For as long as she could remember, Pierrelynn was surrounded by love, support, and a village she could rely on. What she didn’t know was how important her village would be for her later on in life.
As a first-generation American born in Brooklyn, New York, Pierrelynn came from a very big Haitian family. When she was three years old, her mom decided to move in with her grandma and uncles in upstate New York. They all lived together in one house, so there was never a dull moment.
“I remember growing up, we would have these big parties, and my grandmother would cook for at least fifty people. Every weekend she would entertain, and everybody wanted to come over. It was really great.”
When Pierrelynn was around ten, her mom decided to move down to Florida in hopes of finding better opportunities for herself and her kids. Little did she know in a few years, Pierrelynn’s life would change forever.
“I got pregnant at fifteen, and I was scared. To be honest with you, even if you go through health class, you still can’t imagine this happening to you. I was a relatively good kid and had decent grades. So this was a shock. It was a major shock for everyone.”
Pierrelynn managed to hide her pregnancy until she was five months along. Being a kid herself, she was understandably confused, scared, and didn’t know what to do. She trusted her sister with her pregnancy news in hopes that she would help her, but her sister knew the pregnancy could not be hidden any longer from their mom.
“We were all sitting on the floor in the dining room because we had just moved in and had no furniture. Dominick, my older sister, goes to my mom, ‘Pierrelynn has something to say to you.’ I was put on the spot. I had to really get into big-girl mode quickly. I remember saying, ‘Mom, I have something to say.’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, go ahead. You can tell me, my child.’ I’m like, ‘okay, you know, it’s really big news, Mommy.’ Then she turns my head, and Haitians do this thing where they think they’re doctors where they check your neck pulse and if it’s going faster than normal, that means you are pregnant.
She immediately starts crying and the way people cry in my family, they don’t cry, they wail, they break down and it’s crazy. It’s a production. I don’t remember hugging, but she assured me that we would get through this.
Her mom was extremely supportive and took on two jobs, put furniture on layaway, so that Pierrelynn could stay at home and finish school. As a pregnant teen in high school, life was challenging. Her teenage years felt different. After an incident where a kid accidentally pushed Pierrelynn in school, her mom decided to enroll her in an all-pregnant girls’ high school. While it was well-intentioned, attending that school did not make things easier for Pierrelynn; if anything, it made it more weird and difficult. She was determined to make the best out of it. One thing she will never forget about her time in that school was when a spiritual teacher said to her:
“Sometimes it’s not only your prayers, it’s the prayers of your support system.”
What she didn’t know was that a few years later, she would be going back to this phrase during one of the hardest moments of her life.
At just sixteen years old, Pierrelynn gave birth to her first daughter, Trinyti. During this time, she was juggling being a mom, fitting in at high school, and taking care of her child. She would also travel back and forth from Orlando to New York to see her childhood friend, Jay. This friendship quickly turned into a relationship. A loving, caring, and passionate teens-in-love relationship.
A few years went by, and Jay decided to move to Florida with the excuse that he was going to go to school. But really, it was to be with Pierrelynn. Soon after, they get pregnant with Pierrelynn’s second child at nineteen, and they both decide it’s a no-brainer to get married.
“I was madly in love, he is a really, really, really, really great person. I have yet to meet anybody like him. Not only that, his family is so supportive. They’re such great people, we love each other so much. My family is crazy about Jay as well.
Just when they thought they were going to start a new life together in the same location, Jay accepted a better-paying job back in New York. Their first pregnancy included a lot of traveling back and forth and a lot of emotions. They made it work, and everything was going smoothly for the first couple of years of their marriage.
Four years later, they were expecting their second child, Christian, Pierrelynn’s third. Their family was growing, and they could not be happier. Then the delivery day came, and Pierrelynn’s world stopped.
“I literally had my baby on my chest, and the doctor, who was from the Caribbean and they’re known to be very matter-of-fact was like, your baby looks like it has Down Syndrome.”
It took two whole months for the test results to come back and confirm the doctor’s diagnosis for Christian. Both Jay and Pierrelynn were very confused, heartbroken, and feeling alone.
