4 Life Lessons from My Mom’s Battle With Breast Cancer

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4 life lessons from my mom’s battle with breast cancer

Wednesday, November 26, 2014    Ariana Kukors

I grew up in a “normal” family. We had packed schedules of activities, plenty of free time to stretch our imaginations and family dinner every night. Things such as cancer or the Olympics surely wouldn’t happen to people like us … or so we thought.

As time went on, my family and I ended up facing things we hadn’t predicted and didn’t always know how to live with. But thanks to those experiences, and my mom’s infinite wisdom, I picked up some lessons I will never forget.

Lesson 1: Sometimes in life, you will be alone, scared and helpless … and that’s OK.

It was a snow day in December of 2001. Our mom called us inside for lunch, and we giggled as we piled her arms with jackets, gloves, scarves and hats. It was always such fun to run into our warm, cozy home. My sisters and I knew something was wrong when my mom called us into her room, where she proceeded to tell us she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the months that would follow, we watched as our Energizer bunny supermom found it difficult getting off the couch, too tired and weak from her radiation treatments. But even through her struggle, she had time to reassure us: Life will get tough. It’s OK to fall. It’s OK to fail.

Just don’t stay down for long.

Lesson 2: Your true character shines brightest in moments of triumph and defeat. Are you who your mom raised you to be?

Little did our mom know, but this lesson would be the one tested most often in her daughters’ athletic careers. Something about competition challenged our characters and threatened to change them.

Throughout our mom’s battle with breast cancer, she taught us that nothing in life is guaranteed. Each and every day, life will throw you opportunities for growth disguised as challenges and success. Will you show others grace? Will you show yourself grace?

Lesson 3: Everyone has their own Olympics.

I was 12 when I told my mom I wanted to be an Olympian. She raised three daughters who all competed in Division I swimming programs — and she didn’t know how to swim. In 2001, she decided to change that. She went to adult swim class at 10 a.m., and three hours later she went to radiation treatment. The pool became her happy place, her Olympics.

Some people want to cure cancer, some want to raise a family, others hope to graduate from college. What is your Olympics?

Lesson 4: Circumstances do not define us. WE define US.

Everyone in my family, my mom included, is extremely thankful that she survived cancer. But that is not what defines her. Her list of accolades includes her three mermaids, her triathlon trophies and her unbelievable speed up Mt. Si in North Bend, WA. My mom taught me to never set a limit on myself or to let others impose them on me. So although swimming has been a serious part of my life for about two decades, I am not “a swimmer.” I am a PERSON who swims.

Each day we wake up, we have the opportunity to be grateful, kind and extraordinary. We cannot predict the future. But we can do everything in our power to write our own story and define our own truths.

Ariana Kukors is an Olympic swimmer, world-record holder and Pacific Northwest native who is working with LifeWise to promote healthy living. Follow along on her journey to live an active and healthy life.


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