If you asked, my mom would tell you she’s a simple lady. She likes strong coffee, gardening, running and her Detroit Tigers. She likes good TV, good music and her dog.

This humility doesn’t do justice to the incredible life she’s led. In 1995, when I was not even a year old, my mother was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She was 34, had no previous family history of the disease and had two small children. She underwent a mastectomy, six cycles of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. She would later reveal to me that she was secretly glad she and I were bald at the same time.

Not five years later, my mom up and joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer. Her courage to leave her comfortable job teaching at a small liberal arts college in Ohio and become a diplomat just a few shorts years after beating cancer is a constant reminder to not be limited by what I think I can’t do. She gave up her country to help people in theirs, representing her country as best she could and working tirelessly to improve the lives of others in civil service.

And last year, she voluntarily chose to serve a yearlong tour in Afghanistan. Not for the fame, glory or paychecks, but because she thought she could do good work there. And her strength was incomparable when she lost a close friend and colleague to violence in the country.

I’m never short of inspiration from my mother. Her strong, passionate feminism led her to keep her birth name when she got married, give my brother and I two last names (hers and my father’s), and most importantly, instill in me these same values which I’ve carried with me throughout life. I am constantly in awe of her resilience, optimism and unwillingness to give in.

She’s amazingly humble, wiser than I can ever hope to be and one of the most caring and understanding people I know. And I almost lost her to cancer before I even got to know her. I prevent cancer for her, my beautiful mother, without whom I don’t know what or where I’d be.

This post is part of the Prevent Cancer blog carnival.