It was the summer before fifth grade and I was buying fireworks for the 4th of July when my mom got the terrifying call from her doctor. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but I remember sitting with my mom and grandparents with tears streaming down our faces. I was absolutely terrified. I heard my mom and grandparents talking and I knew it was very bad. My parents divorced when I was a baby. My mom and I have a special bond and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I was trying to be brave for my mom, but I was only ten years old and I was really scared.
Then my mom wiped our tears, her face set with determination, and took me to our neighborhood fireworks display. I now know that my mom’s cancer was very aggressive (triple negative) and particularly deadly. My great-grandmother and two of my mom’s aunts died of breast cancer in their 30’s. My mom is the first in our family to survive the BRCA 1 gene that she inherited. The most important thing is that when she wiped our tears and took me to that fireworks display, she set the tone for our cancer journey.
There were countless surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and hospital sleepovers over the next two years. As I watched my mom endure so much pain and illness, I learned quickly that I could no longer smile through the pain and hide my emotions. We found Young Survival Coalition and they became our lifeline. YSC helped me get through my mom’s cancer. I was able to find other co-survivors just like me and talk to them about what I was going through.
Soon Mom and I started volunteering for YSC and found that helping others gave us back the power that cancer tried to take from us. We continue to volunteer today and I understand the value of family, friends, and community in the face of crisis. I grew up watching my mother exert influence and love by sharing her story. I continue to watch her reach out to our family, friends, community members, and even strangers in person and on social media to teach them how to be proactive with their health.
I learned not just how to be present and overcome, but so much more than that. I learned how to face a crisis and turn it into an opportunity to reach out to others and be an example of hope. I learned how to make a difference. Seeing that type of courage and will power in the face of overwhelming fear and uncertainty every waking hour of my life was very powerful for me. I learned from age ten how to face anything with confidence and bravery, which forever shaped me into a person that knows how to not just go after my dreams, but to prevail regardless of the odds.
It is hard to believe it has been almost eight years since our world changed. In just a few weeks, I will graduate from high school. Wherever my dreams may take me academically and professionally, I know that they will include service to those in need. My mom is my hero and best friend and I am so grateful to have her in my life. Thank you, Mom, for being such an amazing role model!
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