Today I was reminded of a time when I was driving to work and a billboard caught my eye. Usually I don’t pay attention to them, but this one struck me on that particular gray morning.
I looked up, and there it was — simple, yet carrying so much depth and weight. All it said, on its pink-kissed screen, was “Overcome.”
I’m used to seeing Breast Cancer Awareness ads in the month of October. I see stores flooded with merchandise every year, our beloved NFL players don pink during their Sunday afternoons, and Facebook plays a silly game where women post random statuses that somehow benefit fighting for the cure. I hate to admit it, but I’ve built a steel guard around my heart as a protection and coping mechanism when it comes to the topic of breast cancer, so the month of awareness usually doesn’t catch my attention.
But on this drive during rush hour, as the song Emily by “From First To Last” was blaring through my speakers and I sit laden with self-pity, I was touched by that billboard. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I instantly thought of her.
In 2006, when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was not there for her. Admitting that publicly is hard. She birthed me, she raised me alongside my father, she dedicated her entire life to make sure mine was better than simply “good enough.”
Yet, in her time of dire need, in her time to fight this awful disease, I abandoned her. I chose my own battles and my own pain and ran from it all. It was easier to run than to face what might actually happen to her. It’s no excuse, but it’s the way I was. I’m deeply ashamed and will spend the rest of my life making up for my actions.
As I kept driving, I started to think about the ways in which my mother has “overcome.” She lost her father at 13. She was diagnosed with a progressive form of breast cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes, all while dealing with an alcohol-addicted teenage daughter. She lost her mother two months into being diagnosed with cancer. She’s been through divorce and was laid off from her job of 20+ years. And, rather than turning to vices and giving in to the pain, she pressed on, persevered in her faith, got back on her feet, and she flourished.
My mom is the definition of overcome. My mom is the “grab adversity by the horns and steer it right into victory” kind of woman. She fights for what she believes and she knows when to walk away. She is strong, she tells it like it is, and when she loves, she loves ferociously, deeply, boldly. She turns the other cheek when she is wronged. She has a quiet faith that she doesn’t have to exclaim because her actions show it. She has an outward radiating beauty that matches her heart of pure gold. The life she leads and the choices she makes show her love for this world, and her love for Jesus.
She’s the person I turn to when I need career advice. She’s the one to whom I tell my secrets and my fears. She’s even the one I call when I’m worried I have an infectious disease because I touched the same door handle as someone who was sick, and she subsequently reassures me time and time again that I’m fine, I’m not going to get sick, crazy girl.
I wasn’t there for my mom when she was going through her very worst, but despite it all, she loved me with her very best. She has taught me about unconditional love by her actions and her grace. As I’ve gotten older, gotten sober, and learned just a little about life, I’ve made it my living amends to ensure I’m always there for her the way she has countlessly been there for me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her guidance, and I know without a shadow of doubt that I couldn’t have been blessed with a better mother. When I “grow up”, I can only hope to be half the person she is. She’s my greatest inspiration. My hero. And she’s an overcomer.