I have a large box of memories of Candice stored neatly away in our garage. Amazing memories of two best friends that were loyal, inseparable, told each other everything, never held back, inspired each other, and supported each other in our best and worst moments. I have not been able to bring myself to open that box since the day my best friend told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer exactly 430 days ago. I will never forget that anxiously awaited call from Candice with her biopsy results. The dreaded words “breast cancer” were a far off remote possibility that I hardly thought twice about. Sure, people get breast cancer, but certainly not my best friend who is a young mother to two amazing boys, beautiful, independent, smart, healthy, athletic, vivacious, and amazing. The reality of those words were difficult to comprehend but unfortunately we were forced to try and understand. It is a strange and helpless feeling watching someone so close to you go through cancer and lose the battle. It is difficult to put into words or express how something so tragic, unfair, and horrifying can happen to someone you love so much. It has changed me forever.
For all women reading this, I urge you to schedule yearly examinations and mammograms with your physician. Perform breast examinations monthly and be proactive with your health. Candice did not have cancer in her family and was not positive for the BRCA gene, an inherited gene that is linked to breast cancer. If you take anything away from this article, take action even earlier than the American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection of Breast Cancer recommends, and do not hesitate to see your doctor if you do not feel right. Health is all that matters and once that is taken from you, everything else becomes secondary and insignificant. Please be proactive with your health.
We are constantly hearing of tragic stories online, on the news, through friends, friends of friends, and even family. Sometimes the stories hit home for some more than others, but for me, while the stories made me terribly sad, they always seemed distant from my own life. Tragedy could not possibly happen to me or my loved ones. Watching my closest friend in the world suffer with cancer at such a young age, and so unfairly lose the battle, has made me more realistic, humble and grateful. Unfortunately tragedy does not discriminate, it doesn’t care how young you are, or if you have babies, or you are a wife, or a loving daughter. Tragedy can happen to anyone and we are no exception. Realizing this, I have truly become so much more appreciative of the moments, my family, my friends, and my health. Candice had so many dreams and ambitions tragically taken from her. Do not waste another moment dreaming or wanting something and waiting for a better time. Go for it and do not let fear, circumstances, other people’s opinions, or convenience stop you. Do not waste another moment being unhappy. If you are not happy, do something about it and make a change in your life. Tomorrow is never promised and happiness, passion and love is what is important in life.
Kiss and hug your children, loved ones, friends, and family every day. Tell them how much they mean to you and never take them for granted. At the end of the day, career, status, money, and materials are not important. The people you love are what matter in your day to day life. When you are leaving this world and saying goodbye, they will be holding your hand and calming your fears.
Today is Candice’s birthday and I brought myself to go through the box sitting and staring at me in our garage. Unbelievable memories of an amazing friendship with someone who was truly the best person I have ever known. Young, beautiful, ambitious, smart, funny, the best mother, wife, daughter, and friend. I miss her so much and not a day goes by that I do not think of her or am impacted by her life, her death, and everything she has taught me. Happy Birthday Candice! You are missed and loved by so many, you have changed and impacted so many peoples’ lives, and you continue to inspire me and so many others everyday. I love you Candice.