“I had no idea what I was going to do. Jay was going to the library to get more information on early intervention. He did all of this research and set up everything. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I would have done. At one point, we were learning sign language because doctors made it clear that Christian may not talk for a while. He actually didn’t start speaking until he was two.”
Things seemed to finally normalize, and everyone was finding their own rhythm, caring for a special needs child.
One day, Pierrelynn takes Christian to the doctor for routine lab work. To Pierrelynn’s surprise, the phone call after was not an “everything looks good, see you next month” type of call. She was instructed to take Christian to the emergency room immediately because Christian’s blood count was not meeting a certain range.
It took the doctors nine days to provide a diagnosis. Nine days in the hospital with uncertainty. Nine days of hoping and praying for the best.
“Doctors walked us down this long hallway into this little tiny office. We’re sitting across from the doctor. I’m just sitting there with Jay next to me. The doctor starts to show us some diagrams and says ‘this is leukemia AML’ and keeps saying all these things and using all these big words. I immediately start wailing. I don’t even hear what he’s saying anymore, but I can tell Jay is paying attention because he’s leaning in, he’s asking questions, and I’m just breaking down.”
Immediately after diagnosis, Christian had to start chemo. This meant one year of being in and out of the hospital going through treatment. Both Pierrelynn and Jay had to stop working to be able to stay in the hospital and fight this battle with Christian.
Pierrelynn’s mom, sister, and brother helped with the other kids while they were in the hospital and Jay’s family held down the fort financially for them.
“They literally paid the rent for the entire year. Car payment was a non-issue. Everything was a non-issue. We were completely, completely, 100% blessed throughout the entire process and journey.”
She means it when she says she was 100% blessed through the entire process. Support was coming from every direction possible, so much that it was overwhelming. So many people showed up to support her family. She can’t remember a time during that year when she was alone, and even though she felt overwhelmed by all of the people, she saw it as a blessing in disguise because it did not give her time to overthink anything.
The phrase from her teacher back when she was pregnant the first time kept coming to mind:
“Sometimes it’s not only your prayers, it’s the prayers of your support system.”
And that’s what she did, she prayed, and she asked everyone to pray. And everyone did; everyone showed up for their family.
During this time in the hospital, they met an organization called BASE Camp. Their mission is to provide a year-round base of support for children and families who are facing the day-to-day challenge of living with cancer and other life-threatening hematological illnesses.
This organization’s support extended to the whole family, bringing food, gifts for Pierrelynn’s other children, and a particular gift that maintains a special significance to this day.
“They gave me this robe in 2010 and I still have it. I was so happy to finally have something to wear in the hospital. Because it’s hard and you want to be comfortable, not too comfortable because you’re not home. So I’m in my pajamas, but now I had this robe, and I could just throw it on and be like ‘oh, yes, you can come on in.’ In a way, this was so comforting!”
Christian has been in remission for 13 years now, living with Down Syndrome and thriving in school. He is very lovable, and outgoing, and makes his family proud daily. He is in love with the musician Fergie and has made his parents aware that he NEEDS to meet her soon.
“I have a lot of down days where I feel down and don’t have the best outlook on life, but I’m always able to go back to those moments where people were really rooting for me and fighting for me and it gives me so much strength. This reminds me that I am loved and I do belong here and it keeps me strong. While going through this and having such a strong support system, my children are also exposed to this so they know how to do right by people.”
Pierrelynn took this challenging chapter of her life and turned it into a life lesson that is now dear to her heart. She truly feels that she has found her calling because of the challenges she has faced.
When a person goes through so many obstacles, it is hard to see the positive in the situation, but Pierrelynn really did not take that route. She branched out and is making it her life mission to be a better person, more empathetic, and more supportive towards others.
“I had such a strong support system that it changed my perspective on life, especially with the role I am in now. I’m dealing with families, and if they see that you have a heart and they see you’re here for them and you’re relatable, that softens their hearts as well. Wanting to put your best foot forward and really be there for other people means everything.”
Pierrelynn accepted a well-deserved promotion in Michigan, where she is looking forward to new challenges and expanding her knowledge within her career. This position is an opportunity to bring her talents to the Ann Arbor community and help them find their dream apartment home.
“I want to take on this new challenge and make the best of it. I am looking forward to my growth in the industry over the next couple of years and being able to help so many more people along the way.”