Please note that this blog discusses life and death and living each moment to it’s fullest.

How much time in a given day do you spend thinking in the future or in the past or about something you see as an intrinsic, undeniable flaw in yourself?

“What if I failed the test?”

“I’ll never be fast enough to make the track team.”

“I’m too fat.” or  “If only I was skinnier.” or “I’ll be happy when I drop those 5 lbs.”

We all know the list is endless, you can change the words around a little and we can fill in the blank with almost anything, skinny, stupid, short, tall, smart.  The translation boils down to I’m not enough, I’m less than, I’m broken, I’m flawed.

When we buy into that idea we try to fix ourselves.  How much time and money do you spend in a day trying to be someone or something else?   When you are all done, do you still think, If only….?  I thought so.

A long time ago I realized that I was living my life in the  world of “If Only” and “I’ll Be Happy When”.  It struck me that with that perception, I’d likely never attain happiness.  It was my epiphany. I only have this moment in which to act, think, feel, in essence to choose to be happy. I finally understood what that really meant.

While I may have had an epiphany, and I’ve learned to gentle with myself, to even love myself, I still find myself unexpectedly visiting If Only now and again. Maybe I arrive in the morning when I’m looking into the mirror, transported by thoughts like “If only my skin were a little smoother”. Or maybe they take me there when I’m at the pool.  “If my stomach were  flatter, I wouldn’t complain,” and “If only I were a little younger I could easily find a job!”

Sometimes I think that I’m simply “doing” in my life instead of actually living my life.  I get these nagging feelings that I’m still too caught up in the “day to day” while missing the moments that become the lifetime. Bogged down with insecurities, what if’s and if only’s.

Sarah Amento, a wife and a mother of five, managed to put it into perspective for me today.  I’ve been following her journey with Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer for a while now.  She’s strong, resilient, determined, loved, cherished and doing everything in her power and beyond to continue to live beautifully. photo used with permission of S. Amento
photo used with permission by S. Amento

This beautiful picture is from The Grace Project .  “Grace” is a series of portraits of women who have undergone mastectomy surgery in order to survive breast cancer.

In 2013 Sarah shaved her head in preparation for chemotherapy to arrest the Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  She considered it a “celebration of empowerment”.  Today Sarah told me, “The only thing is it was about 7 months later I turned stage 4 while still in treatments, after being declared cancer free.”  In a blog she wrote for The Huffington Post, Sarah says,

This time a year later, after being re-diagnosed to a Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer, we were faced once again with having to shave my hair. This time was entirely different. My biggest fear was no longer how will I look bald?, but will I die bald?  Sarah Amento

This was the moment.  How will I look took on a completely different meaning and importance.  Now the important thing was survival. While the process of shaving Sarah’s head may have been the same this time, emotionally it was far more difficult.

We were grieving so much more than hair. We were grieving the peace that this disease was robbing us all of. We were grieving what this horrible disease has done and continues doing to our children.  Sarah Amento

via This Time I Wonder, Will I Die Bald? | Sarah Amento.

Sarah refuses to simply try to survive this disease.  Sarah is ensuring she lives, taking every opportunity to live and experience life.   From the beginning Sarah has said she is

Fighting Breast Cancer, with strength, laughter, grace and a few tears! ‘Cancer does not define me, I am redefining cancer!’ StageIV Surviving!~Sarah

I think one of the ways she is redefining it is how she is living, beautifully and fully conscious, aware in the present.  That is the one thing she absolutely knows she has.  She is filling each moment possible with smiles, love, kindness and attention.  Sarah is making memories with and for others, there is no greater gift. She is experiencing people, places and things at every opportunity. She has grown a support network that is world wide, with over 7,000 followers.

Sarah radiates beauty, serenity, peace and exuberant joy.  The disease may be trying to rip everything away from her, but it will never take the qualities that make Sarah who she is.

photo used with permission of S. Amento 'Cancer doesn't define me.  I'm redefining cancer.'

photo by Pinky Blue Photography and used with permission by S. Amento
‘Cancer doesn’t define me. I’m redefining cancer.’

Each person has their own way of dealing with life altering situations, some cuddle, some stay close, some hold hands and some take pictures.  Sarah’s oldest son, uses a camera to capture moments in their journey. His poignant photos capture the pain, the joy and the beauty. Yes, joy and beauty, because even on this most painful of journeys, joy and beauty are still there, all around us every day.

The following video uses Andrew’s photos to capture the family together the day Sarah had her hair shaved for the second time.

After reading and watching I came to a very important conclusion. I am grateful.  Grateful for all I have, for my health, my family, my abilities, even my challenges. I want to live my life, not just do life. I want to make all of my moments count. I realized that thinking about smoother skin, a flatter stomach, the guy who passed me on the double solid line last night, all the what if’s, if only’s, I’ll be happy when’s, those things are only robbing me of making each of my moments count. It’s stealing time that I don’t get back. Thanks to Sarah, I’m not letting that happen anymore.

photo used with permission of S. Amento The beautiful Amento family

photo by Love Song Photography used with permission by S. Amento
The beautiful Amento family

So how are you going to spend your moments?  How will you make them count?

Forget about the if only’s.  Make your moments beautiful.  Don’t just survive, live.

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present.  Bil Keane


If you would like to help Sarah and her family they have a GoFundMe campaign

To find out more about Sarah and her journey you can visit their Facebook page.

Updated Jun 2017:  Sarah lived her life with love and grace. The world lost a beautiful person on July 28th 2015. Sarah is still loved and missed by so many but her story and her spirit continues to touch people around the world everyday. Rest easy Sarah. We miss you.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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