become like family. Medical professionals have become mentors. Our church family has become our rock during times that rattle our faith. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have been our constant support. “Family” now includes everyone from people at my gym to people I have never met on Facebook who have supported us through it all. 

wehman family
kelly and andrew stephen wehman

And this “family” embraces and celebrates every single, sometimes seemingly small, milestone Andrew achieves.

The value of community became even more apparent to me when we relocated to Chattanooga from Indiana in 2017. I moved to a new city as a mother of two little ones and didn’t know anyone. We quickly found an amazing church home, I found my gym family, our kids entered an amazing school district, and we got plugged into a wonderful Down syndrome support group. Chattanooga is our new home, and we could not be more blessed by this community.

Nine years later, this journey with Andrew has changed me into a person I didn’t know I could be. Many people in the community know that I am now an avid runner. It has become a passion, and I am now recognized as an elite runner, competing in elite fields of female athletes. I have even finished as the first place female in several races, including the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and have run the Boston Marathon five years in a row. And I do it all wearing #AndrewStrong. 

I have run several races for charity, raising money for pediatric cancer research, even as a St. Jude Hero. Andrew is my inspiration, my true hero.

This journey has changed our whole family. My now 7-year-old daughter Lydia has grown to be quite the advocate for Andrew. She is his biggest fan, his constant supporter, his spokesperson when he can’t speak for himself, and the “other mother” in his life. We are so proud of the little warrior she has become.

Professionally, I have embraced a career working as a group fitness instructor and trainer – something I have done since the age of 18. It became especially clear to me that this was a passion of mine when my life changed after having Andrew. Working in the fitness industry and being part of a fitness community has been such a source of encouragement, motivation, and support in my life. Being able to encourage, lead, and motivate others to reach their health and wellness goals brings me joy beyond measure. I truly feel we all need each other!

wehman family
wehman family

There is so much to say about what I learn every day from Andrew. He loves life, has the best belly laughs, and gives the warmest hugs. He has taught me patience, pushed my limits, brought me to tears, brought me to laughter, and brought me to my knees. I have discovered through moments of weakness that you can find the strength you never knew you had … to win a race, both on the roads leading into the Magic Kingdom or Boston and on the rocky roads of life. I love sharing our story to give others hope that no matter what their life journey has in store, they are never alone in their battle. We are all in this race together.

Kelly Wehman, Ringgold

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