By now, much of the nation is familiar with the story of 14-year-old Isaac Lufkin, a young man who dreams of being a professional football player in the NFL despite having been born with no arms.
But few know that Isaac's mother, Lori, has been facing life-threatening medical issues of her own for years.
Though she prefers not to discuss her own battles, the mother of two told TheBlaze in a phone interview Monday that she has successfully battled cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer, in addition to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But she's now facing the challenge of her life.
Lufkin said she has known that she has congestive heart failure for roughly four years, but was told on Christmas Eve that her condition is rapidly worsening.
"The medication is not working anymore, and it's basically at this point ... the surgeon told me it's, 'Get a heart transplant or I'm going to have organ failure and die,'" she said.
Though Lufkin has had two open-heart surgeries, she is scared of the implications of a heart transplant.
"My first initial reaction to it was, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die. Because I'm not going to get a heart in time, and I'm going to die in my sleep,'" she said.
But Lufkin knows that even if she gets a heart in time, it's still an incredibly risky procedure that comes with a lifetime of medications.
Still, she manages to stay clear-headed and positive because of a "deep-rooted faith in God," and because she has an unbelievable support system between her children, the rest of her family and the nationally recognized doctors she is seeing.
Lufkin said Isaac has been her biggest supporter, telling her that she will make it -- and live to see him get married and play in the NFL.
And on the days she comes home crying, she added, Isaac immediately cheers her up and tells her she is strong and that it will be "just another walk in the park."
Lufkin instilled in Isaac the line, "I can't means I won't" from childhood, and said he is taking the same attitude with regard to her condition.
"He has repeated what I've taught him, which has meant a monumental amount to me as his mother," she said.
But, she added: "I know how sick I am. They know how sick I am. That's why I've forced them to be so independent."
Lufkin said she has "come so close to dying so many times" that it is "openly discussed" in her home and they are "prepared for that."
The young mother said her biggest joy is knowing that her children could go out into the world at any time, and be independent and successful.
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