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"Remember, big girls don't cry." That was the last sentence I heard Lourdes' weak voice mumble through my sobs and sniffles. It was 1988, I was six years old, and little did I know that this once routine goodbye would be the last time I saw her. Just a year earlier she had been diagnosed with breast cancer; she was 30 years old.

For a single mother of two young daughters living in her mother's home, the news could not have been more devastating, and in her case, too late. With the benefits of early detection forgone she underwent a mastectomy. Several rounds of chemotherapy followed along with new hairstyles in the form of several short shag wigs. She tried desperately to retain a semblance of normalcy and to keep her little girls oblivious to the disease that was consuming her young life.

The ignorance of youth blessed me with only the best memories of my mother but, I remain haunted with tragic memories of the disease that claimed her life. As I grew older, my intense curiosity about this deadly killer was driven by a passion to help fix where I felt wronged. I have become a missionary against this disease; educating friends on early detection and awareness, telling my story to whomever will listen. To prevent another child from having to pick out their mother's tombstone instead of shopping for prom dresses together I have dedicated my life to cancer awareness.

As I tried to wipe the flowing tears from my eyes that day, I realized my mother's fight was not over; it had just begun within me. The most arduous experiences can create the greatest rewards as I hope that my passion for her life will give hope to others and perhaps save the life of another.

Orlando, FL

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