Aundreia Alexander: Nurturing Your Spirit

 On Tuesday, June 26th, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a community meeting where Rev. Aundreia Alexander will discuss “Nurturing Your Spirit.” Here at the LBBC Blog, Aundreia–an ordained minister, breast cancer survivor and  “Writing the Journey” participant–shares two poems of her own creation.

Light Overcomes Darkness

Light shines brightest against the backdrop of darkness.
Light shines through a crack, a speck; a flicker through a keyhole.

Light shines like the stars on the clearest night;

Light in the sky – a full moon in a dense forest.


Do What Comes Naturally

How beautiful is the light that breaks through the darkness!

I never learned to whistle a tune

So when I hear birds whistle, chirp and tweet, I envy them.

Then I think – how silly – they do what comes naturally.

So I embrace the chorus of whistles, chirps and tweets from my feathered friends.

And I dance – I swerve, I sway, I glide – in unison with the melodious sounds of beautiful music.

I do what comes naturally to me.

For more information of the June community meeting, Nurturing the Spirit, as well as future topics, visit the LBBC Events Page.

Video Blog Series: Advocacy in Action on Metastatic Breast Cancer – Part Six

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which is a one-of-a-kind educational program designed for women living with metastatic disease, caregivers and healthcare providers. During the four weeks before the event, the LBBC blog will feature a series of short videos featuring our own Elyse Spatz Caplan, Director of Programs and Partnerships,  with Advocacy in Action discussing the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.


This sixth video tackles the discussion on metastatic breast cancer research.

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, Director, Programs and Partnerships

Video Link: Metastatic Breast Cancer Discussion – Part Six

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Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with advanced disease.

Video Blog Series: Advocacy in Action on Metastatic Breast Cancer – Part Five

On April 28th and 29th, 2012, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host its Sixth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer which is a one-of-a-kind educational program designed for women living with metastatic disease, caregivers and healthcare providers. During the four weeks before the event, the LBBC blog will feature a series of short videos featuring our own Elyse Spatz Caplan, Director of Programs and Partnerships,  with Advocacy in Action discussing the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.


This fifth video tackles the discussion on diversity in the metastatic cancer community.

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, Director, Programs and Partnerships

Video Link: Metastatic Breast Cancer Discussion – Part Five

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Visit our website for more information on the Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer and to Register for the April event. Additional resources can be found through LBBC’s Understanding Guides: Metastatic Breast Cancer Series.  Later this year, LBBC will produce a guide for women newly diagnosed with advanced disease.

Honored for my sincere efforts

This entry was written by Tyesha Love, 2012 Butterfly Ball Gala Honoree and LBBC advocate. The Butterfly Ball honors women who have made an impact in the community by helping others affected by breast cancer. 

After my season with cancer, I developed a passion for educating, empowering and supporting other survivors and their loved ones. I wanted to inspire them to hold on to hope, just as so many others had done for me in my season. My family, friends and various cancer organizations gave encouragement and showed their support in a plethora of ways. They were a major impact on my recovery as their support was crucial to my holding on to faith and hope.

My goal simply became to engender awareness, offer support and provide comfort and empathy to other survivors, their loved ones and caregivers. I find such joy having a positive impact on their lives the way so many had on mine. I never sought or expected to get anything more from my efforts, other than the feeling of gratification from having touched people’s lives. It was heartwarming to learn that survivors and their loved ones were moved by my experience and efforts.

Needless to say, when Living Beyond Breast Cancer requested to have me as an honoree at their 2012 Butterfly Ball for my courage, strength and compassion, I was completely surprised. Astounded, anxious and excited…I humbly accepted.

My experience, having been diagnosed with cancer, has been a stepping stone, not a setback. While in my season, I cursed cancer. I doubted my ability to overcome such a plight. I allowed myself to feel defeated and become the victim. My memoir, I Am Not My Hair, A young woman’s journey and triumph over breast cancer, shares my story – a raw, authentic, frank and genuine telling of a season with cancer; an overwhelming roller coaster ride of victory and defeat.

