October is a month that will always have a special significance to me. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everyone will be talking about it; cancer survivors will say thank you Jesus, families and friends of victims will say a prayer in memoriam, and the rest of the world will remain hopeful for a cure. All around the world it will be a sea of pink. Many will remember the infamous cancer and the fear that it evokes in the hearts and souls of women and men all over the world. This is the month that we most remember to offer support to families enduring this battle and organizations that are trying to find a cure for this awful disease. So we purchase items, support cancer groups, donate and attend fundraisers, give talks, walk for a day, run for miles … and yes, at the same time hoping and praying that we never have an encounter with this deadliest of foes.
Breast cancer is a sneaky, insidious devil. It hides wherever it can and when you least expect, it wreaks havoc on the life of the woman or man it has claimed as “its own”, their family and their friends. It can take over your life, ruling your health like a dictator. However, it is important to remember we have come far and today we know much more about this disease than ever before, making us better prepared to do battle. We know that our only recipe for a successful outcome is to prepare for combat – lace up your boxing gloves and fight with all you’ve got.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the presence of cancer and often such late diagnoses cause the kind of pain that lives for an eternity. Today we are more aware and educated: early detection, yearly mammograms and breast self exams are keys to winning this battle! We also know that some people manifest no physical signs—something I know all too well having lived a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising daily.
My cancer journey began on October 22nd, 2011, when I felt a lump during an official trip abroad. Upon my return home, October 28th, I went to the doctor, got a mammogram, and tissue was sent for biopsy. On November 3rd, I heard the devastating words: “you have cancer”. This disease has consumed my life for an entire year and for the next 5 years I’ll be on medications—for cancer and my heart complications. It has zapped me of my energy, my good health, and my time… but not my LIFE!
It may seem strange, but cancer has given me my greatest gift: it has reminded me of the fragility and brevity of life; that we all need to live everyday to its fullest. The thought that I was slowly dying—and yes we are all going to die one day, but just knowing that I was actually staring death in the face, makes me appreciate and enjoy every minute of every single day. This disease has taught me how to cope with fear; strengthened my faith in God; has emboldened my spirit and restored my faith in humanity. I now know that the only day that really matters is today! Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is but a dream … there is just today!
Over the past year, people saw me bare my soul and lose my hair–those of us with my kind of hair go to the hairdresser at least once a week because we are obsessed with our hair and making it look good. It was not easy and as soon as mine started falling out, I went to my hairdresser and shaved it off. I wanted to lose it completely on MY terms! I was still in control and it was going to affect me the way I wanted it to. I must say I loved being bald. With my daughter’s thumbs up and Dean’s unending support, I never wore a wig. For once I felt free! It was wonderful and comforting to see how people reacted when my most true self was showing. The real me: open, honest and bare to the bones. I saw my soul during this journey …This dreadful disease taught me to love myself and its imperfections, to appreciate me—all of me—for me.
I also know that this is not my final chapter! I will keep on fighting until I have rid my body of cancer’s existence. This is not my final nemesis. Today, I think cancer knows exactly who it’s fighting … It knows I have faith, spirit, courage, hope, and that I fight with all I have. Cancer surely picked on the wrong one!
Kim Simplis Barrow
October 1st, 2012