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GetAttachment.aspxMy mother-in-law would have turned 65 today.  A mother I never had the chance to meet.  She passed after a eight-year battle with breast cancer, on the eve of valentines day 11 years ago.
After marrying her son three years ago, I have been grappling with the pain that is mourning a woman I have never met.  Is this possible?  I have no memories with her, no pictures of me by her side.  I have never heard her voice.  Not even an argument about how to cook or endless questions when we are going to have kids.  There is no other way to say it; cancer sucks. offered some shocking statistics:

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • About 39,520 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
  • A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • However, 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

Ladies, it is time to get to know your ‘girls.’  Need some help, check out the National Breast Cancer website on self examinations.  Once per month, this is not an option.  Want to be hipster about it?  Check out the ‘I love boobies’ campaign by Keep-a-Breast  or B4BC (Boarding for Breast Cancer) ‘Check 1, 2’ campaign.
Rosemary (Gigante) Ahlquist was 1 in 8, and I am sure you know of others too.  Family members, friends, or maybe even yourself.  I send out my love and support to them.  Yes, cancer sucks.
While we never met, I know that Rosemary and I share of few things in common.  She was little, an educator and of course we have the same last name.   But most importantly, we share our unconditional love for Lloyd.  I think that is why I miss her, I see traits in Lloyd that could not have come from anywhere else than from his mother.  Many parts of him that I love the very most.
There is one other reason since my wedding day I have grieved for my late mother-in-law.  Call it spirits, ghosts or lack of sleep.  Just before my father took my arm to walk down the isle, I felt a warm breeze that floated under my veil and wrapped around me to my bouquet.  A bouquet that contained pieces from both of our mothers wedding veils.  Perhaps it was purely in my head.  But in that moment, on my wedding day, I spent it with my mother-in-law.  And then it was gone.
Part of me wants to shake the wives out there that have never given their husbands’ moms a chance or let small things with them add up over time.  I have just a few words ladies: get over it!
Give that woman a hug or have it out if you need to.  I understand some relationships are more difficult to manage or mend than others.  But do ask for yourself, what regrets might you have if you never tried.  Maybe look over this article to consider it.
I also dedicate this post to the many other women in Lloyd’s family that are basically my mother-in-law: Aunt Karen, Aunt Joann and of course Grandma Gigante.  Thank you for quickly embracing me into the family.  Every time we get to visit New York, I learn more and more about Rosemary.  I leave feeling a little closer to her and to you.

Happy Birthday Mom!  We love and miss you everyday.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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