Further into my journey toward survivorship, I realized cancer came as a blessing in disguise. Instead of allowing myself to get lost in a world of cancer, I triumphed over the disease. I grew stronger; I saw life with a new set of eyes – cherishing loved ones and valuing the simple things in life more so than I ever did. I wanted nothing more than to give back and that is what I set out to do for other survivors.

Having LBBC acknowledge and reward my efforts is such a great honor. It is an honor to receive an award for something I simply felt I was being called to do; something I felt was my responsibility to other survivors. This acknowledgement is proof I have and continue to accomplish what I set out to do and it is motivation to continue in this mission.

What I look forward to most as a Butterfly Ball honoree is to be in the presence of other survivors – being motivated and inspired by their stories. I look forward to the enhanced feeling of accomplishment – the success of making a positive impact on the lives of others who are pushing their way thought a season with cancer. I eagerly await this event to celebrate with those whom dedicate their time and resources to empowering others.

The Butterfly Ball will be held at the Philadelphia Loews Hotel on Saturday, November 10, 2012.

The Preparation…

This entry was written by Nickia Walker who was diagnosed with with Stage I breast cancer at a grade of 3:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Just as a trainer prepares his fighter for his opponent, God has prepared me for the fight of my life. When you don’t take time out for God you miss out on what he needs you to know, or do. I recall the morning when the Lord spoke to my heart whispering into my spirit, “Nickia, be in preparation for greatness, but in the mist you must carry the cross.” I remember becoming uneasy about what that could mean. Excited about what greatness could be, but not willing, so-to-speak, to take on the heaviness of that cross. I cried out, “Lord why?” I couldn’t deny what I was feeling for He already knows my heart. Then the still voice said, “I never said I sent YOU to the front line.” Whoa! That spoke to me, awakening that dead thing within me preparing me for whatever was ahead.

“I’m nothing without Christ, just dust, but with Him I’m more than a conqueror, I’m victorious, and I’m prepared!”

Later that night the excitement was still fresh & alive! I told my children what we need to do, but explaining to them carrying the cross could mean anything, and the attack we may face we shall not fear. Not long after that I felt the lump in my breast and soon received that phone call which I will never forget. I was at work when I received the call and had about 7 hours left. God had already prepared my heart & mind which prepared me to finish out my day, caring for those who weren’t able to care for themselves with a smile on my face, and gentleness in my touch. I quietly told God “well, here we go, and we got work to do”. My part is easier than I thought, I just have to follow. I’m just needed to play the back-round. He’s a thousand steps ahead of me, He’s already cleared the way. God made it clear to me that He doesn’t need ME on home-front. All He asks is that we: read the Word, stay on our knees, thank Him through it, and stand on His promises.

On those not-so-good days, you and I may find ourselves balled up in the corner of our bedroom. But God whispers “keep your head up, you’re almost there, you can do it, just trust Me, I’ll never leave you, nor forsake you”. As the trainee watches the tapes of his opponent studying his every move, God has shown me that my competition has already been defeated.

However, there’s rules to this battle. I must never lose sight of what’s in front of me. I must never feel as if I am strong enough to stand alone, because my strength comes from the bread of life. I don’t have to worry about getting weak, because God said his grace is made sufficient for me, his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The bell rang! They said what’s about to hit me can take me out for the count. Then God said, but I said No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper. But Lord I heard his people in the corner talking smack, telling me I better brace myself because I may lose some things that I hold dear. Then God said, I will bless your latter end more than your beginning. God restores all! Finally, it is my duty to tell the people of God’s goodness even before my storm is over, that’s the kind of faith I have, and this is what he expects of us all. I’m able to breathe when I steal away time with the Lord. I can function, I can write in this blog, I’m nothing without Christ, just dust, but with Him I’m more than a conqueror, I’m victorious, and I’m prepared!

