As some of you may know, my mother Connie Falcigno was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lobular Breast Cancer in October of 2015 and unfortunately, after 18 months, she lost her battle. I was 20 years old when I lost my best friend, and since then my life has been forever changed. This January marks two years without her. Growing up, I knew I was blessed to have such loving parents. I am thankful for everything they did to raise me to be the young woman I am today. But never did I expect to have to say goodbye so early in my life. My mother was the most patient and understanding woman I have ever met, and I’m not just saying that because she was my mom. As a special education teacher, Connie touched the lives of students that many of them have yet to forget. She was loved by her co-workers because of her ambition to help as many kids as possible. She was a sister, mother, and friend who, even in her weakest moments, put others before herself.
Cancer isn’t pretty. The seemingly endless trips to the doctor’s office, hospital procedures, medications, and side effects of treatment took a toll on my mother’s body, but never her spirit. Throughout my mother’s battle, she was determined to beat the horrible disease. I could write pages and pages about how courageous my mother was even when she faced such a terrible situation.
In honour of her I’ve promised myself to be strong in every aspect of my life. A strong athlete, a strong leader, a strong student, and most importantly a strong woman. That doesn’t mean I don’t face weak moments, it just means I do my best to overcome them as quickly as possible. My time here in Ireland thus far has given me the opportunity to embrace all the wonderful things my mother raised me to do. Being a mentor, coach, and inspiration to kids in Limerick is by far one of the most rewarding positions to be in. I’ve already met so many incredible kids that never cease to make me smile.
If my mother can face cancer, I can face basically anything. She may not be on earth, but I feel her spirit in many of the things I do today. She’s the red cardinal sitting outside the window in the middle of winter, she’s the butterfly flying around me in the spring, she’s the warm summer sun, and the beautiful foliage in the autumn. In the moments when I least expect to feel her, I see a sign, and I’m instantly reassured that she is on this journey with me.
Nothing worth having comes easy. Sometimes, the best things come after the hardest struggle; the moments where you almost gave up. Life is full of those up and down moments. Some you may see coming and others may be more of a surprise. But, it’s not always about what happens to you, it’s about how you handle it and continue on afterwards. We are never alone. We may lose someone we love very dearly but they remain within our heart forever. My mother wasn’t in the audience at my college graduation nor will she be in the pews on my wedding day, but I bet her view from heaven is way better than anything we will see down here on Earth.
“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
– Stephen Hawking