This blog post is a little different from my previous ones. I struggled thinking about what I wanted to write this week, but once I decided where this was going, I felt like it needed to be the letter I didn't get to write my mom.
The following words are very personal, emotional, and come directly from my heart to my mother's. I wanted her to know all of my thoughts from the beginning of her diagnosis, until the end. I didn't even know how much I needed to write this letter to her, until it was finished. Letting her know that she didn't do anything wrong. She was an amazing woman that I'm proud to call my mom, and that I'm making the best of everything we went through.
This will be the sixth Mother’s Day without you. Without being able to hug you, hear your voice, make you laugh, or see your smile. It’s hard, but I am strong. You raised me well, and passed your strength on to me. I know you never felt strong, but you are, and always will be, one of the most amazing and bravest people I know. Thank you for all that you have done for me, all that you taught me, and all that you passed down to me.
I am the person I am today because of you. Even watching you get sick and fight Breast Cancer when I was 11, until you passed away when I was 23. It taught me so much.
Things happen for us, not to us, and we have the power to decide what that reason will be.
I learned that despite getting a cancer diagnosis, FOUR TIMES, a person can still be goofy, silly, and positive. Getting chemo, after chemo, sick in the restroom all weekend, and battling all the mental thoughts, a person can still go to work and manage a family. Things may look different, but keeping a life is possible.
I know you never felt strong. I’m sure you felt weak, physically, emotionally, and mentally. You probably didn’t feel like a hero in any way, but you were.
Strength isn’t about being strong and positive all the time. Strength is being able to get up and be positive again even after the struggle.
I will never forget the moment I found out you had Breast Cancer. Dad picked me up from my friend’s house. He had a towel around his shoulders, and occasionally wiped his eyes with it. On the ride home, he told me about your diagnosis. I guess I was too young, because I don’t even remember my first thoughts as he told me. I must not have understood what it truly meant. However, I remember once we got back home and I went straight to you, you were in your bedroom with a ton of brochures ready to understand what was coming your way.
I don’t remember seeing you be sad, or nervous about the diagnosis. You never even questioned “Why me” or “Why not someone else” and that in itself, shows a lot about who you were as a person. The mindset that this is happening, so let’s do what we need to do.
And you did it. You beat cancer.
Five years later, it came back. Same mindset. Same determination. You beat cancer a second time.
Another five years passed, and it came back a third time. This time it took full use of your right arm. You couldn’t move your arm from your shoulder down to your fingertips. Your dominant arm. The hand you use to create art with. Cancer took that from you. It started to defeat your positive self, but dad fought for you. He was your rock when you needed it. He encouraged you to paint with your left hand. He told you to keep working so you could feel useful and keep your mindset where it needed to be. You did it again. Cancer may have taken your arm this time, and almost your quirky self, but you didn’t let it happen. You were awesome and beat cancer a third time.
A couple years later, it came back a fourth time. You fought. You were positive and silly. You went through it all. You had tough days, sad days, good days, and bad days. You still smiled and made people laugh. You fought so hard, but while your mind was strong, your body became weaker.
You were so weak. The cancer had spread through your entire body. There was nothing left to do. It was hard to hear, but you accepted it gracefully and you were ready to go.
We spent your last five weeks in the hospital before you passed with good days, bad days, and some really horrible days, but you still managed to smile and make us laugh. Your faith always remained strong. I don’t know how someone that had been through so much in 13 years, could still have such an amazing smile till the very end.
I will never forget your last day. Sitting on the bed with you. Each breath slower and slower. Dad was in the hallway talking to my aunt and uncle. It was just us in the room. Holding your favorite rosary on your chest, which you used to pray with every single day. I recited the Our Father and Hail Mary. I’m not sure why, I just had the urge to pray with you at that moment. Then minutes later, the machines stopped beeping. Your breath stopped. Time stopped. You were gone.
I am so grateful that I was with you in those last few breaths. I am glad that I followed my gut instinct to pray with you at that very moment. I truly believe that was what you needed to move on.
Don’t worry, dad and I are fine because we still have each other.
You. Were. Amazing.
I love you.
For thirteen years, people always told me that they didn’t know how I did it. They could never imagine watching their mom battle cancer and fight for her life. The funny thing is, I didn’t either. You and dad didn't know either. But things happen for us, not to us, and we get to decide how to react. You can either let it eat you up and do nothing, or get up and do what you got to do.
You showed me how to be brave, fight, and to stay positive and silly. Dad taught me how to take it all in. As much as it sucks that I grew up with this in my life, it made me who I am today.
You and dad raised me to be strong, to keep going the best way I can, that laughter helps more than you can imagine, and that a strong support system is very important.
Watching you get sick, led me to my other passion: nutrition and wellness. Becoming passionate about what we put into our bodies truly affects our health and wellbeing. From diet, to movement, to mindset, and our environment.
Those thirteen years taught me the importance of all those things.