I will never forget the day that changed my life forever.

May 19, 2000 started off as a day like any other. As I went off to school I exchanged the typical “I love you” and “See you later” with my parents. I was a care-free eight-year-old who was looking forward to the party that awaited me and my classmates to celebrate the end of third grade.

My dad arrived at school later in the day to help with the party as planned. I knew mom wouldn’t be coming because she was scheduled for a medical test I knew nothing about earlier that morning. A simple procedure to determine what was wrong with her stomach. Riding home with my dad while I came off the sugar high was one of the last clear moments before the blur of events that changed the path of my life forever.

When we arrived home I could immediately tell that something wasn’t right. The house just felt off.

I got the feeling that something was wrong but was it something I was supposed to know about or was it one of those “adult things” that parents hide from their children because the kids are too young?

My parents sat me down and I could immediately tell from the looks on their faces and the tears in their eyes that whatever was wrong was about to become a family issue.

How do you even go about telling your eight-year-old and thirteen-year-old children that their mom has cancer? How much do you even share with the kids? Do you downplay the diagnosis in order to not scare them? Do you go ahead and tell them that mom has only been given 5% chance of surviving five years in order to prepare them for the future?

I will never forget those words, “Mom has colon cancer.”

Woah! A wave of emotions flooded my body. From confusion, anger, sadness, fear, and everything in between. What is cancer anyways? What is a colon? Will mom start medications soon? What does this mean for our summer plans? Why did this happen to MY mom when she hadn’t done anything wrong? Unfortunately, neither my parents, nor anyone else for that matter, had answers to many of my questions. It was a lot of wait and see.

My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer during a colonoscopy on May 19, 2000. During a colon resection on June 19, 2000, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of stage III colon cancer. Although it was many years later before I understand to full extent of my mother’s prognosis, I did everything I could to be near her and involved with her care.

I spent that summer tending to her surgical wounds and attending chemotherapy treatments. I believe that it was a blessing that I did not fully understand this terrible disease at the time.

Since I knew she dreaded going to chemo, I would plan to be a ray of sunshine for her and the other patients in treatment that day. I remember borrowing a nurse’s clipboard to use as a waitress’ tray. I would go around the unit taking drink and snack orders from all the patients and return from the nourishment room with the clipboard loaded down.

Throughout her surgery, chemotherapy, and recovery, I felt that I had found my calling in the healthcare field. I vowed that when I grew up I would become a nurse to return a small favor to those who helped treat my mother.

April 20, 2013, another day that changed my life forever. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I had fulfilled my lifelong dream. Soon after graduation I was able to take the state licensure exam and begin practicing as a registered nurse.

I am proud to say that my mother is an eighteen-year survivor of this dreaded disease! I am thankful for a strong family support system that surround my immediate family during those difficult times.

Our family did everything in their power to ensure my brother and I were able to maintain as much normalcy in our lives while our mom went through her treatment and recovery. I am grateful for the healthcare team who treated my mother like one of their own and saw our entire family through the process from diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, and recovery.

There are many negatives that we can focus on from a cancer diagnosis, but I find it incredibly uplifting to see the positives. To this day, I attribute my passion for my nursing career to my mother’s diagnosis. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the path that changed my life and led me into this amazing field of work!

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