This past weekend my eldest daughter, Stephanie, graduated from high school. Along with her high school leaving diploma, she received two awards; one for math and the other for overall most improved student.
Stephanie was 12 years old when I was struck by breast cancer. I had my double mastectomies one month before she started eighth grade. Not only is this an emotionally tough time at school, it's also a hard age to have a parent that is so sick.
My daughter's eighth and ninth grades were spent in a bit of an emotional spiral. There were many days that she dragged her body to school, and her overall average was on a downturn. At the same time I was recovering from major surgery, and starting eight rounds of chemotherapy.
In many ways it was, like the old saying goes, the best of times and the worst of times.
Stephanie started running with me back then. Being younger, she and I ran many a 5k together, listening to our own music, but also talking about everything and nothing. Her running became sporadic when I was undergoing chemotherapy, and she started to gain weight.
Her studies became increasingly important as she moved into the senior grades of high school, and she found herself facing of one of the first forks on her road of life. And she had to make a decision; let life's curve balls get her down, or summon her inner strength and bravely change her ways.
I would like to think that the strength I found to fight my own battle proved to be the life example on which she based her own action. I can't do that, however, because that would take away from the incredible perseverance and willpower she displayed over the past two years.
You see when someone stands facing that fork in the road of life, they are alone. We stand there as an individual. Although we may have some inspiration from those around us, the decision on which road to take is ours alone.
And just as I made the decision to be positive and beat breast cancer, Stephanie decided to believe in herself as a student, and her talents in academics. She also started to make healthy choices for her body and mind. She reacquainted herself with the joy of running and made sane choices in food. In doing so, her overall academic average went way up, and the numbers on the bathroom scale went way down.
And I couldn't be prouder. As I sat there in the audience during her graduation exercises, it was evident that her perseverance paid off. As a mother I know all too well the energy and effort it would have taken for her to get back on track. She may not appreciate the magnitude of what she accomplished now, but with time she will realize it more and more.
So go ahead and decide you will be successful in whatever your heart desires. With a little willpower and perseverance each one of us can accomplish our vision for life. The strength and light only has to summoned from within.
And to my daughter, Stephanie, I love you so much. You have a brilliant future!