November 4th, 2012- a day to celebrate a 10-year survivor, my sister, Jeannie. But rewind 10 years, November 4th ,2002- a day we would like to forget. The words, “you have cancer,” were unbelievable and devastating. But to my 30-year old sister, it was the day she stepped up to the plate, ready for the fight of her life. She had been diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and had a long road ahead. Thinking back on her journey, she would agree, there was a large down side; lumpectomy, chemo, radiation, hair loss, nausea, dozens of doctor appointments, and a hysterectomy. But all this is overshadowed by the life lessons and good that have come since that day. She learned to take small steps to get to a goal, especially in fighting breast cancer. She learned to surround herself with positive people and positive stories. She learned not to sweat the small stuff. She has met so many new people along her journey; some that have given her courage to keep fighting and some that she has been able to inspire with hope. She has never questioned “why?”, but instead, “what can I do to help.” She learned what her true strength is, the meaning of faith and the power of hope. Her favorite quote, “what lies behind us and before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
During my sister’s battle, she organized her first Race for the Cure team, one that rallied family, friends, doctors and nurses alike, to join together in celebrating her journey. This year will be her tenth year for a team. The day touches our hearts just the same as the very first race we attended. We are so proud to be in the presence of such strong women and men who have won the battle, and just as aware of the strength of those we have lost to the disease. For this is why my sister continues to join Komen in finding a cure. She too has lost a dear friend and made her a promise that she would continue the fight.
This diagnosis certainly was not my sister’s plan for her life at the age of 30, but today could not imagine her life without THIS plan. She believes this has made her the person she is today and defined her mission in life. She strives to make a difference in the lives of those touched by breast cancer and hopes one day to prevent any others from the battle. She reaches out to any newly diagnosed women to answer questions, listen, and cheer them on. Jeannie has been able support and encourage our three aunts that have been diagnosed since her journey. She also helps Komen Cincinnati in any way possible. She organizes survivor gift bags each year for the Race for the Cure along with family and friends, she volunteers for many Komen events to raise breast cancer awareness, and has appeared on news programs promoting self-detection and yearly exams. She believes strongly in their cause. She has even inspired her daughter, Hope, who has had a lemonade stand raising money for the Race, remembering each dollar is another step closer to finding a cure.
So this November 4th we will celebrate the life of one of the strongest people I know, my sister Jeannie. We will place ten pink flamingos in her front yard, one for each year of survival. This is an annual family ritual that reminds my sister to smile because she is a SURVIVOR. The flamingo represents grace and beauty, both of which she has displayed on her journey. She encourages others to celebrate their “day” with something that inspires them as well. We look forward to herding a flock.