Exclusive: Ann Romney in Her Own Words - "What Struggle Teaches: Reflections on Breast Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis"

In an exclusive guest blog for iVillage, Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican presidential candidate, opens up about her battles with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis and the life lessons she's learned along the way.

Personal struggles reveal character, draw us closer to those we love, and reacquaint us with the kindness and generosity that shape the human spirit. My battles with breast cancer and MS have been my toughest teachers. These diseases have reinforced important lessons for me. They taught me about people. They taught me about compassion. They have taught me about perseverance. And they have also taught me about giving back, an opportunity which, as a survivor, I considered myself blessed to enjoy.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, I was no stranger to the disease. Ovarian cancer had previously claimed the lives of both my mother and grandmother, and breast cancer had taken the life of my great grandmother. Luckily, my cancer was detected early, and I was able to beat it. And that’s why I can’t emphasize enough the importance of regular mammograms to ensure early detection. In often fatal diseases like breast cancer, it couldn’t be more critical.

I’m so grateful that the month of October, breast cancer awareness month, gives us the opportunity to bring awareness to prevention and early detection. And I’m looking forward to joining thousands of women in Florida for a special Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk—getting some exercise, time with friends, and bringing awareness to the disease all in one! But healthy living must be a practice for every day of the year. It’s our nature as women to take care of others and put everything on our to-do list ahead of our personal needs. But women across the country must remember to take care of themselves. My life’s work has been raising my five sons. As I travel the country and talk to other mothers, it’s always clear to me that their first concern is for their children and their futures. I share that concern. I believe we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be vigilant about our health.

I’m humbled to stand with the millions of women who have undergone, or are currently undergoing, the test of breast cancer. And I’m grateful for the platform that this election provides to bring awareness to this cause, and support for all Americans who are fighting medical battles.

When I received my breast cancer diagnosis, it wasn’t the first time I’d sat in a doctor’s office prepared for tough news. Nearly fifteen years ago I found out I have multiple sclerosis. In the aftermath of my diagnosis, I wasn’t able to care for my family in the way I once had. Being an active mom to five boys and even more active grandma to a growing brood of grandchildren was a calling that made my life a meaningful one, so this development was difficult to accept. But it was for the same reason, family, that I was able to pull through.

My husband, Mitt, has stood by me unflinchingly. When our five boys were younger, Mitt traveled a lot for work and he would always call and, hearing five rambunctious boys in the background, he would remind me that the work I did, raising our family, was more important and worthwhile than his work. Mitt remains my champion and steady partner—from the moment I received my MS diagnosis, Mitt reminded me that we could deal with anything as long as we have each other. To be sure, it hasn’t always been easy. There are good days and bad days, but not a day goes by that I don’t feel fortunate, especially with Mitt by my side.

In our forty-three years of marriage, he has been a true partner, at every step of the way and no matter what the circumstances. All great partnerships and all great journeys face their share of ups and downs, and we’ve certainly experienced ours. They teach you to care and feel for others, about yourself and your loved ones. They bring people together. And they challenge us to reach from the depths of our optimism and keep marching on with an open heart.

It is a privilege to be able to share my story and the lessons I’ve learned from it with women across America, and at the same time, hear from them about their struggles, battles, and trials. And it is an honor to join them in the quest to raise awareness about breast cancer and MS and continue the fight against these terrible diseases.

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