Barbara is a breast cancer survivor from Montgomery, Alabama.
Tell us about yourself.
I've been a teacher, counselor, and administrator, and I'm a fairly decent watercolor painter. I'm the mother of two, grandmother of three, and 'parent' to a pair of mixed breed dogs. My husband is a farmer, so my life also includes cotton and soybeans, cows and horses, combines and pick-up trucks. I love cute shoes, the outdoors, and travel, and I read a lot. I'm learning to do yard work, which I believe I'm supposed to call 'gardening’.
When were you diagnosed?
I'm a 31 year survivor, diagnosed at the age of 33.
How has cancer changed your outlook on life?
My first thoughts were about survival - whether I would live long enough to raise my daughters, who were 9 and 10 when I was diagnosed. Then while on chemo and making my way through the first two post-op years (during which time metastases are most likely to appear), I began reassessing my life, which I realized might well have a shorter horizon than I expected. As a result, my priorities shifted and continue to do so. Oddly enough, the primary result has been a lot more fun and more adventure than I might have otherwise had. For me, being reminded that my life span was/is up for grabs has been enormously freeing.
What words of encouragement would you share with others with cancer?
First, try not to panic. Second, buckle up for a roller coaster of a ride. If you're too overwhelmed/confused/angry/scared to pray for yourself, let your friends do it. Keep your sense of humor—some of what's about to happen will be funny. Don't waste time and energy on distractions; if ever there were a time to focus on your own well being, this is it.
Support this non-profit in honor of Barbara:
Joy to Life Foundation (joytolife.org) partners with the Alabama State Department of Public Health to provide free mammograms to medically underserved women in 29 counties in south Alabama.
Please support those battling breast cancer by donating.