Taking control of a life-changing diagnosis: A mother and son’s story

A mom and son in North Carolina discuss his life with cystic fibrosis — and the role their jobs at Wells Fargo play in the family journey.

October 20, 2015
Teresa Allen

In 1993, Amy Jucoski and her husband brought a newborn son home from the hospital. As time progressed, they noticed he was struggling with breathing, absorbing nutrients, and gaining weight. The doctors were baffled.

The next three years were a cycle of hospital stays and more questions than answers. Finally, the family received a diagnosis. Amy still remembers the doctor’s six words: “Your child suffers from cystic fibrosis.” Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes permanent damage to the lungs and digestive system.

Fast-forward 18 years, and Amy and Kyle Michael Cook discuss their journey. Amy is a Wells Fargo team member who has logged 21 years of service, most recently with Abbot Downing* in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kyle is a teller in Charlotte celebrating one year with Wells Fargo.

Kyle: Mom, how did you balance work and your personal life when I was young and you and Dad had just learned about my diagnosis?

Kyle Michael Cook

Amy: Those were some challenging times. You had doctor appointments that lasted for hours and many extended hospital stays. But I was working for a supervisor who really believed in me and had genuine compassion for my situation. He expected superior execution but provided flexibility in terms of when and where I worked.

For example, I had a flexible work schedule, so when appropriate, I would use my laptop to telecommute. When I needed to be home to administer your IV treatments throughout the day, I planned ahead for that. And when you needed my full attention and other family members couldn’t help care for you, I was always able to use my paid time off.

All of that made a huge difference. I really felt supported, and it’s important for me to support others in the same way now.

Kyle: What helped you get through those tough times?

Amy: I learned that you need to understand the resources available to you and use them!

For example, our Wells Fargo Employee Assistance Program was important in helping me deal with my stress and anxiety. I always saw this benefit as a way to take charge of my own well-being. Most employers offer these programs, and they can be very helpful. I also learned that you need to openly communicate your needs to your manager so you can partner to find the right balance to perform well in the workplace and feel able to manage your personal challenges.

Based on my experience, I’d suggest learning as much as you can about your or your loved one’s disease so you can ask the right questions, understand what to watch for, and learn what treatment options are available. That way, you can make informed decisions about health care coverage and other important benefits. I personally learned a lot from our medical specialists, researching on my own, and talking with other parents in similar situations.

We all have stressors, so it’s important to schedule time for relaxation and take a break from all the demands of life.

What did those difficult moments feel like to you?

Amy Jucoski

Kyle: I was too young to remember the hardest days, but I remember you would always comfort me and encourage me to live a normal life. As you know, cystic fibrosis is a very lonely disease. We are encouraged to not attend meetings or events where more than one person with the condition could be present, due to the risk of cross-infection of certain bacteria that are dangerous to those of us battling cystic fibrosis.

So I focus my efforts on what I can control, such as researching my nutritional requirements, preparing my own food, eating well, and getting exercise. All of these have been very helpful in managing my disease. But looking back, I know things were tough on you, especially after you became a single mother, juggling work and college and raising us kids.

Amy: As a mom, you always worry about your kids, especially when they have challenges. And you’re right: I always wanted you to have a normal life. I’m thankful that you’ve taken charge of your own disease and learned all you can about nutrition and fitness.

You’re a “star” patient, and you amaze me with your determination to live well and in the moment. I am most proud of the fact that you are now in such great shape that you are actually participating in men’s physique competitions. What a testament to you and all your hard work to manage cystic fibrosis.

Knowing you also have a career opportunity with supportive teammates warms my heart.

Kyle: I never really understood what support like that meant until I followed you to Wells Fargo last year. You have really influenced me to do the best I can every day.

Amy: I’m honored to hear that, and I hope you’re happy with your life today.

Kyle:  I feel supported by you and the entire Wells Fargo team — we’re close, like a family. I look forward to my future, and I feel great physically. I can’t remember the last time I was really sick. I am happy — very, very happy. And it’s important to me that you are proud of me.

Amy: I am very proud of you, Kyle. I always have been.

*Abbot Downing is a Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management business.