Sunday, March 18, 2018

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Featured Stories

The Faces of Breast Cancer

Written by  Stephen C. McClintic, Jr.

I see pretty ladies painted in pink. Breast cancer must be the connection. But as I look closer, look deeper, I see more. Notice more. I want to understand… more.

It’s a reunion. 26 women altogether. Some are young in age. Some young at heart. I see happiness. Some sadness. A bit of eagerness and anxiety. I see satisfaction. I see fear and doubt and certainty.

I see Autumn. Autumn will turn 40 in October. She is very excited about her special day! And what’s her first order of business? A trip to her doctor for a mammogram. This is especially important to Autumn. It was on her birthday three years before that she lost her mother to breast cancer.

It’s hard not to see, um, I mean, not hear, Belle. Belle is really excited. She just hit a huge milestone: five months cancer free! And she loves to shout her excitement from the highest towers. Rightfully so. Because for Belle, celebrating every second she is cancer free is worth doing.

I see Christina’s passion. It’s helping people, especially those with breast cancer. As a patient advocate, she connects women with resources they need and otherwise may not have access to, such as medical care, counseling and even a pillow to lay their head on. Christina is a true godsend. 

In Dawn, I see someone with a sunny disposition who loves being a night owl. Dawn’s day starts at the stroke of every midnight. She’s an oncology nurse at the hospital where she works the late shift. Dawn believes her patients’ nights need brightened up too while being treated, and she’s the perfect person for the job.

I see Eve waiting. Tomorrow is a big day for her and she doesn’t know what to expect. Will it hurt? Will it help? Eve begins radiation in the morning. I hope tonight is not too tough on her.

I can’t see Faith, but I know she’s there. Faith fought breast cancer for five years. And while her fourth bout with the disease may have taken her life, it didn’t take her spirit. Faith’s legacy of strength and courage is as present as ever.

I love how I see Grace. Make-up’s a mess. Hair’s frazzled. Filth’s beneath her fingernails. But Grace feels amazing today. No nausea. No tiredness. No pain. Grace’s the picture of gratefulness.

I see Harmony hard at it. She’s a mother of five. A wife. Works full-time. Harmony balances baseball games and bagged lunches and board meetings and bedtime stories, all in perfect union. She never misses a beat. Not even with Stage 3 breast cancer.

In Iris, I see a woman who is focused. Iris is near the end of this life. Her body is beaten, but her will remains unworn. She is determined to see her son graduate from high school in two weeks. I believe she will. I can see it in her eyes.

I see one side of Jade. She see two: one she loves and embraces and the other she detests. Jade works at an insurance company where she is responsible for letting clients know if their claim is approved or declined. She knows she’s just the messenger, but makes it her mission to help people any way she can. Sometimes, she can’t. This is the side of herself that she dislikes. I see Jade trying. I see Jade hoping. I see Jade being a shining beacon and doing bigger and better things in the future. 

I see total selflessness in Kara. It’s evident in her motto: ‘Give First’. Kara’s always putting the needs of others before her own. Always willing to offer her assistance at a moment’s notice. I can’t imagine her working anywhere else than in her job at the hospice center. She embodies the meaning of compassion and care.

In Liberty, I see justice. Or, justice as she sees it. Liberty made the decision to beat breast cancer at its own game by killing its chances of ever killing her. She had a double mastectomy. Case closed. Let freedom ring.     

I see someone deserving in Mea. After her doctor’s appointment yesterday, Mea made her way over to the mall and had a massage and makeover. Why not? Anyone fighting breast cancer deserves a little “me” time. Including Mea.

I see a lot of energy in Nana. A LOT. And Nana needs it. She has 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Every Sunday, the whole brood – children, grandchildren and great-greatchildren – come over after church for a home cooked dinner. But as evening approaches and the crowd dwindles, Nana’s day’s not done. That’s because she’s raising her great-granddaughter’s three girls. You see, Nana’s daughter passed away from breast cancer. So did her granddaughter. Nana made a promise to both of them that she would always be there for the little ones. And she’s making good on it with gusto.

