When someone you love dies, the hole that is left in your heart never fully heals. Time goes on and the pain of missing them comes in waves. Some days you forget about it for a little while, never forgetting the one you lost, but forgetting for a second about the absence their passing has caused. Then other days, the pain hits your heart like a ton of bricks. I always knew that being engaged and getting married would be one of the hardest seasons of my life to go through without my mom. I STILL have the urge to call or text her… after 7 years!!! When we got engaged and we were making the list of people to tell first, I almost wrote “Mom” down… it was just this default habit even after all this time. My mom told me about a year before she died that she was afraid we would forget about her. She said it jokingly, but I think deep down her sadness over leaving and missing out on so much of our lives caused almost a “jealousy” of sorts! She wouldn’t be there to see me graduate 8th grade, give my valedictorian speech at my high school graduation, or watch me walk across the stage to receive my college diploma. She was so much more scared of missing her three girls than she was of dying. How could she not have been most upset about having time with her daughters stolen from her? She made sure to live the last years of her life out with intention and GRACE. When she passed away, she left behind a legacy of love, selflessness, and the BEST gift basket skills the world has ever known. Watching her fade away was by far the most horrible thing I will ever face. But we are so, so thankful we got two and half more years with her after her initial diagnosis. We lived those years to the fullest, going on day trips together, skipping school, embarking on our first cruise ever, and enjoying our last season of life together. I will forever treasure the extra moments we got to spend together because of the treatments that have resulted from the progress we’ve made in the medical field over the past few decades.

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Cancer research MATTERS. I’ve spent many years being bitter… resenting the pharmacuetical industry… not believing in “the cure.” Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t one! When I got to college, I was introduced to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Relay for Life. I’m going to be completely honest. When I first heard of Relay, I thought to myself, “Great… another organization raising money to ‘FIND THE CURE.’ No thank you!!!” But when I heard about all of the amazing things that ACS does for those battling cancer and their families, I knew I had to be a part of it. ACS not only raises money to promote cancer awareness and fund cancer research, it also spends millions on support for those battling and recovering from cancer. For example, one service program ACS hosts is called Road to Recovery, where cancer patients are partnered with a caregiver who drives them back and forth from their many treatments. There are many “cure for cancer” organizations out there… and some don’t pour nearly enough of their millions of dollars back into cancer fighters and survivors themselves. The American Cancer Society DOES though. And one of the main ways they raise money is through an annual event called Relay for Life!

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At George Mason University, Relay for Life is a 12 hour, student-run event that occurs annually. In 2014, they were able to raise over $87,000 for the American Cancer Society with 1,000 participants in attendance. They are hoping to beat those numbers in 2015 and they need support to reach their goal! From Dana, my dear friend and the President of the Relay committee at GMU: “We would love to have members of the community join us in the fight against cancer by attending our event on April 18th at the RAC gym on Mason’s campus. The event will be from 3PM-3AM and you can sign up online at relayforlife.org/gmuva. During the twelve hours, there will be games, performances, giveaways and more to keep you occupied- it’s fun for the whole family! There is a $10 registration fee per person. If you are unable to attend, a donation as small as $5 can go a long way! Donations can also be made on the site relayforlife.org/gmuva. Every dollar goes to the American Cancer Society.”

I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of two Relay events in the past, and they were nothing short of an incredible, life-giving experience. Relay is all about celebrating LIFE and honoring those who have lost theirs to this terrible disease. It is always a harrowing experience to watch the Lumineria ceremony light up the dark with all the hundreds of candles lit for loved ones who have passed. But it’s also a ton of fun, too. If I didn’t have a wedding that Saturday, I would be at Relay in a heartbeat!!! I may not be able to be there in person, but I will be donating as this blog post goes live in my mom’s honor. For all the other 13 year old girls out there watching a family member fight this horrible disease. I’ll give my money in the name of cancer research because I KNOW that it will go directly towards someone who needs it, whether it’s through new treatment technology, a ride to their chemotherapy session, or a survivor’s banquet to celebrate those who have been fortunate enough to beat their diagnosis. I’ll donate in the hope that someday, cancer WILL be a thing of the past… and no one will ever have to hear a loved one receieve the horrible news that they have cancer.

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For my mom, diagnosed with liver cancer that metastisized into her lungs and femur bone after her diagnosis was given too late.

For Taylor Swift’s mama who just announced yesterday that she is now fighting this disease, and for her family as they support her over these next few months.

For Mrs. Becky, our beloved teacher at CCA who was fortunate enough to undergo a new type of surgery that declared her cancer-free.

For everyone who has fought or is fighting for their life… we will support and honor you and your legacy, whatever it may be. Organizations like the American Cancer Society make it THAT much easier to positively effect a cancer patient or survivor and their families. Will you join me in the fight to battle this disease with everything we’ve got?! As soon as I hit publish on this post, I’m going to go DONATE HERE! Let’s help GMU’s Relay for Life surpass their goal and change the lives of those facing cancer with bravery and boldness! I will never forget you mom, or how hard you fought up until the very end. Here’s to having far more SURVIVORS than lost loved ones in the future of cancer research!!!

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