Cancer is the "C word" people don't like to talk about.
Before this year, no one in my family had ever been affected by cancer, so it was never something I had to think about. I always believed it would happen to someone else, not to me.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in September. I found out on a Friday after work, and I immediately went numb and broke down.
All of my other worries from that day completely went out the window. As an only child, my mom is my best friend and my everything. Every heartache I had felt from any past relationship didn't compare to the pain I experienced during that moment.
I knew no matter what happened, I had to be there for my mom as her advocate, her cheerleader and her daughter. While our journey to beat breast cancer has just started, I feel like I already have a whole new perspective on life.
These are the things I've learned so far while dealing with my mom's breast cancer diagnosis and treatment:
1. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Something like cancer really puts our daily problems into perspective.
I am a chronic worrier. I stress over anything and everything. My mom's breast cancer taught me how trivial some of our problems can be.
Things that would upset me before, like a coffee shop getting my order wrong while I'm late for work, I've learned to brush off. When I get angry or bothered, I have to stop and ask myself if it really matters.
My mom's cancer forced me to be a positive thinker in all aspects of life. I now have the confidence to pursue my goals without the fear of failure.
You only have one life. Don't sit around and wait for things to happen, and don't waste your days on negativity.
2. You learn to readjust your priorities.
I was a wild child. I spent my weekends going out and drinking. I lived for nights out with my friends.
After my mom's diagnosis, all I wanted to do was lessen her burdens. I stopped going out as much, and I focused more on my relationship with my mom (which I had been semi-neglecting).
Now, I don't have time to drink on a random Wednesday night. My free time goes to maintaining my friendships with the few friends I have left and spending time with my family.
3. You learn who your true friends are.
When I heard the news, I didn't know what to do or who to tell. I didn't want to text all of my friends because I wasn't asking for a pity party.
With the approval of my mom, I decided to announce what was going on in my life via social media. I didn't want people to think I was ignoring them when I was going through some life-changing events.
The support I immediately received was overwhelming.
Friends I haven't talked to in a few months are now texting me on the daily, asking how my mom and I are doing. Friends are inviting me over for drinks or lunch to help get my mind off of things. Their company and uplifting words mean more to me than they will ever know.
But even more surprising was the lack of texts and calls from people who I felt were closest to me. Dealing with my mom's cancer and my lifestyle changes really taught me who my true friends are, and who my "party" friends are.
Don't stay friends with people who never ask how you're doing.
4. Self-exams are important.
Being told there's about a 50 percent chance you will develop breast cancer is a hard pill to swallow. The only thing I can do now is be proactive about my health and to do monthly, routine self-examinations.
The more you perform self-exams, the more familiar you become with your breasts. My mom discovered her breast cancer via self-check, and I cannot stress how important this simple task is. The National Breast Cancer website offers a great and simple guide for self-exams.
While my mom's battle with breast cancer is far from over, I'm confident I have the strength to help her get through this. My biggest concern before cancer was what my plans for the weekend were, and now my biggest concern is how my mom is feeling.
Dealing with my mom's breast cancer made me adapt to the stressors of life, and it showed me the amazing strength my mom has. It made the self-centered, irresponsible party girl finally grow up.