Never Fight Alone
When I first started dating, my mom pulled me aside and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. She told me not to let my friendships with my girlfriends fall by the wayside for the sake of a boyfriend. Because no matter how cute, funny, or smart he was, there were things about me that no boy (or man) would understand like my girlfriends would. She was absolutely right. I will complain about something to my husband and be met with a blank stare. I will then complain to my BFF and get the righteous indignation the situation warranted. He loves me, but he doesn’t always get me.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in February 2005. She found a lump in her left breast during a self exam. A biopsy confirmed what her doctor suspected – it was a malignant tumor. She underwent a single mastectomy followed by chemotherapy, and was declared cancer-free in early 2006. I can’t say this wasn’t a scary time. Her diagnosis and surgery came just as I was preparing to move to Columbia, South Carolina from metro Atlanta. I’m from Georgia and while I knew the move was the right decision, it was terrible timing. However. I had a sense of peace and comfort, that I can only credit to God, that she was going to be alright. I don’t know if I would have been able to leave without having that sense of peace.
A lot of things happened after my mom was given a clean bill of health. All three of her daughters got married. Three grandsons were born. Her father, my grandfather, passed away. Life went on as normal, until 2015.
It started as a soreness in her shoulder, like she’d slept wrong the night before. When physical therapy couldn’t alleviate the pain, her family doctor ordered an MRI. The MRI showed a cluster of small tumors in her shoulder. Once again, the biopsy results came back malignant, a recurrence of breast cancer. The placement of the tumors didn’t allow for surgery, so her oncologist recommended a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Things went well for a while. Several of the tumors disappeared completely and others shrank significantly. Her doctor was very optimistic. Then, in mid-August 2015, she had a seizure. She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized via lesions on her brain. There was no peace and comfort this time. From the initial diagnosis to the discovery of the lesions, there was only fear.
The last time I saw my mom was Christmas 2015. As we always do, my husband (who is also from Georgia) and I split the holidays between our families. We came back to Charlotte shortly before New Year’s and went back to work. My mom had contracted a flu-like virus shortly after we’d left my hometown. On January 4, my dad convinced her to allow their neighbor, Dr. Bob, to come take a look at her. Dr. Bob diagnosed her with dehydration and recommended she go to the hospital. My dad called for an ambulance, and off they went to the hospital. The emergency room doctors confirmed the dehydration diagnosis and admitted her for observation. Everything was supposed to be routine, a precaution. Just a night in the hospital to make sure everything was okay. I worked all day, then attended a Junior League meeting. Not long after I got home, my oldest sister called. Mama was in distress. We need to come home immediately, even though home was five hours away.
I started packing, just throwing things in a suitcase. My husband went to get my laptop from the office. While he was gone, my sister called again. There wasn’t a need to rush to Georgia that night anymore. Mama was gone.
You may be wondering how this all ties into my mom’s advice and FiA. I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina shortly after getting married in June 2013. Making friends as an adult isn’t easy, but I knew I’d need to make some local friends. I absolutely meant to do that, but life happens in unexpected ways and I never put in a lot of effort to make close friends here. After my mom died, I knew I need to make some changes. I’d known about FiA for a while. A friend of mine who lives in Irmo told me about it. It took me until the summer to go to FiA LKN for the first time. It was a Monday and it was a small group: Sweet (Master Q), Atomic, and Hoops. After the workout, they named me ESPN because while I love to watch sports, I do not play them. I’ve been waking up before dawn ever since.
Losing my mom reminded me that our time here on earth is finite, and FiA is allowing me to get the most of my time. Since starting FiA, I’ve participated in my first ever Palmetto 200 and Spartan Sprint. My husband supports me in doing all of these things, but he doesn’t get it. But my FiA friends? They get it.
This October, I’m running the Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon in Columbia, South Carolina. It will be my first half marathon. Previously, the longest I’ve run was my longest Palmetto leg (9 miles). I’m running it for my mom, who thought it was weird I ran any distance for fun, but I’m also running it for all the women I know who have fought breast cancer. It was with that thought that I contacted Wheels and FiA Gear about a FiA Pink Ribbon shirt. Wheels did her thing, and the shirt was a go. I contacted Billboard, who first told me about FiA and who also happens to be a graphic designer. She agreed to design the shirt. Within a week of the initial request, we had over 100 names. FiA Nation came through with the names of our moms, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, friends, etc. Names of women who raised us, influenced us, and inspired us.
No one fights cancer alone. There are the doctors, nurses, technicians and other medical staff who oversee the treatment. Friends who drive women to and from chemotherapy. Family members who help out when the side effects of treatment are too strong. The FiA pink ribbon shirt embodies this notion. The names included represent the women who have fought, the women whom we would and do fight for. This shirt makes me proud to be a member of FiA Nation and I plan to be wearing it on October 14 as I cross the finish line of my first half marathon.