By Giuliana and Bill Rancic
There are little things in life that we overlook regularly. In our haste to get through a busy day, we often don’t see that touch of color breaking through the ground as spring arrives and flowers beginning to bloom. We fail to savor the delicious smell of fresh baked bread, as we rush past a bakery on the way to an appointment. We take for granted the value of a good friend, often cutting short conversations by saying, “I’ve gotta run.”
But there are defining moments for us all. Moments when you least expect it, when you have a full agenda and a list of things to do, and there is no time for derailment. In an instant, so many aspects of life are put in a new perspective, and the little things are what you learn to cherish most.
Our world changed in August of 2011. We were preparing for our third attempt to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, and my doctor made me get a mammogram. I was only 37 years old and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. Never in my wildest dreams would I anticipate the doctor calling with the paralyzing news that I had breast cancer.
That moment changed our lives in ways we never could have imagined. I underwent a double mastectomy and successfully completed cancer treatment. At the same time, our path to parenthood took a new road by route of surrogacy. This was, in and of itself, an amazing experience, and last August we were blessed with the birth of our son, Edward Duke. Within a single year, the terms “cancer survivor” and “parent” both became defining words in our lives.
We learned many lessons during this journey. Before deciding to get pregnant and start a family, our priorities focused around our careers and each other. The “big things” that we would worry about were really not so big once we put them into perspective. It used to be that we would worry about something negative that someone said, or about what to wear to an event, or focusing on the next career move. That all changed with the diagnosis of breast cancer. In fact, those types of things don’t really matter in the larger scheme of life. We found a renewed focus on living life and being close to family and friends.
When we were going through cancer treatment, support from family and friends was priceless. The little things they did were what helped us the most. Making us laugh, listening to our concerns and fears, and simply keeping us busy were such important elements.
And then there is our son. We now have a beautiful 8-month-old child who we adore and has helped us to appreciate the little things in life. We love being a mom and dad and find that simple things can take your breath away. Duke’s smile and laugh warms our hearts, and basic tasks like finishing a feeding and just holding Duke, feeling his arms around your neck, is such a precious gift.
If nothing else, we want Duke to learn from our experiences and know that he is now, and will always be, such a blessing in our lives. We will encourage him to cherish each day and do something that puts a smile on his face. We’ll make snow angels on wintery days, and lie in the grass, gaze at the sky, and find animal shapes in the clouds in the warm summer sun. Most importantly, we’ll teach him that overcoming difficult things in life can make you stronger.
Our experiences have certainly made us stronger, as individuals and as a family. As we’ve transitioned into parenthood, we are learning to balance family and career, which is more difficult than we both could have imagined. We always feel like we should be doing more in each area. Combined with our cancer experience, the past few years have been a wake-up call for us. We are forced not to sweat the small stuff and deal with real issues.
For us, a cancer diagnosis and parenthood were defining moments that put so much into perspective. Those moments happen for us all at various points of life. It may be a personal illness or struggle, or perhaps something much larger that affects us all, such as Super Storm Sandy or the tragic events in Boston and Texas. Surely, we have all paused for a moment and thought about what is truly important in life.
With all that we have going on with family, work, and home responsibilities, sometimes we need a reminder to stop and focus on the little things. When it comes to breast health, something as basic as getting an annual mammogram often falls victim to the “I’ll get to it later” syndrome. However, this is such an important tool in the fight against breast cancer.
When we heard about Paint the Town Pink and how Meridian Health has joined forces with towns, businesses, schools and community members to increase awareness about this essential health screening, we were excited to be part of it. Creating a pink hue throughout the community is a great way to generate a constant source of awareness for women – and those who love them – and will hopefully result in people pausing to make a phone call for a mammography appointment.
We can’t wait to visit Manasquan on May 4 and be part of Paint the Town Pink. Hopefully our story will inspire others and further support the mission of this great initiative. We look forward to sharing this important message, and encouraging people to approach each day with a renewed focus on relationships, have a spring in your step, and laugh. After all, it’s the little things that can be life changing.
To purchase tickets for Little Things: An Evening with Giuliana and Bill Rancic on May 4 at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, call 855-PINK411 or visit www.PainttheTownPink.com for event details.
The Two River Times™ is a 2013 sponsor of Paint the Town Pink, a breast cancer awareness initiative sponsored by Meridian Health System.