My mom is the most important and influential person in my life. The love, care and affection that she has given me throughout my life has made me into the man I am today. So when she broke the news to me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, my whole world halted.

It was in the middle of my junior year of college. My studies became the furthest thing on my mind. Sleep was no longer a thing. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t focus on anything, and my mind took me to some very dark places. All I could think about was, potentially not having my mother in my life, not tasting her cooking anymore, not waking up to see her infectious smile every morning and not having my biggest supporter around. I began to lash out at my friends and loved ones and started losing sight of all of the values that my mom had taught me.

I truly didn’t have an answer as to how to deal with the situation. What ultimately allowed me to get my mind right was seeing the strength that my mother exhibited. Quite often, when tough times arise for people, you can see it on their face. But that just wasn’t the case with my mom. There wasn’t a day that went by where she didn’t wear a smile on her face. She was the same joyful, fun-loving woman that raised me. She was adamant on not allowing cancer to change who she was. She still attended all of my little brother’s basketball games, and was the biggest cheerleader in the gym. She still went to work during the week. If you didn’t know about her diagnosis, you’d have never realized she was sick.

I could see the strain that her treatments were taking out on her, but she always maintained a positive outlook on everything. That made the situation so much easier for not just myself, but the rest of our family. My mom is the strongest person I know. Cancer is a mindless animal that unfortunately some aren’t able to overcome. Seeing my mom fight, and in the manner in which she did, made me truly understand the definition of strength.

This experience has helped me grow immensely as a person. Before, when a tough situation in my life would arise, I would get down and feel sorry for myself wondering, “why is this happening to me,” and shut down. But after seeing the positive attitude and level of grace that my mom displayed after her diagnosis, and ultimately come out victorious, I’ve learned that no matter how tough the situation is, it can be overcome.

– Joseph Sanford