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Alyssa B.

My family is insanely close. We are lucky enough to genuinely enjoy each other's company. We look forward to holidays and get togethers because they're always filled with loud, and usually inappropriate, laughter.

Those that know my mom and her two sisters know that they are the best of friends. They did everything together. Every event of my siblings or cousins lives has included the "cackle" (this is what we call the sound of the women in my family laughing after a few glasses of sangria). I can't remember a family event that didn't include my entire crazy family.

In August 2018 my Aunt Danielle was running/walking miles at a time and doing boot camp three days a week. Everything changed in an instant. Danielle was completely healthy until she wasn't. On August 30, 2018 my aunt went from totally healthy to diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer after never having smoked a day in her life. She found her cancer when it had started throwing clots and she ended up hospitalized from the blood clots. She received immunotherapy treatments for a little under three months. On December 8, 2018 she lost her battle.

My Aunt Danielle was vivacious and beautiful. More than anything, she was kind. She absolutely loved her babies. Her 14 year-old son, Mason was her best buddy in the whole world. Those two did everything together.

Our hearts are broken.

I'm trying to learn something from this tragedy. Here's what I've come up with so far:

Get dressed up. Take time to get your nails and hair done. Rock that bright pink lipstick. Go buy that fancy trashcan. Drink the sangria. Life's too short to be anything but happy.

Laugh with your loved ones whenever you can. Take the pictures. Give the hugs. Say I love you. The ones that mean the world to us can be taken in an instant.

A few weeks ago I didn't even want to do this walk because I am so heartbroken when I think of how we lost my aunt so quickly. Reluctantly, I let my Mom register me for Team Danielle.

Here I am a few days later and I have taken this opportunity to spread awareness about lung cancer. Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women. I am a woman and I even teach science, shouldn't I have known that? I want to take this platform and run with it, literally. If one person notices a change in their breathing so that they are able to catch their cancer in time to save their life then it will be worth it. If the money this walk raises can help people find a way to detect cancer sooner, it will be worth it. Let's do this!

First published: September 9, 2019

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