On a crisp New England fall day, my mom sat my sister and me down on my bed and started to cry. I was only in 6th grade, but I could tell that something terrible had happened, and our lives were about to change.
“Girls, I’m going to be okay, but I have breast cancer.”
I was so young I didn’t even really know what that meant, but I could tell by her crying that it was terrible.
For the next seven years, I saw my mom have surgery after surgery, lose all her hair, and go through radiation and multiple rounds of chemo.
Seven years later, in the first week of my junior year of high school, at the young age of 16, I saw her take her last breath.
At just 16 years old, I no longer had a mom.
Cancer has always been such a tough subject for me. If I’m watching a tv show or movie and one of the characters has cancer, there is a 100% chance that I’m crying.
For many years I didn’t want to have kids because I was afraid I would get cancer too and didn’t want to put them through what I went through and go through life without a mom.
Now that I’m 33 have gone through more life without my mom than I did with my mom, she often feels like a distant memory, and that breaks my heart.
Cancer is a terrible disease, and this past week, I discovered I have a cancer gene.
My OBGYN urged me to undergo genetic testing because of my family history. I’ve gone back and forth on it for years because I felt that if it was positive, I was just a ticking time bomb.
She understood that but also explained that with the genetic testing if it is positive, we can use that to get insurance to cover earlier screenings so that we can catch anything early.
So I did it. I was positive for a gene for colon cancer and 33.5% likely to get breast cancer. Anything over 20% is high risk.
Kick to the gut.
This is especially hard to hear now that I have a daughter. I don’t want her to grow up without a mom as I did. *cue the tears as I write this*
This is so scary, but I’m not going to let it control my life, and I will do four things to prevent it from controlling my life.
Not Letting My Fears Control Me
This leads me to the first thing I’ve done since getting this scary news.
I’m not keeping it all bottled up inside. I tend to let my brain make up stories that lead to the worst.
A story that often plays over and over in my head is that I’m going to get cancer, get extremely sick, make my husband a widow, and leave my children without a mother.
I hate that my brain does this, so I have to seek professional help.
It’s so crucial for me to talk through these fears, whether they are rational or not, with a licensed therapist.
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I Have Life Insurance
As morbid as it is to think about, it’s essential to have those hard conversations and prepare for the worst.
This is why I’m such a big believer in life insurance.
My mom ran a daycare out of our home and worked until the last five months of her life; she was the family’s breadwinner.
After she passed away, my dad couldn’t afford the bills; he had to take out a second mortgage on the house and went into significant credit card debt.
I won’t let this happen to my family if something happens to Jayme or me. This is why we have life insurance.
When tragedy hits, the LAST thing you want to think about is, “how am I going to pay my bills?”
Whether you have cancer, heart disease, or diabetes in your family or not, please get a life insurance policy. You would be surprised at how affordable they are.
Death is so scary but knowing I wouldn’t leave my loved ones in financial ruins gives me peace of mind.
Taking Care of My Body
The next thing that I am making a priority is to get back in shape and eat better.
I now know how likely I will get cancer eventually, and I can’t control my genes and family history.
But I can control how I take care of my body.
I am back in the gym at a local YMCA 5 days a week. I’ve found that working out causes me to make better choices with my food.
I’m not at the point of eating 100% organic and clean eating only, but I’m starting with making sure I AT LEAST get one serving of vegetables and one serving of fruit a day, and then we will get better and better from there.
Moving your body is so crucial for our health. If you don’t want to go to a gym, look up free workout classes on YouTube, or try OpenFit. They have amazing classes where you can work with world-class trainers in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the cost of typical in-person gyms.
Making Friendships A Priority
Immediately when I got the results of my genetic screening, I just wanted to curl up in bed and watch TikTok to escape.
That is the worst thing for me to do.
It’s so important to have community and build friendships. I am challenging myself to be more intentional at making new friends and maintaining my current friendships.
I’ve found, especially in my 30s, that maintaining friendships can be more challenging than making new ones. We get busy, forget to call, and months turn into years of not seeing each other.
I’m challenging myself, and I’m challenging YOU as well, be intentional with your friendships.
Choose at least one person to text and just check in on a week.
This was a heavy blog to write, but it’s an important one. Thank you for giving me the grace and freedom to share with you!
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