I was twelve years old, sitting in the back seat of my family’s charcoal Suburban watching the blur of green trees and blue sky fly by as if life was set on fast forward. I thought of how odd it was that although the trees were standing still, they seemed to be racing in reverse to some unknown finish line. My mother interrupted my thoughts as she climbed into the back seat with my two brothers and me. She nervously looked at us and said, “There is something I need to tell you.” Her voice was shaky, oddly pitched. Everyone seemed to hold their breath, waiting to hear the news. She sliced the silence and continued, “Mommy has been diagnosed with breast cancer.” My mind began to race and I felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. I looked out of my window, the trees and sky still moved as they did before, but I now felt trapped in the stillness of the car, unable to move with the outside world.
I still remember this day like it was yesterday. It has been vividly seared into my memories forever, engraved in a special place that I’ll never be rid of. Many of you know my mother is a survivor of breast cancer, but the impact that it had on my family and me was covered up with smiles and the distraction of my then two-year-old brother, Bob.
I will never forget coming home to my mother weeping at the kitchen table alone, terrified for her life. I will never forget her beautiful hair falling out in clumps each day. I will never forget how the chemotherapy attacked her, weakened her, and painfully stripped her of her present life. I will never forget how the cancer took a hold of her and tried to drag her down.
But I will also never forget how strong my mother was. How resilient she became. How beautiful she looked: bald, strong, and unwilling to give in for even a moment. I will never forget how she held on to who she was. I will never forget how determined she was to escape the steadfast grip of cancer, to live another day, and to defeat what had tried to kill her.
My mother is a survivor of breast cancer. Forced to decide between self-pity and resilience she chose the latter. Not once did she feel sorry for herself, not once did she give up. My mother truly is my hero. She is a beautiful, empowering woman whose resilience inspires me each and everyday to never for a second give into self-defeating thoughts, to truly live life to it’s fullest, and to realize that tomorrow may not always be there.