All my life I have strived to live by the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you want have them do unto you.” I’ve also loved unconditionally. Being kind and helpful is what I do and what has helped me to build great relationships with family, friends and my students through the years. I’m the “fixer” when something is wrong. I’m the “helper” when you need a friend. I’m the smile that may be the only one you get each day.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2019, at age 41, my whole world felt as if it were sinking. As my husband and I sat on the couch, listening to the barrage of information coming at us, all I could think was, “Who can help me right now? This cannot be happening.” I was diagnosed with Stage 1B IDC in my right breast, from 3 different tumors. I hate to ask for help, but hearing that I would need 16 rounds of strong chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation and surgery, I knew I had to let go of trying to fix this situation and reach out to the ones who I had helped previously.
As soon as I began to tell others of my diagnosis, the love, support and kindness I needed began to flow. My family supported my children (ages 6 and 9), so that my husband and I had time to process everything fully and make a plan. My “tribe” of girlfriends were by my side, filling my phone with texts, calls and showing up at my door with hugs and gifts that would cheer me through the rough chemotherapy sessions. My tribe also stood with me as I cut my hair super short prior to it falling out. They told me I was beautiful. They loved me and encouraged me each day with jokes and talking about “everyday life.” From the beginning, I said I didn’t want to be a “sick mom” and I wanted life to go as normal as possible for my family. My family and friends ensured that happened.
There has been a constant flow of cards, texts and unexpected gifts, which perked our spirits throughout all my treatments. Survivors have sent me letters of hope and faith, some that I have never actually met in person. My community has supported me through the school I work for, as well as my students and their families who continually send messages of encouragement.
One of my closest friends told me one time that I have a way of making everyone feel like they’re my best friend. It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I hope that everyone who meets me DOES feel that way. I want nothing more than a world full of kindness, love and continuous support of one another. Because I have spread so much love through the years, cancer, in all its ugliness, showed me that kindness can shine brighter. Kindness and compassion can be the rainbow through the storm.
After surgery in January 2020, I learned that my cancer was a bit more complicated than we thought! Turns out I have HER2 positive and negative tumors. Fancy, right? I am still in treatments every three weeks, but the support team hasn’t stopped. Not for one minute. When I need help with the kids, or cleaning the house, or simply someone to talk to, I know I have many people to call.
Having a support team behind you helps so much on the “bad” days and allows me to be strong and honest in what this fight looks like. On bad days, I always remember this quote: “It’s ok to fall apart sometimes. Tacos fall apart and we still love them!” During this journey, I have often felt like the cracked taco, trying to hold my shell together. What has helped me most is reaching out to those who offered to help – letting them be the awesome “fillings” to my broken shell. Cancer has made me humble, has made me appreciate more, and it is comforting to know I have such a large group of people who love and support and fight with me! I am thankful for every person who has helped us along the way and been just the “toppings” we’ve needed. All my kindness throughout the years has come full circle.