Blog for a Cause Breast Cancer Awareness

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is fitting for the “Blog for a Cause” topic to be Breast Cancer.

This month I am shining a spotlight on a survivor who is also a crusader – someone who has helped the cause. She is my dearest friend Maura, who I have known since I was a little girl. Actually, she is much more than a friend, she is family and not just to me, but to my whole crew. I love her dearly and am so happy to share her story here as it is full of hope and inspiration.

~ Maura’s Story ~

Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” felt like a black cloud came down around me.

I can still remember how it felt and the distant feeling I had as the news sunk in.  Words can’t describe the sensation I felt.  All I remember is saying was “ok, so what do I do?”  The doctor looked back at me and my friend and was stunned at my response.  He continued to speak of what was next and that’s when the cloud came down.  In mid sentence I remember leaning toward him and saying “could I have a minute alone?” He and the nurse left the room.  Lizzy, my dear friend, looked at me and started to say some words of comfort and all I could do was ssshh her.  And then say “what”, “what” about 15 times.  “You have breast cancer” were truly the last words I ever expected to hear that day or any day.  The day was nothing but tears and sorrow.  Not only for me but for those that would hear the news.  My husband.  My parents.  My Aunt Mary…

When the news went out or people would see me without hair or in my wig, pity was often the look in their eyes.  A terrible thing to be looking back at me.  I hated that more than anything.

Well, six years later, here I sit.  Cancer free and medication free.  It has been quite a ride.  And my ride continues.

From day one I realized that I don’t have to believe everything I think.  I was proactive.  I let anyone see and feel my lump until it was removed.  I wasn’t going to hide myself from the world.  Others would walk in tracks like mine. I felt being open and positive were the best way to help myself through my journey.  Because for the first time in my life I really felt like I was on a journey.

It was hard and I had terrible days.  I knew I had to surround myself with people.  I knew I needed to rest but also keep busy.  I never felt like this was going to be the end. I never said “why me?” I actually said “why not me?” I wasn’t missing out on the fun of my 4 and 6 year old boys either.

Life and the love of others are gifts.  Gifts we can have every day.  We can choose to receive love or not.  Love is powerful and comes in so many forms.  It is amazing that in English there is only one word for love.  I know other languages have many words for love, depending on where it is coming from.

I could write for days and day on my breast cancer journey.  It was 9 months of treatment.  Being a triathlete, I always felt it was just another event to train for and finish.  My medal is my outlook on life.

I had wonderful support.  Friends, coworkers, family, neighbors, people at the YMCA, parents at my son’s school all fed my family.  Meals were delivered, kindness was exchanged, love was ever present and I know how scary and sick I looked.  It brings me to tears to think of those days.  I was just on the couch.  Messages left on the machine that said “don’t worry about calling back, just checking in with you sending warm wishes.” Unconditional.

These are the memories I try to keep in my head.  This is what I must never forget.

Today, I work on many levels with awareness and fundraising.  Every year I have more and more opportunities to do really great things with the experiences I have been given.  Sickness and suffering were tools for me.  I can’t tell you how empowered I feel.  I love making a difference in my own back yard.  I am involved with women training for triathlons and have been since I was diagnosed.  We have raised thousands of dollars in the past six years.  I am involved in GirlPOWER, a middle school girl empowerment group.  I am involved in a Pink Revolution at UMass Medical in Worcester, MA – where I was treated by some of the best doctors in the field.

Maura with kids at the school she works at on the 2010 Pink Hair Day

None of this happened overnight.  But from the beginning I tried to keep control of what I could and roll with the rest of it.  I continue to do that today.  Giving is very fulfilling and healing.

Healing.  I have always exercised but that wasn’t going to heal me completely.  The Tapestry Class I enrolled in through the Oncology department was where I really started to heal on the inside.   This was a place that I could put my feelings out there with no judgment.  I could express myself and it was great.  I have had opportunities to speak about my illness.  I have had platforms to raise funds and awareness.

I have had friends, some friends as close as family, diagnosed.  I became a source.  All cases seemed so different than mine.  I don’t own my diagnosis but I do share in any way that I can.  I love being on the other side and truly can’t believe I am on the other side.  The last appointment I had was when my doctor told me I am to go off the tamoxifin.  I was elated.  Nothing had prepared me for that day.  I really hadn’t given it too much thought about how I was going to feel emotionally.  I felt great but for that week I was very weepy.

My journey isn’t over.  I have a new lease on life.  I love the opportunity every day to have the best day ever!

Maura and sons Michael and Tim
Maura and her 2 sons Michael and Timothy at the 2010 Pink Hair Day

Thank you my dear, dear friend for sharing your story. I love you so much!
~ Lita (aka Jenna)

Pink Ribbon