October is PINK month—the time of year we work together to build a stronger awareness on Breast Cancer and its grip on 1-8 women in the United States. It’s a disease that can be treatable and preventable, if caught early, so early detection is crucial for our women—the mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends, and wives of our world.
A Month to Reflect on Our Loss
On a personal note, this is the month I reflect on the women I’ve lost in my life due to breast cancer. Today I thought of a woman I had worked with for 15 years. Let's call her “Connie” (name changed to protect the privacy of the family) and how hard she fought for more time with her granddaughter.
The Heart of Her Family
I worked with Connie and through the years we created a bond over shared recipes and family stories. She was the heart of her family—held the matriarchal role and was the main moneymaker, with a retired spouse, one adult son and granddaughter living with her.
She and her granddaughter were inseparable, with a close bond since her granddaughter’s birth. Connie was the one who raised her granddaughter, cared for her, put her through college. She had pictures of her granddaughter strewn all around her cubical area—from birth throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Connie was this little Italian woman, who worked with her head down in her cubicle taking on everything that was thrown on her. Most hardly said hello to Connie when they walked into the office, and some were rude even, thinking that she wasn’t getting her job done without understanding Connie’s fight.
Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
The first time Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer people were notified. Flowers were sent as Connie was off for her first surgery. When she returned to work, she had to manage chemotherapy treatment, along with work and home life. I remember how tired she looked, the itchy wig she wore, the scars on her chest and the rash that crawled its way up her neck and face from the chemo.
She struggled against “Chemo Brain” and by the time Connie hit her 70’s, she had gone through a rollercoaster of doctor visits, good and bad diagnoses, treatments and more surgeries that eventually led to a full mastectomy and a portion of lung removed. All the while Connie continued to travel the hour-long trip to work through good and bad weather. She was never late to work and was the first one to the office every day.
Love for Her Granddaughter
At her last diagnosis, only a few of us knew what had been dished out to her. Connie was given a time limit. She was devastated and her concerns turned more and more to her granddaughter. I tried to encourage her to take a leave, but she felt a strong responsibility to her family. She was the main income. She carried the insurance. Her income supported her granddaughter’s education, and her granddaughter was Connie’s main priority, always.
She shared with me how she was not afraid of death, that her faith was strong, but that she was deeply saddened about leaving her granddaughter and longed to watch her through life. Connie worried that her granddaughter would be okay, and I tried to console her by saying that she had made sure of that.
A Celebration of All the Women Taken Too Soon
In the end, Connie worked until she couldn’t any longer and passed away a short time after. Before her death, Connie gave me a clear stone with an angel inside. I hold that stone in my hand every so often and think about the sacrifices Connie made for her family, especially her granddaughter. Sacrifices that many of us as women make every day. Selflessly loving and caring for our families.
Connie may have appeared weak and timid to some, but she will forever be one of the strongest women I’ve known. She was kind, supportive, loving, selfless and had an undying devotion to her family. I celebrate Connie and all the women who’ve been taken too soon from our lives.
Those women whom we’ve loved. Who’ve loved YOU unconditionally. The moms who’ve tucked you in at night; the grandmothers who’ve offered comfort; the daughters who’ve made us proud; sisters’ shoulders we’ve cried on; the wives that have your back and the friend you’ve laughed with.
Those who’ve paved the way for all of us. Who have died along the way; those who continue to fight.
We celebrate them today and all the days with the deepest respect.
With much love and gratitude,
Founder and CEO of Healthful Seasons