I remember exactly how I felt 3 years ago when I was about to turn 35. I remember dreading it. Dreading that I was about to enter into my mid-late 30s. I felt old. I felt out of shape. I thought turning 35 was the worst thing to happen. I could tell I was aging, and the appearance of more gray hair wasn't helping matters. I sure didn't carry around much thought about my health in a positive light.
Just when I was full blow into my fear of turning 35, my friend Megan's cancer returned. She was told she was going to die. She was a wife, friend, daughter, and mother to two very young daughters.
Megan passed away April 24, 2010 at the age of 34. Megan never reached age 35. I will never forget some of the conversations we had those last few months of her life. This sorta thing changes a person. I had to decide how it was going to change me. And I did.
Turning 35 became the greatest blessing in the world to me. I was beyond grateful on April 16th when I could proudly say I turned 35. I was thankful. My family was thankful. I took the next couple of months to try to grasp what had happened, attend her funeral and mourn.
By that July, I had decided to stop drinking Diet Coke. Period. I detoxed off caffeine and alcohol of any kind for 4 weeks plus. I got blood testing done. It was then I realized my cholesterol was elevated. I had been eating a low-fat diet rich in chemicals and had shown no signs of weight loss. I felt defeated AND empowered, all in the same moment. I knew I was still left on this Earth for a purpose. That day was a gift and from that moment on I made changes. Lots of changes. I promised myself I would get educated on health and live life the best I knew how.
Two weeks prior to Megan's passing the foundation was founded: Megan S Ott Foundation. (Yes, she was THAT awesome to be dedicated to helping others, even knowing she was in her last weeks on this Earth.)
I am on the board and each January I get together with her parents, her sister and other board members and we begin the process of prepping for an annual fundraiser in her honor in May. It's tough for me to let those emotions flood back in each January as I see her family, but Megan is worth it. Her death and battle is the reason I am where I am today. The foundation has touched so many people's lives that are battling Breast Cancer. We raised $84,000 last year at this one event.
This time of year is full of emotions for me (and anxiety). We have the fundraiser. We have my birthday. We have the annual reminder of Megan's passing. We have the annual Breast Cancer Walk which I walk in honor of her.
In the midst of all of this, I can only stay focused on the positive things in my life. The blessings of each new day. The choice to make better choices. The choice to help others. Eating clean isn't all about what you eat, it's about realizing that being healthy has many different levels. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.
As I reflect back lately on where I was in the months leading up to age 35, I often stop and count my blessings. I wasn't in a good place back then. I am forever grateful to myself. I am forever grateful I knew I was worth it. I can now look back with no regrets. I feel confident in the direction my life is headed. I feel younger. I feel full of life and passion. I feel empowered. I sure the heck don't feel like I am about to turn 38 (that's a fabulous feeling).
I can't say I will never be sickened with cancer. BUT, I can say I am giving it my all to avoid it. Giving it your all is really all you can do on this ride called LIFE!
Enjoy your day. It's a gift. I continue to live everyday the best I can. And the countdown is on until I turn 38! What a blessing that will be.
"....As I tell people, I'm dying. I don't know if it is all the drugs they had me on, but I did not sugar coat this when I told people. Well, that is still true, I am going to die, but until then I am living. I'm not exactly sure how much time I have left, so I will just live everyday that I have as best I can."
-Megan (March 21st, 2010)