I want to thank everyone SOOO much for all of your kind words about me finishing my half ironman on Saturday! I do feel like it is a big accomplishment, but you guys make me feel so special! A lot of you talked about inspiration, so I thought this was a good time to share with you a story about someone in my life that inspires me. This post is another long one, but good stories deserve to be told in full:).
This has been a big part of my life the past few months, but until recently my friend was not ready to share her story, which I understand and respect 100 percent. Now that she has decided it is time to share her story with the world, I wanted to share it with you all.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
This is the heading on my friend Dana’s blog. Dana is one hot momma.
We graduated together.
We watched each other meet our future husbands, and Dana was the first to get married.
(It’s hard to tell because she’s so tiny to begin with, but yes, she is preggers in this photo:)
And the first to give birth–to a beautiful baby boy!
Of course, it’s not too hard to look at your life as if everything is a miracle when you’re young, and life is just one new and exciting adventure after another. But all of that changed on January 6, when Dana called me with some devastating news. A lump she had removed the week before had turned out to be malignant. It was cancer.
In seconds, the C-word turned her life upside down. Dana would later find out it was Triple Negative breast cancer, Stage 2, Grade 3. Triple negative is a very aggressive type of breast cancer that does not respond to hormone therapy.
Only a week after her diagnosis, Dana was in the hospital getting all kinds of tests and her first round of chemo. She had to shave her head, find wigs to wear, and make life-altering decisions about her treatment plan.
Through her six rounds of chemo, Dana has faced some unbelievable hardships. In addition to the already grueling side effects of chemo, Dana experienced a staph infection that caused her to wake up partially paralyzed one day and have to be rushed to the hospital (luckily she was treated quickly and although it was a long, difficult recovery, she overcame the infection and temporary paralysis).
She also had to deal with blood clots in her lungs that caused severe chest pain. She had to overcome her severe fear of needles, to be poked and prodded almost every day and spend long periods of time in the hospital.
Even though we tried to do everything we could to support Dana–cooking for her sometimes, bringing food, visiting as much as we could, offering to babysit, etc.–it never felt anywhere close to being enough. We all wished we could do more, but this was her journey that she would have to go through (even though I would have taken those chemo treatments for her if I could have!!).
But amazingly, Dana has maintained her beautiful smile and her amazing outlook on life throughout her journey. She always tries to find the positives in every situation, and her strength and ability to find joy in life truly inspires me.
A while ago I wrote a cryptic post about a friend who was going through a tough time, and how she inspired me to find happiness in my every day life. Well, I couldn’t say it at the time, but that friend was Dana!
This is a quote from her blog post that week: “Cancer, or any illness, does not have to make us bitter or separate us from God. In fact, I have found that it draws me CLOSER, because I rely on Him now more than ever. Every day, I have been making an effort to look for God in unexpected places. I want to take the time to experience the beauty of the world that so often goes unnoticed.”
Instead of being angry with her situation, Dana has embraced it and found beauty and joy in her life. And sure enough, she does have a lot of beauty in her life. I mean, how can you not melt at this face?
But, honestly, I don’t know if I would have been as strong as she was if I were in her position. It feels wrong to say that her struggle has affected me greatly, because I know it has affected me only 1/1,000,000 of how much it has affected her life, but it has. Even though you always *know* that there are so many people battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, and that it could happen to you, it’s different and a complete eye-opener when someone very close to you is diagnosed with it.
Dana’s battle with cancer and her attitude toward it has made me realize that we can’t always go through life looking for the next big adventure, but we have to stop and enjoy every second of every day. Because we never know when we might get that phone call one day that puts us in the hospital bed for weeks, instead of on that vacation or in that race that we were looking forward to.
She has made me realize that we control our own happiness, and that instead of getting angry or frustrated when life throws us a curve ball, we can always find something to be happy about and thankful for.
Dana, your strength and your ability to find the joy in every aspect of your life really does inspire me!
I am happy to report that Dana has finished her final round of chemo, and is recovering well (slowly, as is to be expected, but recovering nonetheless:).
She still has a tough road ahead of her, and faces some major surgery this summer. But I know she is going to do great and will get through it with the strength and courage she displayed these past five months.
If you want to be inspired and to read about her amazing journey and her gorgeous life, please go check out her blog. It, just like her, is amazing!