A Breathtaking Coincidence

Tiff SmilingA few weeks ago we introduced Tiffany Mannino who is sharing with us personal journal entries written in letter format penned to her unborn daughter while traveling through her breast cancer journey. In her collection of letters Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress she reflects on her five year journey with letting go of the past, facing fears, learning to love, finding happiness in the moment, and realizing that she is exactly where she is supposed to be in life. Surprisingly, the collection of letters began with the one you will read below, two months before Tiffany would learn that she had breast cancer… 

October 18, 2009

Dear Lola,

As you already know, I absolutely love inspirational quotes. I find them to be daily reminders of what is truly important in life, especially when we are caught up in the noise and busyness of our daily routine. One of my favorite quotes is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.”

Well, today I experienced a moment that took my breath away, and it came at a most unusual place…the hair salon!  I wouldn’t say this moment took my breath away in a spectacular way like seeing the sunset on the ocean.  No, this was quite different. It was more of a brief pause in the beating of my heart and a moment of quiet reflection.

As my girlfriend was cutting my hair, the receptionist came up to us and said that a client unexpectedly showed up without an appointment and wanted to briefly speak with her.  I could tell that Amina was frustrated and explained to the receptionist that she was too busy to stop at that moment. Suddenly, a woman appeared from across the room and weakly called out Amina’s name saying, “Do you remember me?  I just have a really quick question for you.” Amina slowly walked over to her, and with trepidation the woman lifted off her hat only to reveal an almost bald head that had the slightest bit of blonde peach fuzz growing all around it.  The woman choked up and with tears in her eyes whispered to Amina that her hair was starting to grow back, and she just didn’t know what to do with it.

I cannot begin to describe why this little incident touched my soul so deeply, but for some reason it did. The deep sadness in the woman’s voice and her water-filled, downcast eyes brought  tears to my own eyes then and now again as I write this to you.

I really don’t have any huge revelation about this incident, but it was something that made me stop and think.  Before this woman walked in, I had been sitting in the chair thinking about how depressed I was because it was a Saturday afternoon, and I had absolutely no plans for that night.  I wanted to be spending the night with my ex-boyfriend, whom I miss immensely. So, when this woman walked in, I felt incredibly humbled to be in such a ‘woe-is-me’ mood over a break up. I could be in her shoes and suffering from cancer while my husband is jobless and suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Or I could be grateful that I’m healthy, have a great job, and a beautiful head of hair.

It truly was a moment that took my breath away and a wind of change to help me stop the negative litany that was circling my head.

Lola, look for those moments in life to help you appreciate the goodness that surrounds you.

Love always,

Your momma

Tiffany would be diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer on December 16th 2009, only two days shy of two months after that afternoon in the hair salon. She would later be diagnosed with Stage 3 after it was found that the cancer had spread to four of her lymph nodes.

Tiffany Mannino is an elementary school teacher, world traveler, Zumba freak, and young breast cancer survivor who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She has found that expressing her emotions through writing and painting has helped her deal with facing cancer at a young age and has brought her profound healing.  Several of her writing pieces have been featured in books including the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series. 

Stay tuned for more excerpts from Beautifully Broken: Letters From a Girl/Woman/Human in Progress!

6 thoughts on “A Breathtaking Coincidence

  1. My moyher is a 20 year survivor. For some reason October of 2012 I died a srip of pink in my hair and both of my boys hair. I havr never so strongly supported breast cancer awareness month even though I should have. In April of 2013 @ the age of 37 with 7&9 yrar old boys I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. They said they believed I had breast cancer atleast 6 months before diagnosed. That would have been October 2012.

    • Rachel…wow… that sure makes you think how everything in life is interconnected in some way. When things happen, we are not sure why but somehow much later they seem to make sense!

  2. This woman was my 6th grade teacher. I had heard that she had been diagnosed but hadn’t heard anything else. It’s saddening to hear about her sickness, but I have faith in her. I wish her nothing but the best.

  3. A beautiful story and really hits base here as we are struggling right now as a couple of family members are dealing with cancer. They are being strong and all we can offer is our prayers and love.

  4. I sat in a chair having my long hair cut off in preparation for chemo which would take all of my hair. The young woman in the chair next to me complained endlessly about how she didn’t like her previous haircut and was oblivious to what was happening only two feet away. I wish you had been next to me that day. I am here, healthy and whole eleven and a half years later but just watched my 32 year old daughter endure two grueling years of treatment for her breast cancer. We must savor every moment and look for the ways to touch the lives around us in a positive way. I make that my goal every single day. Thanks for sharing your story.

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