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Photos by Briana Lindsey Photography
You know when you’re young and all you want is to be an adult? It seems that adults get everything they want. Life is great for adults. And then you get pushed into adulthood and realize that the grass is greener on the other side. Being an adult is hard. There is no one to cover your eyes from the sadness in the world and when you grow up, it’s up to you to live fiercely with all of your heart or to let life get the best of you.
I would not be the woman I am today without my mom. My mom was the most amazing person you’ve ever met and everyone I know would say the same. I get chills just thinking back to her funeral service. While most of it was a complete blackout, the one thing I do remember is walking into that huge Catholic church with my sisters and my dad and seeing every single spot filled. And this church was huge. My sister’s cheerleading team skipped practice that day to attend the service, friends from high school that I didn’t even talk to anymore came home from college to be there and there were faces from every single walk of our lives.
I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I always imagined funerals as small, family events, but no. My mom was special and everyone knew it. My mom was so loved and she loved everyone in life so fiercely. And by the attendance at her funeral, that sure was proof of that.
I want to be just like my mom. In my eyes, she was perfect. And while I’d do anything to have her back here on Earth with me so she could meet her first granddaughter, Ava Sue, so I could get her advice on struggles I’m having in my marriage, or so I could just hug her, I want to just have her back for one more second for the biggest hug ever. If I could just hug my mom one last time here on Earth—wow. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
My mom passed away when I was 19 years old after a 7-year battle with colon cancer. Up until that point, I spent almost half of my life knowing cancer. You know, I never really thought about that until now, but now that I think about that, it’s pretty crazy to think of a child going through all of that. At the time, it didn’t seem fair. Why me? Why us? God must not like us for this to happen to US, such a loving, Christian family.
And as much as I would love to have her back here on Earth with me, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t experienced this. No one would.
But we have a choice to make:
We can live and learn and pray and move forward or we can dwell and sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. You know, there’s nothing wrong with feeling sorry for ourselves and crying as we all mourn in our own unique ways. Me? I didn’t cry for 2 years after my mom passed away. Two years. And I remember the first time crying after those long 2 years and it was such a relief. I went along living my life numb to the fact that I had lost my mom, and looking back, I never gave myself a chance to mourn. I went back to college the following day after my mom passed and took my finals, along with everyone else in my class. I went to my sorority formal the following weekend and I just went on living my life.
Cancer changed my life. Cancer took my mom and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But I didn’t let it destroy my life—cancer made me stronger. Cancer made me more open, more honest, more accepting of those around me because guess what, no matter what you see on the outside, you never know what someone else is going through. I put on a smile and I had the perfect front and you’d never have known that I had experienced such a gut-wrenching hardship in my life.
Cancer taught me to love fiercely and to live fiercely and it reminds me every single day to hug my precious Ava Sue just a couple seconds longer, to show her a little extra patience when she’s frustrating me beyond belief, or to let her stay up past her bedtime a couple extra minutes. Cancer has taught me that every single minute of life is precious. Every minute and every moment is a gift.
Life is a gift, not a privilege.
Life is harsh, bad things happen, sad things happen and terrible things happen, but it’s how we view our lives and our circumstances that shape our futures and our happiness. It is up to YOU and only you to decide your happiness in life and you get to make that decision each and every day.
I lost my mom to cancer, but cancer didn’t break me. It only made me stronger.
Whether you’re living with cancer, have a family member who is currently going through treatment or have a friend who has passed, learning how to cope with everyday life and the circumstances you’re facing is important. And I promise, you can’t do it alone. No one can. We are human beings who need love and support and comfort. Beyond your own family and close friends, there is so much support out there that I never knew about.
This is Living with Cancer™ is an initiative created by Pfizer that shows the real stories of people living with cancer. As part of This is Living with Cancer, Pfizer has launched LivingWith™, a free mobile app designed to help patients and caregivers manage life with cancer and organize important information in one place. From building a circle of support among your loved ones, to sending important updates to all of your family and friends at once, to tracking moods and pain and those important details your doctors need you to log, the LivingWith mobile app is a resource for both patients and the circle of support around you.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.