Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Stories of Hope

Pink PowerI was a stay-at-home mom to 2 beautiful daughters, ages 1 and 3, when a dinner party changed the trajectory of my life. My husband served me the wrong piece of chicken off the grill and that night I started sketching prototypes for my gift idea and grilling innovation known as Grill Charms™.

A few months after that very spicy light bulb moment and right in the middle of all that is involved with starting a company, raising two children and building a grilling gadget empire, my life would change again with a simple yet also very complicated call. “It’s cancer” my doctor said.

My first introduction to Breast Cancer happened at the tender age of 16, when my thirty-something year old mother sat the family down to talk about the terrible disease. My mother had found a lump and after a lumpectomy, biopsies, and further testing it was determined that she did indeed have breast cancer and it had progressed to stage IV. She was told she had 6 months to live. In the months that followed, my parents along with their best friends stayed up nights and weekends trying to figure out how my father, was going to raise his 10, 12 and 16 year old daughters alone.

Fast forward to 2006. I’m 34 years old with two daughters of my own and it was “that time of the year” time to go get my annual mammogram. This was nothing new… after all, in my family, having your mammogram starting at 30 is somewhat of a rite of passage. But this year, something was “different”.

My doctor said “I really don’t think it’s anything, but with YOU, I don’t want to mess around”. A week later they did the needle biopsy and we waited for the results, wondering if this time was going to be THE time. It was. I thought about my own two precious daughters who were 1 and 3 years old and felt so sorry for the genetic legacy that I had potentially left for them.

It was okay though….I was prepared. My mother and mentor showed me years ago how to fight with all the strength, grace and dignity imaginable.

It wasn’t long before the sentinel node biopsy showed that THIS cancer would not kill me. We knew early on that I would not have to make plans for my daughters’ lives without a mother. I think it was during this time that people started thinking I was in denial. Here I was, diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34 with 1 and 3 year old daughters and yet I was truly the happiest women on earth. You mean to tell me, that I have breast cancer and you didn’t give me timeline??!?! Non-Terminal Cancer… what a precious, precious gift I had received.

So you see… I’m no inspiration. At the end of the day, now that it’s all said and done, I’ve got two brand new pieces parts (and let’s face it…. After nursing two babies, they weren’t much to write home about anyway)a bonus tuck and most importantly, I get to live! I’m not writing to you for anything heroic that I have done. I always viewed “those things” as B sized ticking time bombs anyways, so good riddance. I’m writing you for the 527 women who will be diagnosed TODAY. I’m writing you for the 110 women who fought the good fight and will leave this world today. And I’m writing you for the thousands of miracles happening around us. For the women who were given a death sentence and fought with all their hearts because they just refused to believe that they only had 6 months to live. Women like my mother, who is 62 years old today because she didn’t accept the fate that was told to her.

Leslie Haywood, Founder and President, Charmed Life Products LLC

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