Losing my mom to breast cancer at age seven most certainly had a profound impact on my life, and I’m still discovering all the ways it has shaped the woman I am today. For one, it brought me to my dream job, Color. (More on that later.)
If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been impacted by breast cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Perhaps a close aunt, your mother, a friend, a coworker. For those of us who have experienced a loss, Mother’s Day can bring up feelings of loneliness, sadness, grief, but also hope and gratitude.
This is my 24th Mother’s Day without my mom, and while I’m not an expert on the subject, I thought I would share some things that have helped me through the years.
Expressing gratitude & building a community
Giving love and kindness to the incredible mothers (and women) who surround me brings me a lot of joy — my stepmom, my aunts, my grandma, my partner’s mom, my close friends who are new moms. These women make me feel cared for, supported, and are great role models. In addition, also sending notes of kindness to friends who have experienced a loss, letting them know that I’m here for them.
There are countless ways to do this, but some of my favorites: looking through old photos (and laughing at the shoulder pads and terrible hairstyles!), sharing memories with family (or asking them to share a memory with me), writing a poem or creating a piece of art, cooking one of my mom’s favorite dishes (she loved to cook, and I have access to some of her cookbooks), wearing some of her clothes or jewelry that was passed down to me.
Tuning into my feelings and identifying what it is I need in the moment (A cry? A walk with my dog? A dinner out with friends?) is a really effective way for me to find acceptance and compassion for myself, especially during tough times. Telling myself / practicing mantras like, “It’s perfectly okay to feel however I feel on this day.”
Being proactive about my health
Because health and medicine were not as advanced in 1994, we don’t know if my mom was a carrier of BRCA1 or BRCA2. It took me a long time to decide if genetic testing was something I wanted to pursue. Shortly after joining Color, I decided to take the 30-gene test for hereditary cancer risk, and I found out that I’m not at an increased genetic risk, which was a relief. I did learn that I am at an increased risk due to my strong family history, which helped me have a more informed conversation with my doctor. I had my first mammogram this year (as recommended by my doctor, due to my mom’s early diagnosis), and I’m continuing to be proactive about taking care of my mind and body so I can live a longer, healthier life.