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My mom, Lori, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in the winter of 2010 when I was 8, and then again in the fall of 2012 when I was 11. Finding out she was undergoing cancer treatment after the first diagnosis was such a foreign concept to my young brain that I couldn’t even be upset about it. I was discovering in real time what it meant to have a cancer patient in my family, as she was simultaneously discovering what it meant to actually be a cancer patient.
I remember coming home from dance practice one night to see the back of a bald head sitting on the couch in our living room and wondering what stranger had come over to visit for the evening. During that first round of treatment, I got used to her being physically unrecognizable. She sported a variety of wigs when we went out and dropped weight almost instantly. I also watched her grasp onto spirituality in any way that she could, whether it be regular trips to church or the yoga studio.
It was learning the effects that cancer treatment could have on someone that made the second diagnosis after almost a year of remission so much scarier. I wasn’t even supposed to know. Our family shared a computer and when I logged on I saw an email from one of our church friends consoling her about the re-diagnosis. That night, she asked me to keep the news quiet as we hugged and sobbed in the car.
Although the span of her cancer treatment was relatively short, my mom lived 100 lives during that period. In the midst of undergoing treatment, she began to train for and run marathons, take me and my sister on special one-on-one trips in other countries, and actively involve herself in the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation as the Executive Director, in order to build a community for other women affected by this brutal form of the disease.
My mom passed away in August of 2013, right after things had begun to look up. All at once, the cancer spread throughout her whole body, eventually taking over her brain, and making me as unrecognizable to her as she had become to me. Despite how sick she was, she waited to pass until all her siblings and my sister Claire had flown in from Michigan so that our whole family could be around her when she went. Family always meant the most to her. Her involvement at TNBCF was so important because of the support she knew it could provide to others. For her, the foundation became a family in its own right. The work my mom did to establish Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day as a global event is a testament to her legacy and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation is an emblem of the values she held close in her relentless battle against cancer.