This photo is hard for me to share.

It was taken eight years ago on my mom’s birthday. She was sleeping peacefully, and I was just snuggled up next to her, holding her hand, and keeping her company as she prepared to leave this earthly world for something bigger.

March 16th will mark the eighth anniversary of her losing her short but fierce and courageous battle with colorectal cancer.

Eight years.

It has been eight whole years since I held those soft and gentle hands, heard her voice, or looked upon her beautiful face.

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In eight years, I have cried, laughed, and cried again more times than I can count.

In eight years, I have felt the most joyful highs and the darkest, ugliest lows.

In eight years, I have missed her every single day.

In eight years, I brought her first granddaughter into this world, I’ve watched both of my children grow into the most incredible little humans and have witnessed the true strength and power of love.

In eight years, I have found new passions and moved away from my hometown. I have spoken up, spoken out, and have learned to hold those I treasure so close.

In eight years, I have tried to continuously see the beauty in everything, live in the moment, and be grateful for the little things as well as the big things.

Every. Single. Day.

In eight years, I’ve learned I am blessed beyond measure, and although she is no longer here with me, my mom continues to teach and guide me daily. Her love was a giftone that will never leave me, no matter how much time passes.

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In eight years, I have shared her story over and over and over again in the hopes someone else won’t have to miss their loved one the way I miss her. In the hopes other children, like my son and my daughter, won’t have to live their lives without ever knowing or being encompassed by the incredible love of my mother, their nana.

Her story is simple. Like so many of us, she simply put off getting her colonoscopy.

She didn’t know how important it was, was unaware of the statistics surrounding colorectal cancer screening, didn’t realize it would most likely save her life. By the time she did get screened for the very first time, she was 58 years old, already having symptoms, and was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer.

She passed away just eight short months later.

Colorectal cancer continues to be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer as long as you are screened. If caught early through regular screening, colorectal cancer has a 90% cure rate. When it comes to colorectal cancer, screening saves lives. (For this and more information visit Colon and Rectal Cancer Alliance.)

March is colorectal cancer awareness month. It is also my mom’s birthday month and happens to be the month in which she lost her short battle with colorectal cancer. Needless to say, March holds a lot of big feelings for me.

So, in her memory and in honor of all of those fighting this disease, I make this simple plea.

I beg of you, each and every one of you: if you or someone you love has been putting off getting screened for colon cancer, please stop.

If you are trying to convince someone you love to get screened, don’t give up on them. Share the statistics, share my mom’s story, tell them how important it is.

Get screened . . . it could truly save your life.

For more information on colorectal cancer risk factors, screening, prevention, or support, check out the Colorectal Cancer Alliance website.

Losing a parent is a unique pain. Healing after the Loss of Your Mother is a heartfelt guide for those mourning the loss of their mother, as well as the loved ones helping them through their grief.

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Tess Fraser

Tess Fraser is an aspiring author, lover of yoga and wine, colorectal cancer advocate, and a motherless daughter. She works in non-profit development and writes about the importance of self-care in her spare time on her blog, www.selfcarepause.com. She lives in Ithaca, NY with her husband and two children.