It was about 15 years ago when both my mother and mother-in-laws were diagnosed the same year with lung and breast cancer. Two years later, my mother passed away and twelve years after that my mother-in-law died as well. Both were 57 years old. Way too young. Experiencing too little in life. In combination, they missed several of their children’s weddings, the births of 15 grandchildren and countless memories.
Six years ago I was diagnosed at the age of 33 with early stage breast cancer. Our three boys at the time were 2, 4, and 6. A panicked flashback of what my mother had lost or missed out on made me start planning for what I was not going to miss out on in life. The first wave of panic came when I heard the doctor say the 5 year survival rate for someone like you is … all I remember thinking was 5 years! What the heck will five years bring us! Our youngest won’t even be out of first grade! To say I was outraged was an understatement. After watching our mothers take a very back seat approach to dealing with their disease I decided that a few changes had to be made in our family’s compliance with the disease! It was then that an advocate was born!
When my mother was dying she made lengthy lists of things she wanted to accomplish. Most of which were things like purchasing an antique creaming spoon or calling her lifelong friends to say goodbye. My goals were less immediate and more selfish I guess. When the panic subsided and reality set in, I decided among the zillion things I decided that me or my family were not going to miss out on I announced to my husband that I was going to Europe by the time I turned forty with or without them. Unlike my mom, I was going to get it off my list of hopefuls and check it off. So this year, with the luxurious help of an early diagnosis, we did a family cruise in Europe visiting Naples, Florence, Pisa, Nicce, Corfu, Dubrovnik, Rome and ahhh, yes Venice (or when in Italy…Venezia). It was here that I picked up the print of UGO BARACCO’s etching featuring Venice that is showcased in my chair.
So what’s next on my list? Until I figure that out, I will focus my energies on working together to eradicate this disease so that others can just sit back and dream of a time when they can visit Venezia. Hmmm what do you think a good cancer diagnosis can leverage? Heck why wait for a diagnosis, why not jump right in and experience life today? Now that is priceless!