Milan woman grants dying best friend's final wish: to adopt her children UPDATE
UPDATE: After a 7 year battle with ALS, Sara Hankins passed away Monday, March 13, 2017, surrounded by her family at home, according to her online obituary. Hankins was 36 years old.
An open house to celebrate her life will start at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at her mother’s home in Milan.
You can find more information on her obituary page. A link is attached to this story.
ORIGINAL STORY: Sara Hankins has been battling health issues since 2010, including brain cancer, surgeries and seizures, and now she is in hospice care in the final stages of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
According to the ALS Association, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Through it all, Hankins' first concern has been her four kids and their futures, which her best friend, Missy Armstrong (also known as Melissa) has been able to help put her mind at ease about.
Hankins says Armstrong is more like a sister to her.
"We've been best friends for a long time," Hankins said.
The two met in 1999 at cosmetology school, and ever since have been there for each others' big life moments, including the birth of three of Hankins' children and Armstrong's son.
When it came time to decide who would take care of Hankins' children when her fight with ALS came to an end, they say there was no question when Armstrong offered to do it.
"She means the world to me, she always has though, and this was just kind of the icing on the cake," Hankins said.
"When you have a friend this close that's just as close if not closer than family, so of course it's super difficult, super hard," Armstrong added.
Now, as Hankins holds on in the final stages of ALS, Armstrong is getting ready to adopt her three youngest kids: 11-year-old Cayden, 9-year-old Micah, and 8-year-old Amara.
"I just feel blessed that my kids will be with her," Hankins said.
During a difficult time, the two say that decision was simple.
"They've always been like family, my kids call her 'Aunt Sara' and I've always been like an aunt to her kids so yeah, loving them and being around them is just kind of what I do, so that parts easy," Armstrong said.
Hankins says she feels good knowing her children will be together, in a good home.
"I told my kids that I would leave them with someone [who] would love them and I' m doing that," Hankins said.
In a letter Amara wrote about her mom, she says she knows she'll be taken care of.
"I can trust missy to adopt us, I think I will miss Mom, but I know that she is still going to be by us and I know that it can be difficult for her but I will always think of her," Amara said.
While they are unsure exactly how much time they have left together, for now, they're holding on tight.
"I'm not letting them go yet," Hankins said.
Armstrong says she knows she will always hold on to a big piece of her best friend.
"I got her babies, so she'll always be right there, I know that," Armstrong said.
The best friends say they're thankful for the out pour of support they've gotten from all over. GoFundMe donations have made it possible for Armstrong to make a down payment on a larger home in Moline. She closed on that home Friday, and says this will make it easier to raise Hankins' children and her son.
Hankins says a lot of her and her kids belongings have been in storage since 2010 when she got sick, and has since been damaged. She says extra money raised on the GoFundMe Page and under the account set up at Southeast National Bank in Moline in Armstrong's name, will go towards replacing those belongings and furnishing Armstrong's house for the kids.