I've had a rough week. Work wise, relationships wise, psyche wise. It's just an off week. It happens to all of us. As I sit here and wallow in self pity, I think of Vanessa. Vanessa was a girl who I worked with who turned out to be one of the best friends a person could ever have. She was a tall, beautiful, sweet girl with a heart of gold, and a sharp sense of humor. I'll tell you a little about her.
Vanessa was from a great family growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. When she was little, her parents would have her dance in special events celebrating her Polish heritage. By the time she was grown, this 6 foot tall beauty stood out to everyone who came in her path. She always had a huge smile on her face. She was friendly to every person she met. When she was 22, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Shortly after, she had a double mastectomy to remove the cancer. Unfortunately, by the time they performed the procedure, the cancer has spread to her lung. With lots of chemo and therapy, she went into remission a couple of times. I remember one day I asked her, " How do you stay so happy all the time? Even when you're feeling horrible, you're smiling and asking everyone else how they are? How do you do it?" Her answer, " If I felt sorry for myself everytime I didn't feel well, I'd never get out of bed. Life is way too short to not embrace every second of it." WOW. Her perspective on life was amazing. She wasn't angry with the card she had been dealt, she just rolled with it. She travelled, she went dancing, she played softball, and spent as much time with her friends and family as she could until she couldn't physically do it anymore. In 2009, the cancer had come back and had spread to her brain. She passed away on October 10, 2009, exactly 1 week after her 30 birthday.
Vanessa was a bright ray of sunshine that came into my life. Any time I ever feel really sorry for myself, I think of her and all she went through. And she did it with a smile despite the pain she was enduring. Vanessa inspired me so much and so many others, that I want to share the kind of person she is with people, because I believe in the goodness of people and the power of positive thinking. I won't feel sorry for myself, I'll embrace all the goodness in my life because it really is too short.
This Sunday, I will be participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k walk in honor of Vanessa and all the wonderful women in my life in hopes that one day, no person will ever have to lose someone they care about to this disease. Hug the wonderful women in you life. Scratch that, hug the people who are important to you as much as you can. Love them with your whole heart. Live everyday like it's your last. Tell your parents, kids, family,friends, and pets you love them just because as much as you can. And like V said, "Life is way to short to not embrace every second of it."
I love you Vanessa. I miss you every single day. Thank you for making me a better person for just knowing you.