05/11/2012 12:32 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

My Mother's Mother

I never had the chance to meet my mother's mother. My grandmother died of cancer when my mom was only 12 years old. And as a mother now myself, it makes me sad to think that my mom had to live her teenage years -- arguably the most formative for a young girl -- without her mother.

It's hard to believe that this was a time not long ago, when women didn't know about the importance of self-examination. This was a time when no one really even said the word cancer. People whispered it under their breath if they even uttered it at all. So I don't actually know a lot about my grandmother's cancer, except that it was in her lymph nodes and that it spread very rapidly.

I do know that losing her at such a young age had a profound effect on my mother. My mom realized early on how precious life is. Because of that, she always taught me to have an appreciation for life, to value the life we've been given, and to make the most of each and every opportunity, adventure, and challenge that comes along. In honor of her mother's too-short life, my mother is certainly making the most of her own.

I am so grateful that my mom is in my life today. I feel lucky every day that we get to spend together, sharing moments as a mother and daughter who have a very close relationship. The toughest year in our relationship came when my mom turned the same age her mother was when she passed away. I think my mom felt a heavy weight on her shoulders that year, and probably a deep fear, too. Only now, as an adult and a mom, can I begin to appreciate that fear -- the fear that something like cancer might take you away from your family with little or no warning.

Cancer takes mothers away from far too many children. I have known several amazing women -- mothers -- who have bravely faced cancer. Two of my closest friends have heart-wrenching stories of loved ones battling cancer. Though some have lost their valiant fights, others have been fortunate to be able to beat cancer. I have been witness to incredible examples of survivors "paying it forward," survivors who graciously help in any way they can in the quest for a cure.
It's these survivors that inspire me to help join the fight against cancer. It's the mothers who have lost their lives to cancer that fuel my dream to help end cancer. We need to find a cure -- for the sake of the victims and for the sake of their families. I may not know firsthand what my grandmother went through when she was diagnosed, but I know exactly how her loss has affected my mother. It is such a painful journey and I can only hope that my children, and my children's children, won't ever have to face the terrifying prospect of a life with cancer.

I have enthusiastically joined Stand Up To Cancer and I am proud to be part of an organization that is working so hard for a cure -- a cure that will enable so many mothers (and so many others) to live long, healthy, happy lives. Launch a star in memory of someone you love at

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and all the mothers around the world.