When I was a kid I would always try to think up fun ways to make my mom feel special on Mother’s Day. Usually that would involve a poorly executed (burnt), but well-intentioned (pretty presentation), attempt at breakfast in bed. Now my entire perspective on Mother’s day has changed.
Now I find it ironic that most Mother’s Day celebrations are synonymous with brunch, breakfast in bed, and pampering mom. Since on the last Mother’s Day I had with my mother; no food was had since she could no longer eat solids, bed was a necessity not a choice, and taking care of her was a need not a luxury. I will never look at Mother’s Day the same. It’s not that I dwell on these thoughts and hate the holiday but the things I celebrate have changed.
Now I view Mother’s Day as a time to remember what an amazing woman my mother was. I think of her infectious laugh, love for adventure, sharp tongue, ability to never let you off easy, and amazing warmth. I think about the way she lived her life and the people she impacted. I use those thoughts as fuel to motivate me and keep me focused on my goals. I use Mother’s Day as a reminder to speak out and teach others that knowledge is power and being proactive is the best defense. I use Mother’s Day as a reminder to allow myself to be vulnerable and share my family’s story to hopefully bring awareness.
In March 2008 my mother went to her doctor complaining of back pain and left knowing she had two large tumors on her ovaries. Ovarian cancer ran in the family and my mother always told her doctors to watch for it, but they still couldn’t find it until she was already at stage four.
As I struggled to cope with the terrible news of her cancer and remain strong for her, I couldn’t help but also think “this could be my future”. As a 22 year old just graduating college this is an overwhelming amount of information. Shortly after figuring out my mom’s plan for treatment, my parents and I figured out my plans for early detection. The two of us, determined to ensure her story would not become mine, started on a journey together. She was waging a war against this dreadful disease and I was on a quest for information and support. What I found became that and so much more.
That’s when I found Bright Pink – and found an instant connection to the organization from my first interaction. Until then, all of the cancer organizations I knew supported women like my mother – women who had cancer. Bright Pink was different – it was there for women like me who were high risk. Bright Pink gave me a forum to discuss worries for my health and find support for what I was going through with my mother. Bright Pink knew that I needed emotional support, information and a plan of action.
The first program I connected with made a huge impact on my life, Bright Pink experiential outreach events. These events allowed me to connect with other young women who understood my situation. They, too, could relate to the pressure and anxiety that I carried with me each and every day as one of my mom’s main caretakers. They were going through the same thing. These groups gave me a forum to discuss what I was going through in an atmosphere that was warm, welcoming, upbeat and fun. Whether it was a yoga class, manicures or a cancer-fighting food workshop, I always left feeling inspired with new tools and resources to cope with my mom’s ever worsening situation and to give me the confidence that I was doing all I could to be proactive with my own health.
In addition to Bright Pink being emotionally supportive, it was also arming me with the life-saving information I needed to ensure my mother’s cancer battle would not one day become my own. That it’s really the unknown that makes being high-risk so scary. They helped guide me as I developed a prevention and early detection strategy that was right for me, including finding the right doctor and starting to make changes in my life now to affect my future. Through it all was the consistent positive message that gave me a whole new outlook on what it meant to be a young women at high-risk for cancer.
On June 29th, 2011 I left my parents home after spending the day with my Mom. She said she would “see me tomorrow” as her and my father sat down for dinner. Hours later my father texted me saying “Emergency, we are headed to the hospital.” I rushed over hoping for the best. However, the reality was I was only able to tell her I lover her even though she couldn’t respond, watch her smile, and be with my parents. That night she passed away.
Now I will not sit idly by and watch others receive a late cancer diagnosis that could be avoided with the proper tools. The best way to fight any type of cancer is early detection, which is why breast and ovarian cancer awareness is so important. I watched my mother deal with symptoms of ovarian cancer for months before being diagnosed. She wanted to tell her story so others wouldn’t find themselves in a similar situation. Now she’s my inspiration to get the word out about awareness.
Know the symptoms, talk to your doctors, and know your body.
Bright Pink gives me a voice. They inspire me every day to create a destiny for myself that will undoubtedly be different than my mom’s. Being high risk, a caretaker for someone with cancer, and losing a loved one can leave you feeling lost and without hope, but I promise you there is life beyond these labels. Because of Bright Pink I have the love, support, knowledge, tools and positive outlook to lead a healthy and proactive life.
So now that you have celebrated the mothers in your world take a moment to celebrate the mothers we have lost, the one’s fighting, and those left behind to tell their stories. It is this generation of young women and organizations like Bright Pink who will change the future of these diseases so we can be there when our daughters want to make us awful burnt scrambled eggs in bed.
Love everyone, seek knowledge, share stories, ask questions. It’s how we grow.