One year ago today, I found out that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my life changed.
My main priority at that point in my life, advancing my career, fell by the wayside and felt insignificant when faced with the news that my mother was sick.
My immediate thought when she told me, sitting on my couch in Buffalo, was to move home – but I knew better than to make that large a decision on an impulsive and emotional feeling.
So, I started to look into my options and learned about the Family Medical Leave Act.
It was eerie timing, as you need to have worked at your employer for at least one full year before being eligible to apply and my one year anniversary at The Buffalo News happened to hit about a week before.
I decided to take advantage of the FMLA in order to go to New York for my mother’s chemotherapy treatments.
My decision meant hopping on a plane every 10-15 days to travel between cities. It meant racking up a lot of Jet Blue points. It meant asking my dad and friends for favors to help get me home from the airport. It meant being on my mother like a drill sergeant to stay hydrated. It meant taking a lot of trips to Red Mango since frozen yogurt was one of the few things she could stomach.
…it was the hardest and best decision I’ve ever made in my life because it meant that I got to see my mom through it all.
Throughout my 6 months of living out of a suitcase, I got to see both of my parents in an entirely new light.
My dad was the most flexible and understanding father anyone could hope for.
Sometimes divorced or separated parents can put pressure on their children as to where they spend their time; mine never have.
My dad had no problem with being my chauffeur. He didn’t mind traveling to my mom’s to pick me up to take me to the airport; and it didn’t even phase him that we only got to see each other during those trips to JFK – he was just happy to have the time with me.
My dad only supported and encouraged me to follow my heart and do whatever I felt was best.
What I felt was best was being there to take care of my mom throughout her treatment.
What became evident early on was that there’s no stopping the force that is Donna Jornsay; she didn’t need anyone to take care of her, but I did my best.
My mom showed me what a warrior she is throughout the process.
Even as she continues to deal with the curve-balls thrown her way, she handles them with bravery and grace.
My mother’s diagnosis helped me realize what my priorities really are, and as a result I am a different person than I was one year ago.
Through the past year, I have not only conquered my fear of flying but have learned what is really important in life: family, health and happiness.