When I was in third grade, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As a nine-year-old, I had no idea exactly what this meant, and I certainly I had no comprehension of the anxiety, fear, and stress that my mom, and my whole family, would endure for the next 11 years.
Growing up in a family that cancer has wreaked havoc upon forced me to grow up a little faster than most people my age. I was always told that I was responsible and insightful for my age, and this is something that I carried with me. I started to learn that life wasn't always going to go the way I wanted it to.
When I was a high school student, my family and I faced some of the hardest and worst years, and my last year of high school is one that I will probably forever remember as the most miserable time I've been through. My mom's health was incredibly unstable, and the end of my Senior year brought my mom multiple health scares that were absolutely terrifying for us, and even more so for her.
Heading into college, things at least seemed relatively stable, and I believed the same thing coming into my Sophomore year. Now, only two months into my second year at college, I no longer have the most important person in my life. This has been an immense shock to my family and me, but it has also shocked the people around me, if just for the fact that I shared this part of my life with hardly anyone.
Through all of the years of struggle and sadness, this side of my life was one I did not share, or at least not for the most part.
This isn't a pity party. I am not looking for sympathy, nor attention. I simply want to bring to light the fact that every single person you meet is fighting a personal battle that you ultimately know nothing about.
I didn't even know as much about my mom's battle as I thought I did, and she was my mother.
In retrospect, I spent so many years of my life combatting my mom, arguing about things that meant nothing, and just generally not being as kind as I should have been, especially considering all that she did for me during the 19, nearly 20, years we had together. After I got to college, my relationship with my mom became stronger and continued to strengthen as time went on, because we now had limited time to spend together, and even just to talk. I started to value the minutes I got to spend talking to my family much more than I had previously, and I started truly making an effort to be a better daughter and sister.
Family is so sacred, and something that each and every one of us needs to treasure while we can.
My mom and I never had the kind of relationship you see in movies, where a mom and daughter talk about absolutely everything without boundaries. It wasn't that I didn't want that kind of relationship, I just wasn't even sure that I could have that, because my high school years had consisted of arguing and me closing myself off. By the end of my year as a college freshman, however, my mom and I were closer than we had ever been, and even closer still after these first couple months as a sophomore.
That might be the hardest part of all of this. My mom and I had finally established the best friend relationship I had always wondered about. We were finally close, and really close, at that. Our relationship was stronger and better than ever, and now I don't have that anymore, and I can't help but wish I had realized sooner exactly how important it is to love and cherish your loved ones while you can.
If you take one thing away from this article, I want you to walk away with a greater appreciation for the people who love, support, and motivate you. I want you to walk away knowing that every single second you have with the people you love is a second you should be so, so incredibly grateful for because one day you will run out of seconds. Life is too short for petty arguments. Life is too short to be rude and condescending to people who have done nothing but be there for you. Life is too short to hold grudges, and certainly too short to turn your back on someone over something that won't matter in five years, or even in one.
Life is too damn short to take people, and things, for granted.
Appreciate everything and everyone in your life, and everyone who has ever been part of your life. People don't come into our lives for no reason, and people also don't stay forever. And that is why you need to appreciate the hell out of them while they are here. You never know how much time you might have left with someone. I certainly had no idea.
I want to now return to the idea that you never know what someone is going through.
You truly never know what someone might be dealing with. Be kind, always.
Personally, as I explained earlier, I barely shared with anyone the fact that my mother was sick. At times, it was hard to keep it private, but I knew it wasn't something I really wanted to share, and it wasn't something my mom would have wanted the whole world to know. And I know that because she didn't share many details with many people either.
At the end of senior year, things weren't going very well, and I had started to get distant from some friends because my family had become a much higher priority, as it should have been. I tried to explain as best I could when I was asked why I had gotten so distant, but I couldn't and didn't want to, explain. I lost a couple friendships over others' suspicion that I had no excuse. And you know what? That's okay. That's okay because someone who values your friendship will stay through things you can't explain. They'll stay through everything.
Unfortunately, it takes an absolutely horrible tragedy and heartbreak to show you who's real and who simply isn't. It takes terrible things to show you who you should and shouldn't let go of, and who you should and shouldn't be worrying yourself sick over. If there is one bright-side of the tragedy my family is going through, it's that I now know who to keep in my life, and who to officially let go of. Realistically, no matter how bad of terms I am on with a person, if I were to hear that they were going through something awful, I would reach out without hesitation and offer my help and support. That's who I am and that is how I have always been, and it is that standard to which I hold the people in my life.
People who choose to be absent during your hardest times and your most outrageous times of need are people you must choose to let go of.
Returning to my main point, however, someone can seem perfectly happy on the outside, but be torturing themselves on the inside. You have no idea what kind of struggle a person is going through, even if everything seems perfectly fine. A lot of my friends had no idea that this was something I had been dealing with for 19 years of my life. A lot of my mom's friends had no idea exactly how serious things were for her. You simply have no idea.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to value your loved ones.
Don't forget to call home.
Don't forget to tell your parents and siblings how much you love them.
Don't forget to tell your friends how much you love and appreciate them.
Please, just don't forget to appreciate all of the people who put you first, who are there for you no matter what, and who love you to the end of time.
These people aren't going to be around forever. Love them while you can.