Here’s a confession: I love my middle name. It’s unique, it’s fiercely Italian, and it sounds like a song: Louisa. But my parents didn’t pull this name out of thin air or from a baby name book. I’m named after my Great Aunt Louisa Colo. From everything I’ve heard about her, my Great Aunt Louisa was one incredible woman. She loved her family, she loved to have fun, she loved a good glass of wine, and (before she had kids) she loved to party in Detroit. She was a bit outspoken and could always make a person laugh. Even though we’ve never met, we have quite a lot in common. Unfortunately she passed away before I was born. I was robbed of the opportunity to meet my namesake because of breast cancer.
At my age, I’m incredibly grateful that I still have one grandparent alive. My Grandmother Clarice is a fierce woman. You can always rely on her to deliver a cutting remark about celebrity gossip, the weather, or even your own personal choices! She wore blue eye shadow well past when society deemed it appropriate and rocks a pantsuit better than Hillary Clinton. Growing up, I don’t remember much from my childhood, but I vaguely remember visiting my Grandma in the hospital. My parents just told me she was sick, but I didn’t know from what. At the age of five, my knowledge of sickness was pretty much limited to chicken pox and the flu. Did she have a really bad version of chicken pox? As I got older, I learned that my Grandma had the same disease that took my Great Aunt Louisa: breast cancer.
Taken in 2012 at my undergrad graduation. My late grandfather Enrico, myself, and my grandmother Clarice.
Both of these women have had a great impact on my life. I miss the opportunity to have built a relationship with my Great Aunt. I think we would have gotten along famously, sitting at family gatherings with a glass of red wine, making jokes about the world and our relatives. I try and honor Louisa when I can. When I finished my undergrad, I had a small pink extension in my hair as an homage to her journey and what she gave me. I wanted to believe that as my full name was announced when I received my degree, she was beside me. When I received my postgraduate degree for my MBA, I made sure my middle name was included on my diploma. It’s her journey as much as it is mine.
Cancer sucks. There’s no doubt about it. Cancer robbed me of a relationship and exposed me to disease at a young age. Every year when October comes around, I reflect on these two women and the steps I can take to protect myself and the women close to me. Since my early 20’s, my doctor and I do yearly checks and I self-check at least once a month.
These two women have had a great impact on my life. With my Great Aunt, I feel a sense of obligation: am I living up to her name? Would she be proud of the choices I’ve made? With my Grandma, I feel a sense of anxiety: how does someone thrive after a diagnosis? Is my mom next? Am I next?
My mother, father, and my Grandmother at a family wedding in 2019.
I’m proud of the work I do at iFrog and I’m thankful I get to share my story. I hope you are checking yourself and encouraging others to keep up with their mammograms.
As for me, I’m looking forward to a future where (hopefully) someone in the generation after me has my namesake and we can laugh and drink wine in the corner of family parties, in a world free of cancer.