“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.”
Whenever I think about my mom’s triumphant battle with Stage III colon cancer, I’m brought back to this quote. It’s been 11 years since her diagnosis, but the remnants of its presence in our life still linger. My mom, like the threads of a quilt, has always held us together. Along with that, she’s been the built-in best friend I never got in a sister or brother, since I grew up as an only child who had imaginary friends and often spoke to her stuffed animals. She’s never missed an awards ceremony, a dance recital, an embarrassing tennis match, a musical theatre show, an open house, or any of my grade school graduations. She’s the first person I share my good news with — my biggest cheerleader and forever confidant.
Like so many, my mom had a life filled with less worry, less fear, and less doubt for the future before cancer. In this year alone, an estimated 147,950 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal (colon) cancer. According to studies, when colorectal cancer is found early, it can often be cured. While this could serve as a glimmer of hope for many families, a few research studies will never provide enough comfort to escape the fear of losing someone you love.
I learned about my mom’s journey as a cancer patient a month before starting my studies at the University of Central Florida. I was in 4th grade when she had received treatment, and I vividly remember the long nights sleeping in her bed, waiting for her to come home but not knowing why. I understand now that the decision to keep her illness from me was to preserve the happiness I felt throughout my childhood. However, if only my mom knew how much I wish I had been able to hold her, hug her, and assure her that I would be strong for her for the rest of my life.
Here is what I couldn’t say then, but I can still say now:
Like one of our favorite songs says, you’ve always been the wind beneath my wings.
You’re the embodiment of strength and resilience; you’ve never let adversity determine your path or dim your spirit.
You are the sunset, and I am the waves, you watch over me each and every day.
If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that healing is not linear; there is no timestamp on trauma. So, be gentle with yourself and with your progress, my faith in you is stronger than you’ll ever know.
You have no idea how many lives you’ve changed with your guidance, wisdom, and love. You have left an imprint in the heart of so many students for years to come, think of them often.
Even though we’re apart, our daily phone calls feel like warm hugs. It’s a reminder that no matter the distance, we’ll always have each other.
Mom, no matter what obstacles come your way, I’ve learned from you that all we need is a little bit of gratitude and faith.
Life has shown me in the smallest of ways that wherever you go, and whatever you do, you’ll always have your guardian angels watching over you.
You’ve taught me to live fearlessly, unapologetically, and boldly. I promise to do so for as long as I can. I love you, Mom.
Cancer is a disease that affects millions worldwide, and there are over 100 types that can form within organs or tissues. I urge all of you to take the time to spread love to survivors and remembrance for those who have lost their loved ones or have been personally affected by it.
Below I have attached resources for the loved ones of cancer patients and survivors, since I understand how isolating and heavy the road to recovery can be — for everyone. Give yourself time, and remember this quote: “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”