When I was six years old, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3B Inflammatory Breast Cancer. For those of you who don’t know, this type of cancer, unfortunately, is only caught once the physical nature of the breast has already begun to change. Her first symptoms were swelling and warmth to the touch. She immediately sought medical attention for the changes she had noticed, but by that time the cancer had already reached stage 3 B, and spread into her lymph nodes. After twenty-three short months, at 37 years old, my mom lost her battle in June of 2005.
When I think back on that time in my life, as crazy as it seems, I see love. A love more pure, full, and whole than anything I have ever experienced in my life. There was not one day that went by that we were not laughing with her, singing in the car, and having dance parties in the living room. Every night, Daddy would come home from work, and “Dancing Queen” would be playing in the house, just dancing until bed time.
When she began chemo, and her hair began to fall out in large pieces, she called my sister and I into the bathroom and told us she had something to show us-- She called it “The party trick”, and that night Stephanie and I stood on either side of her, laughing and pulling her hair out in big chunks. Thinking it was the funniest thing in the world, at 8 and 6 years old, we would show anyone our “party trick” with Mommy when they would come over.
During every doctor visit she would make funny faces while getting her blood drawn to keep us entertained, and never once did she show any sign of her sickness. I will never be able to fully comprehend the level of strength it must have taken to not let my sister and I see the pain and sleepless nights, and having to ultimately face the reality that she was reaching the end of her life.
So, where am I going with this story? The other week at chapter we were visited by a woman who is fighting stage four breast cancer. She is 38 years old, 20 months into her fight, and was told that she may not make it to 40. All I could think about during her speech, was my mom, who stood in that position 12 years ago. How could she have shown that immeasurable strength in her final months? How was she able to gather her emotions and write me and my sister birthday cards, graduation gifts, and a special letter for our wedding nights knowing she wouldn’t be there? How could anyone come to the realization that they are losing their life and family and still be SO willing to make the last months of their life so memorable?
Well, I think I have the answer. She accepted the facts, and faced the future. She didn’t waste time being sad, or complaining. She didn’t play the victim. She soaked up every last minute she could with her husband and her two babies to the best of her ability. She told herself she wanted to have the BREAST life ever!!
My mom has shown me that a “bad day” really isn’t that bad, a break-up really isn’t the end of the world, or a failing test grade is not worth the tears. In college, I think we are tested with this everyday as we get overwhelmed with stress and caught up in seeking a “perfect” world, or a “perfect” Instagram post. My advice to you, is to live your life the way YOU want to. Don’t waste time worried about what other people think about you. Blast that music in the car, call your family just to tell them “Hi”, and to remember that every day can be the BREAST day ever, if you’re willing to let it.
My mom is looking down on me today, wanting me to push myself to limits I didn’t think I could reach, do the crazy things in life I said I would never do, and not let life’s daily struggles get me down. Life is too short to not take advantage of every opportunity and open door that God places in your life, even when you’re scared to trust him.
That being said, to all my college girls out there, there is power in positivity. I am a firm believer that an optimistic attitude is life changing, and it opens your mind to seeing people and chances in a way you never have before. To ZTA, being a part of this philanthropy has forever changed my life and has impacted me in ways I never thought it would. The importance that this chapter places on Breast Cancer Awareness and Education continues to amaze me.
Girls, it is so important to check yourself monthly, be cautious, and not have the mentality that cancer “won’t happen to me”. Attached is a link on how to properly examine yourself, because I think its importance isn’t talked about enough.
I hope this story gives you a little boost of confidence and shows you that no matter what current trial you’re facing, however big or small, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that “bad day” really isn’t so bad. Gods plan is so much bigger than our own, so stop wasting time worrying… (A lot easier said than done, I know ;) ) So get out there, be the Dancing Queen and have the BREAST day ever, I love you all!!
Thank you so much,
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.