Gianna's Story

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"I have made considerable changes in my life, letting my mom’s example lead the way. Through nutrition, exercise and meditation, I see how much my physical health contributes to my mental health."

My mom was a powerful, vibrant, hilarious woman. She had a successful career as a special education teacher, worked out before the sun came up every day, and ate healthy foods. She was my role model, my friend, and the stable force in my life. I was almost 13 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The next year of my life was a whirlwind, fueled by anxiety and fear. However, I remained stoic determined to be the stable force for my mom while she fought through several surgeries, chemotherapy, and the loss of her breast and hair. No matter what, she never stopped telling me that she would survive, and she did. After recovering, she jumped right back into her old routine: hitting the gym at 5:30, working full-time, being an amazing mother, and even going back to school.

Exactly 4 years ago today on the eve of my 26th birthday, I learned that my mom’s cancer was back. It had spent 13 years adapting and altering its DNA; it came back stage iv and incurable. True to her usual form, Mom told me she would not let this define her. She continued to teach and became a grandmother. She worked out with her trainer as long as she could and fueled her body with healthy foods. Still, the cancer spread. Breathing became more difficult, she lost the ability to walk and when the cancer went to her brain, I watched her vibrance dim.

Through this time, I fell apart. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat well and I didn’t exercise. I completely removed my own needs from my priority list. It wasn’t until my mother passed away that I realized I had faded, too. I had lost myself through this process and had no idea where I had gone. I became so sick that I was struggling to manage daily things; I couldn’t even function at work. Then, that proverbial light bulb went on in my mind: I am my mother’s daughter. I need to find some of her strength; it must be inside of me somewhere.

Today, Mom has been gone only four months and I am still on the road to recovery. I have made considerable changes in my life, letting my mom’s example lead the way. Through nutrition, exercise and meditation, I see how much my physical health contributes to my mental health. I miss my mother constantly; the grief is all-consuming sometimes. Still, I know I will never give up trying to live my best life. I know Mom lives in me. Her infinite strength is what keeps me going.