The next is my mom, and this time, the experience was very personal. As my mom was diagnosed and treated, I was living at home with her and witnessed just about every emotion and every high and low. I think there was a part of me that knew that she'd get through it, although I could tell in our conversations that she wasn't always so sure. I watched as she recovered from a lumpectomy, went through four bouts of chemo, lost all of her hair, and endured several radiation treatments. Although she never really complained, I could tell on many days that she just didn't feel well, but got up and went about her business anyway. She even trained for a half marathon, going out and walking several miles each week, through it all. By the time the race came along, she was a survivor, even ditching her wig and just wearing a ball cap over the fuzz that was finally growing back. The one promise I had to make to her was that I would make sure she had hair at my wedding, which still makes me laugh. Perhaps it was shorter than she wanted it but I kept my promise, and honestly, it's still one of the best haircuts she's ever had in my opinion. Mom makes the title cancer survivor look good... and I know she does not give herself enough credit.
The third one is my Aunt Barbara... Aunt B as I always called her. I know that I used the word amazing with both ladies above, but this one takes the cake. Sadly, her battle ended last spring, although it wasn't breast cancer that took her but rather a form of brain cancer that developed due to the breast cancer. She put up a good fight and I still find it unbelievable that she's gone. I wrote a tribute to her last April, which you can find here. We all miss her terribly, but like the others, I attach word survivor to her name because it wasn't actually breast cancer that took her. Aunt B has left such a legacy to my family and everyone who knew her to live life to its fullest and fight with all that you have. Every time I think of her I can still hear her saying "Hey, Kimmy" to me in that very distinct voice that she had. I hope that never goes away.
The same half marathon that I mentioned above was one that my mom and my Aunt Barbara did together. I stayed with them for about the first seven or eight miles and then ran ahead so that I could watch them finish. I had tears in my eyes as they crossed hand in hand. Aunt B was probably the only person in the race wearing hiking pants and boots (which is what she trained in) but I could not imagine her doing it any other way. After the race, my mom told her that she inspired her to get out and train because she knew that my Aunt B was training in the cold, wet winter weather in New York. My Aunt B then told my mom that she inspired her because she knew that mom was training despite going through radiation treatments. What we did not know during that race was that although mom's battle had just been completed, Aunt Barb's would just be starting. It make that day so much more special now.
My sisters and I know that it is very likely that one of us will face the ugly C-word one day. In my book, it's a 4-letter word and I hate it. But it's like I told my sister one night on a run... it doesn't scare me. I feel like it won't scare me if I ever get that news. In fact, I feel like I have no doubt in my mind that I will beat it. Perhaps this sounds crazy or naive, and putting it down in black and white seems like a pretty bold thing to do, but I know it can be done and I know that I could face it. My sister completely agreed and said that she's not afraid of it either... not in the least. I think the world is moving to a place where the word cancer does not have to be a scary thing. These days it doesn't mean the end. The journey may not be fun, but nowadays it is not hopeless. But I do have high hopes that it will be more than that. One day there will be a cure, and I am going to hold onto that hope with all that I have. Cancer will one day be a thing of the past and the list of survivors will grow longer and longer. And in the meantime, we don't have to live in fear about it, because as these incredible women prove that it can be beaten!
To Mom and Nana~ thank you for being such strong, inspiring women. I am so proud to be a part of your family. I love you both so much!