Hope, Strength and Inspiration

October 10, 2015
By 2016 Colondar Model Lauren Miller   I recently found out my coworker is having preventive surgery for breast cancer. She is a 5-year
breast cancer survivor and had the genetic testing done. It was confirmed that she has BRCA-1
gene. Because of this, she is also getting a partial hysterectomy in December to remove her
fallopian tubes. She will then get double mastectomy in March. What struck me as surreal was
that she is 52 years old, and came to me for advice and consoling. And I, at the age of 33, was
able to offer both to her. I explained how she and I both had mutated genes, making us true X-
Men, and how we should act as the super heroes that those genes make us to be. Living life as
best as we can, and being proactive and preventative with our health. She further asked about my
genetic testing and what I had to do for further prevention. I told her I would have to make the
decision regarding a hysterectomy by the age of 40, earlier if I decide to not have kids, due to
having Lynch Syndrome. Upon hearing this, her eyes filled with tears. She shook her head and
said, “Lauren, it’s not fair. You are so young and beautiful.” To which I simply smiled, choked back
my tears, and told her we both had a lot more living to do.
A few days later, I was helping a 12-year-old student with a writing assignment in which they had
to write a six-word memoir and select a picture to go along with it. When I was helping the student
plan his assignments at the end of the day, he showed me the draft of the words he wrote.
“Losing my mom made life hard.” I told him that was a great six-word memoir and he would easily
find a picture for it. He gave me a half smile, mumbled “yeah,” and closed the journal. I told him I
was glad he shared that with me, and I thought he would do well on the assignment. I stayed
strong, smiling at him, and continuing on with what we were doing. Acting as though what just
transpired did not affect me whatsoever. We packed up his materials and I waved goodbye as he
left for the school day. I barely got back to my desk before the tears came flooding out. His
mother passed away from breast cancer in November 2014. I had immediate thoughts of my own
mother’s cancer diagnosis when I was 12 years old.
Later that night, in the quiet of my home, it hit me to how my survival, my youth, and my strength
can inspire and support other people, no matter the age. But it is also emotionally hard on me to
realize my experience has not been easy and in just minutes I can relive those emotions at full
strength. I cried pretty hard that night at home, in the comfort of my own thoughts and feelings
about being a cancer survivor.
What I often don’t admit is just how emotionally taxing it is for me to be strong, to be told I’m
young, and full of hope for others. It feels weighty to me somehow. As though it is not something I
necessarily want to have. To be in a position as a cancer survivor at a young age is not what I
ever thought I would count as an achievement or something I would be proud of. But to those
around me, that is exactly what it is. I am a cancer survivor. I have beaten the odds.
I have often told people that the reason I survived was to inspire and help others. Maybe it is the
teacher in me, or the fact that I genuinely feel better about myself when I am able to be there for
other people. I probably say this as more of a gentle reminder to myself that I am alive and should
be grateful. But to help someone that is older than me, well, it is quite mind-blowing to me. Let
alone so easily relate to a 12-year-old boy. My co-worker has lived longer, is married, with two
teenage children, and has worked for many more years than me. I was raised to respect my
elders, listen to their wisdom, and heed their advice. But she sought me out because I can relate
to her concerns. And my student will never experience his mother’s love beyond the age of 11,
but I can certainly show him the strength she had and offer a comforting smile. I know cancer
knows no age, but what I didn’t realize until then was that every survivor’s story, no matter the
age, could inspire anyone facing similar battles.
I am aware of myself as a walking, talking, and physical existence of hope, strength, and
inspiration. I am sure more than ever after these recent interactions with both older and young
people in my life that I did survive for a reason. To continue to exist in such a way that hopefully