Lesson Learned: Here’s to you Suzie!

Many of you have heard me speak over the last week about a woman who will always hold a special place in my heart.

Suzie, a sweet momma of 2 amazing boys and a dear friend of my family, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer over 11 and a half years ago. She was told at the time that she had only 2 years to live, but she refused to take that for an answer.

She fought. And she fought hard.

This woman taught me the definition of true strength. She defied all odds, overcame every obstacle, and was the most courageous woman I have ever met. If she didn’t tell you about her diagnosis, you would have NEVER known she had anything going on…she didn’t let cancer control her life one bit…

I could call her as she was walking out of chemotherapy and she would answer the phone with so much energy telling me how great her day was going…and it wasn’t a lie, she meant it. She lived every single day of her life to the fullest and was an absolute blessing to everyone she crossed paths with.

But a couple of weeks ago, my heart was completely shattered.

Despite having fought like hell since day 1, Suzie gained her precious (and well-deserved) angel wings on February 7th.

As I sat back and reflected on the value I wanted to share with you guys, my tribe, this week, I was quickly overcome with the love I feel for this incredible woman. I really thought it would only be appropriate to dedicate this week to sharing her beautiful soul with you.

THIS is the value that I need to share and what you deserve to hear. So here are some of the MANY lessons I have learned from her throughout my short 20-something years with her:

Find gratitude in everything, no matter how small it may seem.

The sunrise, your kids’ voices (even when they’re annoying), the water you drink, etc. I am grateful for silly shopping trips with Suzie, running into diamond stores and trying on every single diamond ring, late night snuggles and TV when I was younger, the smiles we pulled out of Suz when she was in hospice, and the conversation we were able to have hours before she passed away. Those are moments I never knew were going to be as special as they are to me now, and you never know when they’ll be special to you later on either. Treasure each and every precious moment.

No matter how crazy life gets, find time to love yourself. Do the things that fill you up.

We are never promised anything other than this current moment so make sure you are doing the things that feel good to you and fill you up inside. It is so easy to want to care for everyone else and make sure they have everything they need, but it is equally, if not more important, that we do this for ourselves FIRST.

Suzie was the perfect example of this. She was an unbelievable mom to her 2 amazing boys and did everything for them. They were her life. But she knew that no matter what, she could not be a good mom if she didn’t go to her weekly chemo appointments (and throw in some extra special time at the mall afterwards for some retail therapy because obviously)!

If you set your mind to something, nothing can stop you. NOTHING.

Even when all the cards are stacked against you, YOU have the ability to determine the direction of your life. Suzie was given 2 years to live, and she fought for almost 12 years. That’s one hell of determination if you ask me.

Never give up. EVER. Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.

The world will absolutely, 100% throw obstacles your way. That is a fact. So what are YOU going to choose to do with them?

Suzie couldn’t have had more things stacked against her (more than just her cancer diagnosis which sucked in and of itself), but she STILL fought like HELL every single day with a beautiful smile on her face! Never once did she sit on the sidelines saying “woe is me” or tried to throw a pity party for herself.

Nope. Not a chance. She wasn’t going to let ANYTHING get in her way!

YOU choose the things that define you. If you are a proud momma, OWN IT. If you are an athlete, ROCK IT. But nothing defines you unless you allow it to.

Suzie was diagnosed with cancer but that did not become her identity. She did what she needed to for 11.5 years to keep herself as healthy as possible, and she lived her life every day as Suzie…not as a sick woman who was battling cancer.

Suzie didn’t want her cancer to define her SO MUCH SO that there were times when she had treatments and didn’t tell anyone (other than her select few)! It wasn’t that she was hiding anything, it was simply that those moments in her life didn’t make her who she was. Suzie was defined by her strength, her pride in her role as as a momma, her loving nature, and her kind, pure heart.

THAT’S who Suzie will always be to us.

Ask for exactly what you need. This is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it is a sign of strength.

There are times in your life that will be easy and you just need a friend to share your joys with. There will also be times in your life when you feel like the world is crumbling beneath you…reach out to your loved ones for support.

Ask for a loving hug. Ask to sit with someone for some time in complete stillness. Go on a movie date with a girlfriend when you just need to laugh. You’ll be amazed at how your community rises to the occasion when you need them.

No matter what life throws your way, YOU get to decide what you do with it.

When Suzie was diagnosed, she didn’t throw herself a pity party. She grieved for about 5 minutes and then picked herself up by her bootstraps and got back to doing what she needed to do.

Nothing can dim your light unless you allow it.

Everyone has amazing, unique gifts; we deserve to show them to the world! Nothing can stand in the way of this unless we allow it to.

Always take care of yourself first.

Suzie would always get upset to see someone she loved not taking care of their health. She would say, “I can’t help what is going on with me, but if you can do anything for your overall health, do it. To do it later may be too late,”. This is gold – you can’t come back years later when things are already too far gone and try to remedy what’s happening to you. Fix it now and take care of yourself first and foremost!

Don’t ever live in fear.

There’s so much that happens in our lives that we cannot control. When we focus on these things, or try to control them, it brings up anxiety which ultimately brings up that nasty F word: fear.

Take a step back. Focus on the things that you can change. And have faith that everything will happen exactly the way it needs to.

When life gives you cannoli’s, just eat the filling!

Seriously, who needs the shell? Just grab a spoon and scoop all the yummy filling out! It’s delicious this way! (Suzie and I may have done this a time or two or twelveteen…) It just means that you can’t take life so seriously, so enjoy the good parts (like really really enjoy them)!

You never need a reason to eat sushi and frozen yogurt.

When I was younger, my parents lived down the street from a shopping plaza with an amazing sushi restaurant and a yummy yogurt place. Suzie would bring her boys for dinner, and all she had to do was call and we would meet them there every time. No explanation needed.

Great food. Amazing company. It was always so much fun!

I’ve learned a lot from Suzie during my lifetime, but she taught me the most in the last 12 years. My heart is shattered that she is gone, and sometimes I am angry that she had to be taken from us way too soon. But her purpose was to teach me (and others) these amazing lessons, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Today, hug your loved ones a little tighter. And then repeat it as much as possible.