Be sure to check out Nickia’s blog!

I was 12-years-old and didn’t understand its power

Mohammed Adam Jr. is the 19-year-old grandson of Wanda L. Brown, a 7-year triple negative breast cancer survivor and President and Co-founder of Sisters Network Columbus OH, Inc. When Mohammed was 12-years-old, and his grandmother shared the news with family and friends his innocent age hindered him from understanding the toll of events that would later follow. In this school essay written by Mohammed his freshmen year of college, he shares his experience of watching not only his grandmother’s recovery from breast cancer, but Mohammed was very observant of the emotional brokenness that the diagnosis played on his very own mother.  

As a young child growing up, my parents tried to protect me from many situations such as, death, drugs and alcohol.  Disease is one unfortunate thing which is unavoidable.  When I was twelve my grandmother, on my mother’s side, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Breast cancer has devastated many women and their families all over the world– I never thought that it would grow so close to me.

On a peaceful autumn evening, during early night hours, my grandmother was in her room preparing for a well-deserved relaxation period after a long day.  In the past she had heard many stories of women discovering the tumor themselves through self-examination, while others stumbled across an unfamiliar lump in their bosom.

With thoughts of past women and their stories in mind, my grandmother made the vital decision to exercise her intelligence.  She gave herself an inspection in search of this infamous lump. She unexpectedly discovered it. 

“It can’t be cancer– at least I hope it’s not,” she thought, with a puzzled expression.

She was unmindful to the fact that this lump was a developing army of malignant cells.  Before her doctor’s appointment, my grandmother continued to go through with her regular every day routines as if everything was fine; which in her mind she was.

November 4th during her scheduled appointment with her physician; “Is the lump cancerous or is it something else?” 

The doctor had demanded her wandering attention before breaking the news.  He admitted that, the mountainous thing she discovered in her chest could possibly be cancerous.  But she didn’t give much thought to the potential dangers of the situation at hand; especially since this cellular deformity didn’t exist in our family’s history.  She was more concerned about her Christmas plans and wondered how she would celebrate her upcoming birthday.  A later biopsy confirmed that the tumor was cancerous.

During one of her many mother-daughter conversations that she had with my mom on a regular basis–you know, the ones where they share laughs and stories and also catch up on recent events– she mentioned everything that had occurred, from that shocking autumn evening till present.  She was very demure about the incidents.  But she said it was cancer.  The mood of the conversation abruptly shifted.  Devastated, overwhelmed, shocked– none of these words could truly describe the emotions my mother conjured up from the despicable words:  “I have cancer.”  

Deviating from thinking as the nurse she is, but instead a concerned child, my mother truly believed that cancer meant death.  My mother has cancer– my mother is dying; it was all the same.  This heartbreaking moment, she will remember forever.  Despite feeling as though her heart was ripped out and dispassionately thrown into the never ending abyss, she knew that keeping her composure, staying strong, and being encouraging was best. She had to keep a stone-face and not show her true hurt.

My grandmother organized a family gathering where she broke the news and told everyone that she’d recently been diagnosed with stage two triple-negative breast cancer. All of this she said with a smile. It was as if to assure us that everything would be okay.  Everyone was shocked by the news.  At the time I was twelve, the most I knew about cancer was that it caused tumors and it was a zodiac sign.  I was ignorant to its power.

It was time for surgery.  It was December.  While everyone was thinking about what they would get for Christmas, my grandmother was recovering from a surgery. My mom was more emotionally involved than I was.  In the presence of my grandmother she would be as uplifting as possible, but at home, I witnessed her inner sorrow.

My grandma’s war with breast cancer made her decide that she would participate in spreading the word and explain to women that this illness is one that is non-discriminatory and that anyone can be affected by it.  Educating women, of any ethic background, about breast cancer occupied a large portion of her life.  In 2007 she started the Sister’s Network and became president. 