I see Olive reaching out for peace. It’s already been two days, and she’s holding on by a limb. How can she possibly find out sooner? Could her doctor fast track the results? Olive is waiting on the results from her biopsy. She promises she will never delay getting her mammogram again. She promises she will do self-breast exams regularly. She promises she will take better care of herself. She promises to do anything to get good news this one time.

I see someone who never throws caution to the wind in Prudence. That’s why this is an especially difficult time for her. Prudence does everything by the book. Dots every ‘i’ and crosses every ‘t’. Her mantra in life is to never be caught by surprise. So finding out she had breast cancer, despite have a genetic testing, despite having routine mammograms, despite doing self breast exams EVERY DAY, despite exercising and eating healthy and taking her vitamins and balancing her work and life, was the shock of her life. How will Prudence handle the unexpected?

I see true beauty in Queena. She knows it and owns it. And she should. Yet, Queena doesn’t put herself on a throne. She’s humble and kind and spirited and happy. Her beauty is her positive attitude. It starts from within and powers her belief that good can help overcome anything, including her breast cancer.

I see a sharp person in Rose. Rose has her soft side, but be careful how you handle her. Rose has been a breast surgeon for nearly 18 years. Her mission in life is to beat the disease, one patient at a time. She will do anything for her patients and each will tell you they owe their lives to her. One thing to remember about Rose: never, ever get in her way of trying to find a cure.

I no longer see Scarlett wearing the burden of the big ‘C’. Scarlett didn’t deserve to get breast cancer. No one does. But that’s not how she saw it. As Scarlett tells it, she lived a fast life for most of her early years. Like many do. She didn’t take care of her body. Like many don’t. She didn’t go to the doctor regular. Like many should. But she wasn’t being punished by getting breast cancer. It took Scarlett some time, but she now knows she won’t be defined by guilt. She will be defined by victory.

When I see Temple, I can’t help but look up to her. She commands a presence like no one else. People flock to her for guidance. For support. For hope. Although Temple is only 21 years old, she has more wisdom and life experience than most women twice her age. Having breast cancer before your 19th birthday has a way of making you grow up fast.

Oh, Unni. What down to earth person I see. I only wish Unni knew what it meant to celebrate your own accomplishments. She takes the word modesty to a whole other level. Overcoming breast cancer for the third time? It was all because of the doctors, according to Unni. Overcoming depression? It was all because of the counselors. Unni is so much stronger than she realizes. She was the leader in her fight and the reason she won. Modesty is magnificent. So is celebration.

I can see Venus coming from a, well, you know. Venus knows she’s in charge. No one’s messing with her. She’ll let you know if she needs your help. But just in case breast cancer rears its ugly head, watch out. Venus is a good one to have in your corner.

I see a whimsical wave from Willow. Quiet and reserved. She’s always been well taken care of. Never had a care in the world. I don’t believe Willow has ever been challenged in life like she is being challenged now. And it is now that she needs more support than ever.

With open arms. That’s how I see Xena. She’ll prepare a place for anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. Comfort food cures all woes, she believes. A handmade quilt and a hot cup of cocoa refuels the tired and weary. Xena’s a good soul to know.

I see a warrior in Yaawar. She’s battle tested. A keen strategist. A true motivator. If your down, she’ll pick you up. Yaawar wears many wounds with pride and dignity. One trip through her boot camp and you will be quickly reminded what you’re fighting for.

Lastly, it’s Zora I see. Is it coincidental that Zora’s name means alive? Zora is special. She is not just alive. She comes alive when we need her most. I not only see her individually, but I see her in every one of these women. And I see her in all women who fight breast cancer. All men who fight breast cancer. All men, women and children who fight any cancer. Family, friends, doctors, nurses, caregivers… everyone who offers support to those in the fight against cancer. Remembering Zora when cancer is first diagnosed is the most important time to do so. It is then when we must come alive. Be alive. Be prepared to fight. Be prepared to win. Be prepared to live.

I love these women and all they symbolize.

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