For one East Tennessee woman, New Year's Eve isn't just the end of a hard year. It's the beginning of the rest of her life.
While the clock counts down to a new year, those aren't the numbers Melissa Rush is reflecting on. In April 2020, while the world was battling coronavirus, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She completed 21 weeks of chemotherapy, one lumpectomy and 20 treatments of radiation. It all fittingly ended on the last day of 2020.
"Today, with it being New Year's Eve and my last day of radiation, it's kind of symbolic," Rush said. "My treatments aren't over, I still have some little things I have to do, but the big stuff is over finally!"
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is hard enough, but she knew when cancer came knocking, she had to stand up and fight.
"To me, there wasn't much of a choice. Like, I'm not gonna give up," Rush said.
As she battled cancer, she said she learned that the best parts of the year were the things people can miss.
"Never take anything for granted, ever," Rush said. "The little things: phone calls, family vacations, your health, your family and the people who truly care about you, because you never know when everything is gonna change."
Rush uses three words to focus on and remind herself of what's important in life: faith, hope and love.
“Because without those three things, what do you have?" Rush said.
She built a community within her family, friends, followers online and in Breast Connect, a nonprofit for breast cancer fighters and survivors. With that community behind her, she is able to keep pushing when things seem bleak.
The year 2020 took time from so many, but in the end, when the calendar changes to 2021, Rush will be saying "good riddance!"
Melissa said in 2021 she's looking forward to growing her hair back, going back to work and spending time with the ones she loves most.