Friday, June 25, 2010

My Journey as Mrs. Massachusetts International 2010

As I prepare to leave for Chicago to compete in the Mrs. International Pageant, I reflect on my time as Mrs. Massachusetts International 2010, and cannot believe the journey that I have had. I have come a long way since being crowned in October, and I am so thankful for the opportunity. After not having been involved in pageantry since 1994, I decided to compete again eight weeks after my daughter was born as a means of motivation to get back into shape. The first pageant was a learning experience and I realized that I wanted to do more then just compete to get back in shape, I wanted to stand up for a passion very near and dear to my heart. In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, and unfortunately in 2007, she lost her battle with this disease. Two years after losing her, I felt that I needed to share her story and show people how important awareness and early detection are. You see, I experienced two sides of cancer with my mother. In 1990, she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and was a survivor after surgery due to early detection. She lived so many years of celebrating life, birthdays, traveling, etc, until that July in 2006 when she, my dad, and I heard the words "You have breast cancer". Those words changed our lives forever. My mother was the strongest women I ever knew. Something that many people don't know is that my parents came to the United States in 1969 from Poland and Czechoslovakia with nothing but themselves and a few personal belongings. From that point on, they learned the English language, found jobs, started a family, and became US citizens. If that doesn't exemplify strength, nothing else does. As she fought this battle with breast cancer, I knew that our time was limited, and when she passed in November of 2007, I realized there would be so many things that she would miss out on in my life. Because she was so ill at the time, she never got to meet my boyfriend at the time, Rob, who in December became my Fiance, and in September of 2008 became my husband. She would never meet my beautiful daughter Sierra. Having gone through this loss and not being able to share these monumental milestones in life with her, made me want to fight to make a difference so that no other family has to experience the loss and saddness that we did without my mom. Awareness and early detection are the most critical factors in helping someone diagnosed with breast cancer conquer this disease. We are making leaps in research and our death rates have been decreasing since 1990 because people are aware, screening, and treatments are getting better each day.

I started my reign by making introductions of who I was and what my platform was and asking to volunteer wherever I could. Little did I know the doors about to open up to me. I was welcomed by Lowell General Hospital and asked to become their Honorary Chairperson for TeamWalk for CancerCare. I was asked to speak at several Relay for Life events with the American Cancer Society. I raised funds for LGH TeamWalk for CancerCare, Susan G. Komen, Avon Breast Cancer, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association to name a few. I participated in a Polar Plunge to raise funds for cancer and I also dug a master sewer trench and learned to use table saws and a nail gun to put down hardwood floors and baseboards at a house for Habitat for Humanity. At work I coordinated fundraisers which also provided educational sessions for breast cancer and also heart health for my fellow employees. I have traveled my state sharing my mother's story as well as mine and have learned so many new things with regards to breast cancer awareness, prevention, heart health, and working in my community. The confidence I have gained is amazing. When I spoke at my first Relay for Life Kick-off, I could barely get through my story without my voice quivering and tears rolling down my face, now I share the story with a smile and strength as I know I am making my mother proud and making a difference. This has not only been a rewarding journey, but also therapeutic one in a sense knowing that I am not the only daughter that has gone through this with the people who have shared their stories back with me and said thank you for coming out to share mine with them.
I want to thank Lowell General Hospital's Andrea Jackson, Ellen Kallman, Meg Lemire, and so many others for welcoming me into their organization and helping me spread my word. To Kevin Campbell, Helen Sullivan, Beverly Siebert, and all the other Surivors and Patient Families, you have filled my heart with hope and inspiration with all you do to remember your loved ones and for your survivorship. To Lisa Einstein at the American Heart Association who shared with me ideas on how to better my life with heart health as well as sharing knowledge that helped me earlier this year when my father was going through heart related issues, I thank you so much! To the American Cancer Society who has amazing programs for cancer patients and their families, thank you for putting together the most amazing event, The Relay for Life. To my Relay for Life Team, Queens for Relay, I thank you so much for all your hard work to raise funds and help our team come in second place for fundraising! The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition is an amazing organization that focuses on PREVENTION of breast cancer, I am so proud that you are an organization in my home state educating our residents on how to prevent breast cancer. The New England Coaltion for Cancer Survivorship which helps patients after they have fought the battle of their life and helps them in their new journey in life as Survivors. To the Chelmsford Rotary Club and the Town of Chelmsford for including me in your events and making me so proud of the town I live in! A new opportunity that came my way was winning a contest to be a Mommy Blogger with the Merrimack Valley Moms! I've always had a passion for writing, and this is an amazing opportunity to share and learn through writing on life as a mom.

I will be off on a jet plane to meet some of the most amazing women at the Mrs. International Pageant on July 13. Facebook has been such an amazing tool for us to create friendships well in advance. I am so looking forward to meeting my new friends Feryl, Cydney, Deanna, Julie, Shannon, Shana, Anita, Jennifer(s), Toni, Bernadette, Elaine, Nancy-Ellen, Cynthia, Heather, Remy! You have all been so supportive and encouraging to me, and I cannot wait to finally meet you! Being an only child, I feel like I have lots of sisters now! To all the other ladies that I will meet, it will be an incredible time, and I know that the Class of 2010 will produce the most amazing Mrs. International ever! Mary Richardson, thank you for choosing me as your Mrs. Massachusetts, your support, and belief in me. You have an amazing organization that supports women to be the best that they can be and to help them promote what is nearest and dearest to their hearts in their platforms and their families.
Thank you to my husband Rob, my daughter Sierra, my father, and all my family and friends! Your support and belief in me means more then you will ever know, and I could not have done this without you! Because of you and this experience, I am a better wife, mother, and person. Life is a gift, and each day needs to be cherished as if there is no tomorrow!

Thank you all for being a part of my life and I hope to make everyone proud as Mrs. Massachusetts at the Mrs. International Pageant and beyond!

Mom, I know that you are looking down on me and you have guided me down this path in life. Thank you for teaching me to be a strong woman and laying the foundation for me to be the mom that I am to Sierra! You are always in my heart and I know that you will be on that Mrs. International stage with me, in that dress that you chose for me so many years ago saying "Maybe someday when you get married and compete in a Mrs. Pageant, you can wear this!" That day has come and I know I will feel beautiful and have you right there with me! I miss you and love you!

Chicago, here I come, and I know "Tonight's Going to be a Good Night!"

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