The C word, something no one ever wants to hear: Cancer.

My mom, Laura Donnelly, found out that she had breast cancer for the first time when she was 38 years old. She was a young, working mother of three small children when she was diagnosed.

She would go on to struggle through two more bouts with cancer, both breast cancer and melanoma.

As the oldest of three siblings, I have always felt a sense of responsibility for them, even for our entire household.

So when I found out that my mom had cancer, I struggled with my need to take care of her, and my crippling fear that she might die and not be able to take care of me anymore.

There are many terrible things caused by the disease, but I think the worst is how it can break people down.

The first time I ever saw my mother cry was while she lay in bed, exhausted from one of her chemotherapy treatments.

At that moment, I wished I could take her place.

Thankfully, my mom made a full recovery and is in full remission of both breast cancer and melanoma.

She also wrote a book to help other women struggling with the disease. It is called “The Pink Badge of Courage: A Young Mother’s Battle With Breast Cancer and Melanoma” by Laura Donnelly.

She hopes that it can help other women in similar situations battling the disease.

My mom is, quite simply, my hero.

Michelle Donnelly

Charleston