This disease has produced great turmoil in many families. I’ve learned how not to take life or anything in it for granted because it could be here today and gone tomorrow.  Despite life’s difficulties, you just have to keep moving forward.

Encourage your pre-teenager to give a perspective and join in on this discussion that targets younger-aged caregivers. Was your pre-teen, like Mohammed, oblivious to what cancer really is, or did s/he have more insight on the disease? Comment here or on our Facebook page.

Your Fashion Bug of the week

Tyesha Love is one of five vibrant and strong women selected to represent Living Beyond Breast Cancer during Fashion Bug’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month Campaign.  Throughout October the women’s clothing store, with nearly 700 stores across the United States, will support LBBC by donating 100% of proceeds from the sale of a one-of-a-kind inspirational tee and by asking their shoppers to make a contribution by rounding up their purchase to the next whole dollar.

For women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, October is often a month filled with emotion. While every woman expresses their approach to the month differently, Tyesha reminds us of what made her see the light after walking in darkness when she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer.

I was honored to be selected as one of five women to share my story through a Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign sponsored by Fashion Bug. The idea of the five senses became an alluring theme. Each of us have a breast cancer story, of course. But from person to person, our story is a reflection of one ideal sense that created the most appealing significance in our individual journeys. For me, it was my ability to see.

After my stage II breast cancer diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with visions of cancer. I saw my life flashing before me – How could I have taken better care of myself? How would I overcome this diagnosis? Would I see a future with my family? What does this mean for my kids?

I sat in my oncologist’s office staring out of the window which overlooked the Philadelphia skyline. I felt so alone. I watched cars drive by on the expressway and people walking to and from – going to work, going out to lunch, running errands, shopping or heading home to their families. Am I the only one fighting for my life! I pitifully asked myself even though I knew I was not. Desolately, I stood from my bed to look into the mirror and saw a cancer patient – no hair; frail, scared and feeling as if cancer far removed me from the “normal” world.

At home, I could no longer stand to see myself in the mirror – the scars, frailty, and hairlessness. I did not want to see this Tyesha – the Tyesha with cancer. I covered the mirror in my bedroom. I opened the bathroom cabinets so I could not see my reflection when I went to bathe.

Overtime, I had begun to get weary of seeing myself as a lonesome cancer patient and seeing everything around me as cancer related – Tahitian Treat soda resembled the AC treatment, my white terry cloth robe reminded me of doctor visits, daytime television reminded me of being on medical leave from work. I started to slip in and out of depression. I needed to shift the way I saw life and myself.

As I was ready to give up, a dear friend slipped a picture of my kids in front of my moping head and tears soaked eyes.  Seeing the picture of my children gave me the will I could not find elsewhere to fight the disease. It was a reminder of times together; a vision of the future with them and how much we needed one another. The image of my children was what I needed to pick my spirits up. I started to see the beauty in everything again. I saw more green in the trees and more brightness in the sun. I saw bigger smiles in the face of my children and immediate family. I saw hope with each doctor visit. I saw more opportunities to enjoy being in the moment.

After awhile, I uncovered the mirrors and chose to see someone strong and brave; someone that was doing all that was necessary/possible so she could create more memories with her children; see more holidays with them; watch them graduate. I looked at each treatment and surgery as a step closer toward victory over the diagnosis.

Fewer were the moments where I saw myself as a cancer patient and more moments where I saw myself as a survivor. When I see the photos that I took at the Fashion Bug shoot, I see myself. She is healthy. She is laughing. She has a different vision that was heightened through her breast cancer diagnosis. She is me. 

 

I want to see that other survivors and their loved ones will have the impetus to redirect energies of distress and get through a season of cancer with hope and in good spirits, just as I managed to do.

 

Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Fashion Bug stores will donate 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of an Inspirational Screen Tee to support our educational resource Guide for the Newly Diagnosed and LBBC’s Survivors’ Helpline, a personalized matching service that connects women in similar circumstances in a confidential setting.

You can order online or find a store nearest to you!