This Is What My Aunt’s Battle With Breast Cancer Taught Me About Being Alive

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Pete Bellis / Unsplash

Health is something we often take for granted. It is easy to go on through life without even having to consider the what ifs – until those what ifs are put into our laps. It’s not a selfish thing really, we are only human. Why dwell on what could be? Why not live our lives to the fullest without fearing what will possibly go wrong?

I am a firm believer of that ever so catchy phrase live for today, because it is so obviously bona fide – You truly never know what tomorrow will bring.

When I found out my aunt had breast cancer, a rare and nasty form no less, my reaction was to be expected. I was angry. I kept asking why, why her? Then I was upset, and then I was scared. Then full circle, I was angry again.

About a month after she was diagnosed and given her upcoming schedule for chemo and treatments, I began to realize the strength she truly exudes.

On the outside, a gorgeous, vibrant, healthy wife and mother of two. On the inside a body in complete disagreement. A list of unpredictable, unpreventable affliction and illness. To help me understand in more detail, she explained to me her “medical resume,” a list of all of the health scares she has had since a young age. I honestly had no idea. I grew up incredibly close to my aunt, I thought I knew just about all there was to know. Boy, was I wrong. She was a survivor even before her cancer diagnosis, she was just simply surviving in silence.

Through the occasional ups and painful downs, this process was the first time I saw my aunt let herself become beautifully vulnerable. With that, I have never seen my aunt so at peace. Cancer is a scary word, a word that many people avoid in conversation. However, when it is real and when it becomes a part of life, there is simply no way of escaping it. My aunt keeps my tears away; she is the strength that is guiding her family and friends through this journey. I constantly wonder why and how she is able to keep that perfect smile on her face.

She likely would state otherwise, but her ability to find grace in the struggles she has faced has only peaked. When coming face to face with the most frightening illness yet, her faith grows stronger than ever. Cancer sucks. It really, really sucks. However, the will to live and the courage to fight is something insanely beautiful. All individuals at some point seek prospect, or simply yearn for an escort through the hundreds of journeys and battles life puts before us.

And that’s the realization I’ve come to keep. No fight is too small, they are each equally important. My aunt has helped me understand that in all stages of life we have the right to feel. We have the right to feel sadness and anger, to feel selfish and raw, to sometimes feel ugly but to mostly feel beautiful. Still through it all, the most important feeling she taught me was to feel happiness. It is okay to find happiness even in the darkest of times – and once we accept that, it somehow seems easier to keep. TC mark

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