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What was the best advice your Mother passed along to you? How will you honor her legacy?

In memory of Mae Etta by Shaila

“Be strong what ever comes your way and you will get through it,” was often said to me by my mother. “Life is short and demanding” it was not until my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer that I understood the full impact of those words. Getting ready to enter high school while simultaneously facing emotional disarray, is not what I had hoped for while being a freshman. This was supposed to be a stepping stone in my life on the way to adulthood. The beginning of my life’s story, but like any good parent my mother tried to shield my family and I from the truth by not telling us and acting as if life was still the same. Unaware that I knew of her illness, she did not tell me the truth about it for some time. I guess she was trying to keep my family and I from worrying about her, but little did she know by not telling me made me worry even more. I tried my best to keep her happy. While studying, trying to make sure she was comfortable as well as assisting with daily chores, and helping with my younger brother with his homework; I had to do all of this while following my mother’s words” Get the best education possible.”

My mother passed July 13, 2004 a month and two weeks after I graduated and just two weeks before I moved on to campus. She was my best friend we did everything together from shopping to talking about our most kept secrets. To lose her was the worst thing I had ever experienced in my life. To be honest I can’t even begin to describe the shock of losing my mother. I don’t thing that the full impact has really sunk in yet. I can tell you that I’m shocked every day I wake up without being able to talk to her, hug her, or share my new life experience with her.   My first year in college was extremely hard; I wasn’t prepared for it financially or emotionally, because I had spent most of my time taking care of her. That year I was diagnosed with depressions. I was getting sick and didn’t know why. Daily I was just going through the motions. I just could not believe that she was gone. I know she was a strong woman, which is one of the traits that I’m proud to say I inherited from her. I know if she were still her today she would still be pushing me to do the best at everything. I do know that I will make it without my mother that’s because she is always with me in spirit.

I was left to take care of my brother and myself with no guidance only with help from God. I am proud to way that we both got through our first year.

In memory of Ann by Emily

Breast Cancer. Those two simple words changed my whole world around. With cancer I have seen it all.   Pill, monitors, tubes, you name it I have seen it   I spent endless pain hours sitting outside my mother’s room helplessly listening to her cry. The sound of her pain resounds in my mind and makes me feel sick to my stomach. Although, it was an agonizing experience, I benefited from it in a number of ways. The impact of breast cancer on my life helped me grow as a person. Her illness made me realize what is truly important in my life. I began to realize that life isn’t measured by the amount of money you have or by the size of the house you have, but rather it is measured by how many lives you touched.

The whirlwind with cancer in my family begin in 2001. My mother had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast cancer. Those worlds to this day are still hard for me to hear, say and even type because it triggers so many emotions. I was at a ripe age of 15 when breast cancer invaded our lives. Putting down on paper the pain my mom endured throughout her illness and the empathy my family members had for her would be a huge understatement. I remember my mom’s positive attitude throughout her illness and how she managed never to complain despite her pain. She went through chemo, radiation and then the mastectomy. Through prayer and support my mom was a cancer survivor or so we thought at the time.

Three years had passed and everything seemed to be perfect or so I thought. The summer of 2004 my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer. The day she found out about her cancer was my high school graduation day. I remember when she told me that day I was in complete denial. I thought instantly that she would be able to beat it like she did breast cancer; however, that wasn’t the story this time. Time had past and it was now time for me to leave for college in Virginia (James Madison University). We had talked about me taking my first semester so that I could be with her in her final months, but she refused and said that my education was too important. So I headed off to college from Pennsylvania to Virginia with my brother. Moving into my dorms was one of the hardest days for me. I remember glancing around and seeing all the students moving in with their parents and it just broke my heart. I watched as my friends did stuff with their moms, and I felt pity for myself and couldn’t help but wonder, “Why me?” While at school I tried to make it home every weekend to see her. Each week she would get worse and yet still she always had a smile on her face for me. The weekend of Halloween was the last weekend of her pain and suffering the cancer had caused her. I was able to say goodbyes to her, but how do you say goodbye to someone who has been your best friend for 19 years? I held her cold and motionless hand as the good Lord called her up. Cancer could not longer consume her, and she found a better place.

Life after my mother was a whole new world. Losing my mom at such a young age made me go from 18 to 30 years old with all the responsibilities and decisions I had to take on. I felt overwhelmed. Bills, tuition, cleaning, and cooking soon became completely my responsibility. I was shocked. I felt a huge hole in my heart without my mom around. My dad and I never talk so I felt as if I was an orphan. Going home to Pennsylvania no longer felt like a “family.” At home I no longer was known as the homecoming queen in high school, but rather the girl whose mom passed away. My normal life was turned upside down without my mom their to guide me. However, I now see things completely different. I feel as if my mom is here for me now more than ever. She is everywhere to me. My mom’s death isn’t just something awful, it is a part of who I am.

Taking the experience, I completely changed the direction of my career. I quickly changed my major to Health Sciences. My mom’s illness made me what to help other people in need of medical attention. My main goal in life is to help other people in their times of need. That is why I am now striving to become a Physician’s Assistant. Education is incredibly important to me and always will be. My mom always told me, “Within you is strength to carry your dreams to completion.” I plan on doing that, and I won’t settle for anything less.

In memory of Debra L. by Laura

During the 7 years my mother had cancer the more dominant house responsibilities and duties became. I had to learn from age 6 to 13 how to care for our home and help with things my mother did not have the strength to do. Even though this even will always have an impact on my life, there are a few things that have helped me to endure:

  1. My older sister. On dark and gray days, my sister has been my best friend and confidant. With her I discuss my greatest fears, challenges and worries that come with not having a mother. Because of this loss, I believe our relationship has substance that cannot be described but for which I am extremely grateful.
  2. The women in my neighborhood. As I began my teenage years, there were talents and opportunities I wanted to pursue but did not know how to do it on my own. By having close relationships with many extraordinary women in my neighborhood and religious congregation, I acquired abilities such as cooking, sewing, craft-making, and educational knowledge. Each one of them has filled my life with enjoyment and opportunities to learn and grow.
  3. Because of my religious beliefs, I know I will be able to see my mother again. I am so grateful for the knowledge and testimony I have of this. Even though there have been times when life seemed too hard, I find strength realizing Christ knows who I am. He knows my potential and the person I can become.   I know this trial will make me a better person and teach me things I could not have learned otherwise.

Through this experience I have learned you never know when someone you love will be taken from you. I have a greater appreciation for life and have learned to look for the positive in everything. As I go through school, and when my efforts have not seemed like enough, I think back when I was encouraged by my mother saying “Laura, you can do it.” This phrase often gives me strength to continue doing my best. From this I do not feel that my goals have changed. I am more determined to finish my education and do my best because education was important to my mother and will always have her silent words of encouragement.

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