NOMINATOR: Ashley Alewine (Seffner)
NOMINEE: Joan Alewine (Riverview)
On a seemingly ordinary day in August 2001, just days before I was to start college as a brand new freshman, I heard the words, "Your mom has breast cancer." Those 5 words changed my life forever.
Mom had gone to a typical doctor visit. A mammogram, perhaps. Although now I can't even remember. I was out enjoying my last few days as a high school graduate before jumping into college life. Shortly after I got home that afternoon, my grandmother walked in the door with a look I've never seen in all of my 18 years, and even still, another 12 years later. My brother and sister, both younger, had just gotten home from school so she rounded us all up and told us the news. She had an immediate mastectomy and was at the hospital resting, post-surgery. They think they got it all, and in time. She was still to go through full chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She would have to take time off of work. She would lose her beautiful, thick blonde hair. The rest of the future is still unknown.
Our worlds as we knew it were forever different. For three children, ages 18, 16 and 10, the inconceivable reality was a possible future without our mother. Who would be there for us when we graduate high school and college? Who would help my sister and I plan our weddings? Who would be there for my brother to tell him no woman on this planet is good enough for her little boy? When we get older and become parents ourselves, who would be the grandma to spoil them rotten? These questions plus a million more ran through my head in one sudden instant.
People always say that the hardest thing ever is to hear you have cancer. But I can't imagine it's much easier to hear your parent does. I'll never forget that feeling.
As the days and the weeks went on, all we could do was be strong for Mom. We offered to cook, which meant we were ordering a lot of take out from local restaurants. We cleaned. We took care of the pets. We finally figured out how to be the 'good kids' she had always asked for! She had always been there for us, so now it was our turn to reciprocate.
The days and the weeks turned into months and years. She got through her treatments, lost and then grew back her beautiful hair. Eventually even got through the reconstructive surgery. We participated in walks, wore a lot of pink, got breast cancer ribbon tattoos, supported every breast cancer charity we could, and of course did a lot of hoping and praying.
Today, as she begins her 12th cancer free year, all we can do now is be thankful. We thank the doctors and nurses that took care of her when we didn't know how. We thank the family that never left our sides. We thank the charities that allowed her to be on the receiving end of benefits. And we especially thank God, for realizing that it wasn't yet her time, and for recognizing that we weren't ready for him to take her. I'm so grateful that we finally live in a world where cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence.