Why October Should Mean More Than Pumpkins

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I have grown up blessed and fortunate enough to be in a family of luck. We’re of good health, close in proximity, always helping one another, and celebrating birthdays, marriage, and babies more often than not. Often times my prayers are prayers of thanks, gratitude, and for others. I can remember watching other people, other families, going through a crisis and trying to wrap my head around just how hard it must have been for them—but I can honestly say that calamity is something we only seem to understand when it happens to us.

October for me has usually been about Halloween, pumpkin coffee, visits to corn mazes, getting ahead on school work, and leggings (obviously). All of your basic girl inclinations that I will proudly confess to. I have, of course, always been aware that October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness month; and yet honestly, my acknowledgement of that is pretty much as far as I got. This year, things have changed.

Last November, my 37 year old cousin, Erin, felt a lump in her right breast. Her initial thought? “There’s no way this can be cancer. Older women get cancer.” She put off going to the doctor until January, and in less than two weeks they had diagnosed her with Stage 1B Breast Cancer.

On March 4th, Erin underwent a Bilateral Mastectomy where they also removed 6 of her lymph nodes. As a mother of 2 beautiful little girls, she didn’t want to take any chances. Erin is also one of the toughest people I know; so though the move be bold, we knew that if anyone would knock cancer on its ass—it’d be Erin. Now, almost 7 months later, E is going STRONG. In fact, she and I will be walking together in the Women’s 5K Classic in just two weeks!

This past summer, in the midst of Erin’s battle and recovery, my Mom found a lump of her own. My Mom. My never-miss-a-mammogram, strong, healthy, admired, of perfect health, fierce, Mom. My Mom. Although she found it in June, her mammogram hadn’t picked anything up, and so it was marked as low suspicion. In fact, her biopsy wasn’t even scheduled until August. A week after her biopsy, however, we received the call that it was Stage 2A Breast Cancer. This is the part where I started to better understand calamity.

On September 4th, exactly 6 months after Erin, my Mom also had a bilateral mastectomy. Sometimes we joke; our family is down four boobs this year.

Almost 1 month later; my Mom is also going strong. Although their initial diagnosis and treatment from here on out will differ, Erin and my Mom have been through one hell of a battle together; along with the other 232,670 women who were estimated to be diagnosed in 2014.

Never did I think that two women who have basically helped me in becoming the person I am today would be faced with such life-changing obstacles. You can try to wrap your head around calamity all you want; but it’s not until you’re sitting in the waiting room resting your head on your dad’s shoulder that calamity becomes real. It’s when your prayers shift from gratitude to helplessness. It’s when you’re forced to accept that a person you love more than anything else in the world is in someone else’s hands.

October has changed for me. Life, has actually changed for me.

This blog isn’t meant to scare you—there’s a very distinct line between awareness and paranoia. I am humbly honored to be joining the overwhelming amount of women who choose to take their stories and in turn create awareness. I thank God every day that Erin and my Mom received an early stage diagnosis that made hope all the more realistic. Encourage the women in your life to check themselves, to get that mammogram, to ask the questions.

Despite the calamity, 2014 also taught me a thing or two about gratitude. It is way too easy to take people for granted, to see the bad in the world, to lose faith in humanity. Those things, unfortunately, are effortless. But put a little effort into looking around you; notice the people in your life who love you. Appreciate all that you can, even those little things they’re always talking about.

That’s what October means to me. Looking past the calamity, and seeing the blessings.

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