“Oh Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me.” – Psalm 30:2
October is a special month for so many reasons. Here in the south, we welcome a break from the heat, embrace the colorful leaves, and enjoy weekends full of football and fun with friends and family. October is also a month of awareness for a lot of people. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each year, I am amazed at the number of people showing support for this cause.
Breast Cancer Awareness has been dear to my heart for as long as I can remember. My aunt (my mom’s older sister) was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a little girl. I remember being told about cancer back then, but I had no clue how much impact it would have on my aunt or our family. I had never known anyone with cancer although I had heard stories of older people who passed away from it. To me, cancer was something that happened to old people. It made them sick. It made them pass away. This bothered me. My aunt wasn’t that old and I definitely didn’t want her to pass away.
It wasn’t until I went to middle school that I really began to understand what cancer was and how it truly affected people. My math teacher was diagnosed with skin cancer that year. She shared her journey and victory with our class. Through candid conversations with her, I learned that cancer was caused by abnormal cell growth and that there were so many types. I learned that some cancers were very preventable and that many had good chances for recovery. I learned about remission and chemotherapy. As I was learning, my aunt was fighting. She went to countless doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions. My mom would often accompany her on her doctor’s visits which is how I was kept up-to-date on her progress.
In hindsight, I realize that my aunt never once mentioned her cancer to me. I never heard her complain about it. Every time that I remember asking her how she was doing, she would say she was fine. I can imagine that there were many days that she really didn’t fee so “fine.” At one point, I remember getting the great news that my aunt’s breast cancer had gone into remission. It was such a day to celebrate. Her medication and chemotherapy treatments had gotten rid of the cancerous cells and she was on the road to recovery. I was so happy. I know that she was too, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. I think that each day was a reason to celebrate for her as I’m sure it is to so many people that are living with cancer.
My aunt’s cancer would go and come over the years. She was something like the comeback kid. The doctor’s appointments would pick up from time to time and I could always tell by her eyes when she was undergoing radiation treatments. As I got older, I realized how strong my aunt had always been. She maintained a positive attitude as she fought every single day for her life. I know that some days had to be very rough on her, but I also know that she knew the power of God. She knew that He was capable of healing her. She truly believed that He would…and He did, time and time again.
One year, I decided that I would purchase a gift for her every year in October. I got that idea when I was in Hobby Lobby one day and noticed that they sold greeting cards specifically for people living with cancer. I grabbed a card for her and sent her a bouquet of pink flowers. One year, I got her a pink photo frame. Another year, I got her a stuffed animal. She was so amazed by the thoughtfulness of a greeting card made specifically for the cause, that I don’t think she would have missed the gifts at all.
Our tradition of October gifts lasted for four years before my aunt transitioned from angel on earth to guardian angel. I don’t want to write or think too much about her being sick during the last few months of her life because that is not her legacy. She never let her illness define her. She was so many other things. She was a daughter…a mother…a wife…a sister…an aunt…a grandmother…a giver…a caretaker…a comedian…the best cook I’ve ever met…and most of all, she was a survivor.
I am amazed at how much heart she showed throughout her life. For more than two decades she could have wondered if the next day would be the day that cancer won. Instead, she decided that IT WOULD NEVER DEFEAT HER. She went toe-to-toe with breast cancer for years. She kicked its butt so many times. She’s in heaven now, but still…cancer didn’t win. God won. He used her to show so many people what can happen when your soul refuses to die.
I am so blessed to have had her as a model of strength, perseverance, resiliance, and survivorship. God bless my Aunt Rosa Kaye and anyone who has every been affected by breast cancer. Breast cancer is highly treatable when detected early. Awareness is key. I encourage anyone that is able to consider donating to cancer research. If you are not led to do so, perhaps you will still lend a helping hand through volunteer work, increasing awareness, or showing someone that is living with cancer that their life matters to you.
Be blessed and have a happy October, beautiful!
Note: Throughout the month of October, Smiling By Faith will recognize both Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness. Please check back frequently for updates on how you can help as well as preventative information. If you or someone you know would like to share a survivor story to be featured here (it can include your name or remain anonymous…your choice), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.