09/17/2012 03:58 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2012

What My Mom Taught Me

"Never, ever give up." "Set your goals high, and don't stop until you reach them." My mother would repeat these phrases over and over while I was growing up, until they became second nature to me. She also taught me the most valuable lesson of all, which carries me through everyday no matter what situations occur. She taught me to put my faith in Jesus Christ, and trust Him as the center of my life. I am eternally grateful that my mother led by example in what faith should look like. It has propelled me to accomplish the dreams that I set out as a young child. The first was attending Duke University, and now playing professional basketball in the WNBA.

Achieving my dreams has not come easily. When I was 11 years old, my life took a turn that seemed to put everything on hold. My father was incarcerated and sentenced to 7 years in prison. A few months later, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I have four younger siblings, and as all of the trials occurred, my life as a "normal" teenager changed. My role at home shifted and my responsibilities became enormous. My mother battled with breast cancer for 5 years, until she passed away in January of 2006.

My mother was a huge influence in my life. She challenged me to be the best person that I could be, and she never let me give in to the failures and disappointments that life brings. She helped raise me to be the person that I am today, and I thank God everyday for that. After she passed away, I had two choices: throw my dreams aside, or keep chasing them no matter the consequence. I chose the latter, and repeated the words that my mother preached to me each day to conquer my dreams.

As I sit here and prepare to compete in another game of my second year in the WNBA, I look back on all that has occurred in my life, and I am very thankful to be where I am today. As the WNBA begins its annual Breast Health Awareness Week, I cannot help but be reminded of how important this cause is, and how appreciative I am that the league takes the time out to support this cause. Breast health is extremely important, and through early detection and screening measures, many lives can be saved. As women, we tend to take care of other people, but we must not forget to take care of ourselves. Early detection in breast cancer can truly save your life. If you don't have health insurance, there are many centers that offer low-cost or free mammograms. Be proactive so that you're not caught fighting after it may be too late. Just as many other people have their own account regarding this disease, I seek to use my story of strength and perseverance to help encourage others who have been affected by breast cancer.