Today I’m guest posting on Frosting for the Cause.  This is a really amazing site featuring a different guest blogger every day sharing a story about someone in their life who has been affected by cancer.  Please head on over to read my story and get the recipe for these turtle brownies I made in memory of my mom.  (Note: I’ve since included my post and recipe below because of malware and other warnings I get whenever I visit the Frosting for the Cause website).  

I wish I didn’t have a reason to post on Frosting for the Cause. I wish I didn’t feel so extremely familiar with cancer having encountered it on a personal level three times in my 28 years. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I was diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was 18 years old. Five years later I lost the best grandfather anyone has ever had to pancreatic cancer. And before all of that, my mom lost her battle with liver cancer when she was 39 years old. I was 10, and my brothers were six and four. Losing my mom at such a young age was without a doubt the most life-altering event I have ever experienced. It shaped the rest of my childhood, my career path, and the person I have become.

When we experience a loss of such magnitude, it is very easy (and also natural) to focus on the negative. I won’t lie – I still think constantly of the moments I wish Mom was here for. Our wedding, my graduation from medical school, and the births of her grandchildren just to name a few. With every milestone comes a little sadness created by her absence. I think of her constantly throughout the holidays as I remember how much she enjoyed the season. I know she loved cooking and baking and I wish we had been able to share in that joy together. I can just imagine us talking and laughing together in the kitchen as we prepared some new recipe we couldn’t wait to try. But dwelling on the negative never makes me feel better. Instead, I try to focus on the positive. I do my best to live every day to the fullest, and cherish every moment I spend with my family and friends. I try to make things happen and achieve my goals instead of putting them off until later because really, who knows if we’ll get be around later? And I do my very best to honor Mom’s memory. Since I’ve lived more of my life without her than with her, I don’t remember as much about her as I wish I did. But I do remember that she had a great sense of humor, a fantastic and infectious laugh, and an incredible love for life and fun.

One of my most vivid memories of mom is from when I was fairly young and Mom was pregnant with one of my brothers. Throughout her pregnancies she craved ice cream, specifically turtle sundaes. We would go to our favorite local ice cream shop and be waiting in the parking lot before they even opened at 10 am. As a child, you can imagine how completely awesome I thought this was. My mom – letting me eat ice cream – at 10 in the morning. I loved being the first customers in the shop, and that the owner knew what Mom’s order would be.

When deciding what recipe to share on Frosting for the Cause, I knew I wanted to make something that Mom would have loved. It only took a moment of thinking before this memory came to mind, and so I settled on turtle brownies. It is a combination of her favorite sundae and one of my favorite treats in one awesome dessert. I thought of her the whole time I baked these brownies, and then I donated them to the hospice that cared for her during the final months of her life. Though nothing will ever make it easier to live in a world where my mom doesn’t exist, continuing to remember her and live in a way that would make her proud is all I can do. And so, I made these brownies.