What Matters Most in Life

by Brandi BensonSurvivor, Ewing's SarcomaMay 11, 2022View more posts from Brandi Benson

It’s Not How You Start, But How You Finish that Matters

Dear Brandi, 

When it comes to making an impression, the old adage “first impressions last” definitely applies. From the moment you were born, you were destined to be a fighter. Has mom shared with you the reason why she needed an emergency c-section when she was pregnant with you? 

No?  Let’s get your GI Joes over here and set them next to me. Let me share a story with you. 

They had to induce Mom on September 13th because your umbilical cord had been tangled around your neck and you had stopped breathing. You sent everyone into a frenzy in that hospital room. Mom was only 16 at the time; still just a little girl herself, she had no clue about what her future was going to be or what she would become of herself. So with you, Brandi, swaddled up in a warm hospital blanket, your big brown eyes met mom’s eyes for the first time, and an unbreakable bond was casted. Mom vowed always to protect you and love you from that day forward.

When you grow up, you will learn that Mom comes from a terrible upbringing where rape and mental and physical abuse runs in the family, but Mom will do everything in her power to give you a normal life and to end the vicious cycle of abuse with you and your sister. The life mom creates for you two is wonderful, and it is inspiring to see how she has been able to instill in you such a strong sense of joy, love, and self-assurance. Considering what they say about individuals being a product of their environment… I am sure that went over your head; I’ll have to explain what that means later, Brandi. One day you will see how hard she tries to make your life perfect and how selfless she is to make sure you’re always taken care of.  

No matter how lovely or tough or cruel life may be, you’ll always have Mom by your side to fight the fight with. The truth is, you’re never really by yourself.

Mom will become your rock, best friend, and a support system beyond measure. Of course, when you become a young adult, this will all make sense, but right now, life is about climbing trees and playing tag, and that is okay. And it is beautiful, because soon those carefree days bleed away, and new responsibilities blossom.

When I look at the six-year-old you with the messy hair and the honey-brown tree sap webbed around the palm of your hands, I see the trauma you have endured already and how the innocence in your eyes is slowly fading away like the stars at night. What a shame it is that you will carry that bias for the rest of your life.

You become tainted at a very young age, and I want to warn you that this thinking, although logically correct, is wrong. You must not judge a book by its cover. You grow up fast, but it’s not because Mom did anything wrong; rather, it was the cards you were dealt. Remember when I mentioned that life gets hard for you? Well, it does. You will experience racism and more heartbreak than your little self can imagine right now; your daddy will pass away mysteriously when you are 16, but you will always have his beautiful smile staring back at you in the mirror. You will engage in several bad relationships before you finally get it right in 2016, and you will gain a disability that will hinder your personal growth for many years.

But through this all, Mom is there. She is holding your hand, she is cheering you on, and she is loving you still. You will go through one experience that will test every ounce of your faith and belief in yourself; no matter what Mom says, you actually start to question her belief in you.

Growing up, you were a tomboy and always dreamt about being in the military, and in 2008, you joined. I know, pretty cool, right? I guess swapping out the dolls for GI Joes did the trick, huh? Shortly after joining the Army, you’re attached to a unit that had just left for Iraq. Four months into the deployment, you end up getting sick and leave Iraq early due to an untimely disease – cancer (Ewing Sarcoma).

It’s at this point that things start to get a bit worrisome for you two, and you start to doubt mom for the first time. Despite the odds, your physicians do not expect that you will survive. Mom doesn’t give up on you, despite the doctors’ greatest efforts to mentally and emotionally prepare you for your demise.

Mom starts to remind you of the difficulties you both went through and how much you have conquered together. She is a firm believer in the saying that “what matters most in life is not how you begin but how you finish.”

When she gives you motivational talks, Mom always gets one of the warm hospital blankets and covers you both in it. She gazes at you with the same intensity as she did when she first met you.

Do you know what Mom did that truly sets her apart from the other parents? Personally, I think it is the most loving and selfless thing someone can do; she quit her job and left everything in Texas to take care of you while you were sick with cancer in D.C. If you ask Mom what she thinks about that, she always replies, “That’s how strong our bond is. I would move mountains for you and be with you wherever, no matter how far.” 

Mom is your best friend.

Ever since you were little, you have always been the sickly child, but Mom always made sure to nurse you back to health. Perseverance has been your superpower since the day you were born! It has been more than 13 years since having cancer and nearly dying; you and Mom have grown to be some pretty amazing and strong women. You’re a resilient team. 

Brandi, you grow up to be a powerhouse and use your cancer story to instill hope into others going through cancer; you become a published author, a cancer advocate, a founder and president of a company you birthed, and so many more things. But none of this would have been possible without the adversity you endured and your willingness to co-create with what you were given. When you grow up, you will rock at life, Brandi! 

Here are your GI Joes back. Thanks for listening to me ramble. Remember, it is not about where you start but how you finish in life. 

I love you!  

Want to hear Brandi read this post? Click here to sign up for Perkatory on Thursday, May 26th, 2022 at 7:00pm EDT!

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