It’s been a month since I’ve known what I planned to write as my first post of 2020 for Alamo City Moms. Now after spending countless hours ruminating about this article, I’m not sure if I can put it all into words.
Or should I say, the perfect words.
In September, I took a step back from a lot of things. There was far too much on my plate. Every day was a mixture of family obligations, the kids’ schoolwork, extracurriculars, the impending holidays, and missed deadlines. For good measure, let’s throw in a nice, tenacious respiratory virus that would not leave, and my cup runneth over—and not in a good way.
Plenty of days I couldn’t string too many intelligent sentences together and I (probably) drank far too much coffee (if there is such a thing).
It all came to a head the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when I got a text from my best friend about a young woman we both knew who’d passed away: Brittany Crosby.
Last year I had the great fortune to meet Brittany when we were each asked to attend the Not On My Watch Ovarian Cancer: Call for a Change in Ovarian Cancer Care Summit in Boston.
Brittany came to the table as an ovarian cancer patient who was fighting this disease for the second time. I attended as a caregiver. Both of us advocated for women’s health and education.
A couple of years before she was diagnosed, Brittany became a Beach Body coach. She told me that without her putting her health first when she did, she wouldn’t have been able to fight the cancer as well or as long as she had.
Like so many women, it took months to discover the cause of her symptoms, and by the time doctors realized what it was, the cancer had done a lot of damage. Brittany wanted to increase awareness for anyone else trying to find answers.
For the entire day, we, along with two dozen other women, including actress Cobie Smulders, who’s an ovarian cancer survivor, brainstormed ways to improve education and awareness of the signs and symptoms as well as treatment options.
We learned of the new social media campaign and teaching tools we could take back with us to help bring solid information to the women in our communities.
Since then, we’d followed each other on social media.
I have to tell you, reading Brittany’s posts about her days, her ups and downs, how she’d often work out despite feeling horrible or have little endurance, often gave me the push I needed on days when being a mom of four smothered me.
Graciously, she documented her adventures with her husband, Rees, and their pups as they drove around the country in their custom van or simply stayed home and enjoyed the calmer, more precious moments.
She posted photos of her hiking, biking, and exercising. Dancing at weddings, and her signature peace sign when standing with her Beach Body tribe. With her physicians and while receiving cancer treatments. Of her surgical scars. On her good days and her awful ones. With her friends, her family, her dog, her Rees. Even a photo with them holding VIP passes at the Ellen Show.
Her moments were honest, funny, heartbreaking, and inspiring, but why would I have expected anything less from a self-professed Ovarian Cancer Slayer and Faith-Based Joy Finder?
And in all of those pictures, she had this wonderfully raw emotion we could all relate to. I can’t tell you how often her smiling face would put a smile on mine, even when I knew she had to be hurting, physically and emotionally.
When she posted about wanting to write a book, I sent her a private message and offered to help. We messaged briefly, and she commented she hadn’t read mine yet. I sent her a set of my medical romance series, and she messaged me when they arrived, super excited to read them.
And despite the chemo medications, her physical frustrations, her emotional exhaustion, and the bad news she kept receiving in those last few weeks, her posts never wavered from being anything but authentically her: a joyously honest and humorous entry of her life as she lived it—with love, faith, and purpose.
Oftentimes, her words would be the kick in the butt I needed to put aside my not-world problems and deal appropriately.
I know she posted as a way to help her navigate this journey she’d been on. A way to keep so many who cared about her in the know without having to explain it a thousand times a day. To get the many words that tumbled in her brain, out for the world to read as she hoped her journey fighting that disease would inspire and encourage anyone else fighting as well.
Not only did she have great stories, she had several great mantras. The one I loved the most was simple: live life on purpose.
And she did, for thirty years—passionately, truthfully, lovingly.
Why would I write about her end when we’re beginning a new year?
Because it’s not her end, but a different part of the journey she encouraged us all to keep taking.
Live life on purpose.
We can all feel smothered by all the things we have to do: jobs, family, laundry (so much laundry), but what can we each do to live on purpose?
It’s not just taking care of the people around you, but also prioritizing yourself.
As we roll into 2020 with goals of better organization or health or promises to not buy any more books (ha!) until we finish the ones we have (again, funny), we owe it to ourselves to know what brings each of us joy, peace, and/or enlightenment every day and in the long run.
Find the purpose that puts a smile on your face, a skip in your walk, and joy in your heart.
Happy 2020 to all of you!