In the spring of 2012 I lost my mom Judy to breast cancer. After watching her fight for a long, difficult year, I wasn’t sure what my life would look like now that she had left us. I was only 32 and had never dreamed I’d be facing the loss of my mother so young. The idea of facing an entire lifetime without my mother was daunting. It was difficult for me to look towards the future and envision a normal life. I could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that.
My mom was the sun. She illuminated her world with her incomparable joy, generosity and positivity. I would often find my mother creating gift baskets and packages for people that had shown her kindness. She was always the first to express her thanks. My mother was the matriarch and party planner of our family. She brought people together, and ensured everyone had the time of their lives. Judy exuded positivity and hope. Even on her most difficult of days, she found the strength to take care of others- even if it was a phone call to her children offering us a home-cooked meal.
Days before my mother passed away I learned about Miles for Moffitt; a fundraising 5k race event benefiting Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. Although my mother wasn’t treated at this hospital, participating in the race would turn out to be my glimmer of hope in all of the darkness I was facing.
We couldn’t cure her cancer. We couldn’t change the past. But we could run.
The same day I found out about the race, I ran with it. I formed #TeamJudy, recruited family and friends to join and register for the event, and began planning for t-shirts, race day meet-ups and more. My mom was able to know about some of our details, and she was happy so many people had come together in her honor. Although she wasn’t physically with us on race day, her presence was overwhelming. Together, we walked, jogged or ran 3.1 miles- remembering and honoring my mother with each step. Together we crossed the finish line knowing we made a difference. Since that first event, TeamJudy has participated in over 10 races, benefiting cancer research, funding and awareness. We have raised thousands of dollars for organizations like the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, and Moffitt Cancer Center. We have worked tirelessly to do our part to spread the word regarding cancer prevention, hope for those fighting, and support for those who have been affected by cancer in some way.
Every race we run is dedicated to my mom Judy. Every race is run with emotion. Every race is run with the memory of my mother in the forefront of our minds. Every race is run with our hearts filled with hope for a future without cancer.
Forming this team and participating in these races has carved a unique path into my grieving experience. At the time that I formed TeamJudy, I didn’t know how much of an impact it would have on me. Running races with our team has been an incredible form of healing. It has given me a means of turning something incredibly tragic into something immeasurably positive. It has given me purpose and joy. In addition, I have shared my story and my journey with others through another outlet called The Grief to Joy Project. I created this safe space as a way for others who have experienced loss to connect, communicate, and provide support to one another through sharing stories, strategies, and other actions that will lead the way towards healing.
When you lose a loved one, grief can take you into a dark place. It can become a burden and overwhelming sadness. The efforts of TeamJudy and The Grief to Joy Project help us see that we do have purpose after loss, and to help us think through how we find that purpose again.