I celebrated my 29th birthday on Sunday, May 3rd knowing that on Friday of that same week I would be sitting in a hospital waiting room preparing to undergo a double mastectomy (not really something I have on my 30 before 30 list).
Anyone who knows me knows how close I was to my grandmother or as my brother and I called her “Granna Montana.” My grandmother was present for every major event in my life and she was always the first person I would call when I had something going on, whether it was good or bad.
The hardest part about preparing for surgery was not being able to go sit with her and lay across her bed while she told me everything was going to be fine.
The excitement of my birthday quickly faded when I realized just how close I was to a surgery that would change everything. The week of my surgery was rough, mentally.
The day before my surgery I decided to do something that I normally wouldn’t have done. I woke up early that morning and drove out to her grave site. I had only been out there one other time and I cried the whole time and had to go back to the car.
Today, I just needed to feel close to her. I’ve always thought it was crazy when I would see movies showing people visiting graves and talking to their deceased loved ones, but today I was one of those people.
My eyes stung with tears and my stomach tightened the closer I got to my destination. By the time I pulled into the parking lot I was wiping tears from my eyes.
I finally built up the nerve to get out of the car. I walked up the stairs and looked at all the lines of tombstones. Images of the large tent and family members that filled this same grave yard 2 years ago flashed through my head. It didn’t take long for me to find it.
I took a deep breath and kneeled down by her tombstone before tracing the letters with my finger. It still didn’t feel real, but reading her name on the tombstone was a harsh reminder that she was gone. Tears raced down my cheeks as I just stared at her name.
“I’m scared. I wish you were here,” is all I could manage to whisper in between tears. I closed my eyes for a few minutes before finally getting up and walking back to my car.
I sat in the church parking lot for a few minutes and cried and prayed (and cried some more).
What I wouldn’t give to have just 5 minutes with my grandmother, to have her give me one of those reassuring pats on the hand.
I could hear her saying “Chile, you’ll be alright,” while nodding before looking me in my eyes and saying, “you already know that don’t you Monita.” I laughed and wiped away tears thinking about all the things she would be saying if she were here.
Even though I knew she wouldn’t physically be with me at the hospital, I knew she would be there. I had prayed, talked to Granna and now I was ready.
I was ready to say goodbye to the “girls”
I've always believed that we tend to be the most effective in areas where we have been the most affected. It's often our deepest pains that draw us closer to our purpose. Those words never really hit home until I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 28. I had watched both my mother and grandmother battle the disease, but never thought I would find myself in the same battle, especially not so young. I've learned through this journey that it's not what you go through, but how you go through it. I wanted to share my story in hopes that it will inspire someone to keep fighting, keep the faith and live on purpose.