Before Cancer (7/26/17)

Before Cancer

I wasn’t born with breast cancer; it is something that became a part of my life at the age of 31. Since then my life has been divided into “before cancer” and “after cancer”. Up until this point I have shared a lot of what has happened after the cancer diagnosis in 2015. If you didn’t know me personally before I had cancer then you probably are asking, “Who exactly is this Aimee girl?”

I was raised in Stonington, Connecticut as the youngest of four children. I lived with my parents Walt and Karen, as well as my brother Walter and my sister Jennifer. Our family was blessed to be able to spend summers at Seaside Beach Club, and take family vacations to Florida and New Hampshire. As a young child I was active in many sports; swimming lessons at the YMCA, dancing lessons at Miss. Jeanne’s Dance Centre, softball at the Pawcatuck Little League and POP Warner Cheerleading. Most of these activities I started at a younger age than most because I wanted to do everything Jen did. Being younger than most came with its disadvantages, I was always practicing and trying to be better. It was father’s day of 1994, I was ten years old, and determined to be a better softball pitcher. I was out practicing in our yard when I had a horrible accident when a pole fell on my face, knocking my two front teeth out and splitting my chin open. I don’t think Jen will ever forgive me for having to hold the plastic bag with my two teeth in it while waiting in the Westerly Hospital Emergency Room waiting room.

As a teenager I spent most of my time engulfed in my sports activities. As a Stonington High School student I lettered in varsity softball, cheerleading, and gymnastics. I also played junior varsity tennis and field hockey. As a senior I earned all-state varsity honors in softball. High school is where I found my passion for art, learning how to paint large murals and creating figurines in pottery were two of my favorite things.

In my spare time, I earned money by babysitting for many families in our neighborhood, as well as, working at Maple Breeze Park. At Maple Breeze I built lasting friendships that continue today. It was at Maple Breeze that Mrs. Main taught me the effects of smiling; I didn’t believe her at first because I didn’t like my smile after I had my accident. I quickly learned how to embrace what I have and not worry about what I looked like.

I went on to study physical education at Rhode Island College (RIC). While there I played varsity softball and served as the President and the Secretary of the Physical Education and Health Club. After graduating from RIC I started working for the Stonington Human Services Recreation department, where I managed youth camps, and adult sports leagues. During this time I started substitute teaching in Stonington, coached field hockey and girls basketball at Pine Point, managed the Stonington Girls Youth Basketball League and was a personal trainer and gymnastics coach at the YMCA.

I went on to teach special education at a private school, where I discovered my passion for helping others. I completed my Masters of Science in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University. I continued to teach special education for 5 years before I decided to work in the home setting of individuals with disabilities. I began working for Oak Hill in 2012 as a Life Skills Counselor, where I would assist individuals with disabilities within their home. This shift from school to home is where I came to the conclusion that these individuals were teaching me more than I was teaching them. Each person whom I have worked with has taught me to embrace each other for their differences but don’t define individuals by their differences.

I started training for triathlons in 2013 at the Mystic YMCA under Coach Jennifer Massengale. I found my passion in this sport and never let it go. It continues today to be my favorite hobby, it is where I learned what true friends are, and how to dig deep inside to find the strength to keep going. Other hobbies that I continue to enjoy are painting (oil and water colors), crafting with sea glass, going to the beach, taking walks, watching movies, reading, and of course writing.

That leads us to today; I am currently on medical leave of absence from Oak Hill and trying to embrace the time I have. I spend a lot of quality time with family, friends and continue to do the hobbies that I enjoy, as well as, learn a few new ones. Cancer has not changed who I am as a person; it has widened my perspective on life. This is who I was before cancer and who I am today.

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