by Barbara Dickens
For The Leader
In 2011 over 572,000 Americans died of cancer – that is over 1,500 a day. This is too many! This is why we Relay. This is why we are here.
The good news is there are over 12 million Americans who are cancer survivors! I am one of them … so very proud of it!
The month of January was named for Janus a 2-headed god … one head looked back the other looked forward. This is where we are today … looking back at Relay 2011 and looking ahead to Relay 2012.
My name is Barbara Dickens. I am a 24-year Breast Cancer Survivor. I’m here to tell you cancer was one of best gifts I have ever gotten. My story is not much different from lots of survivors, but I still want to share it with you and everyone I can.
Being diagnosed in 1988 was the changing point in my life. I was completely devastated. It was the last thing I thought I would hear. There was no family history of cancer. Why me? I didn’t drink or smoke. Why me? I went through all the stages from hating God to “I’m going to die and I’m way too young to die.” This lasted for about a week.
I realized I had three powerful cancer fighters already at my disposal and I began to realize I had all along what it would take to beat this disease – the things “cancer CANNOT take away.”
1. I had God. As in the poem “Footprints,” God carried me every step of the way, especially when I couldn’t walk.
2. I had my family. They were always there to love me, to support me when I felt weak, and to wipe away the tears when they came.
3. I had martial arts and my students who gave me strength and energy.
I won the battle. I got a clean bill of health. It was over, and I could go on with life. I passed the big five-year mark that says you won’t get it again.
Wrong. Cancer has a mind of its own; I was diagnosed again in 1994, in the same breast. I know that’s supposed to be rare, but “Lucky Me.” After six rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation, being tired all the time, horrible mouth sores, losing my hair and the biggest pain of all – gaining 50 pounds! – I was back at life. I won again! (Did you know obesity two-fold increases the death rate? Yet I found out that 96 percent of chemo patients gained from 5 to 50 lbs! Why is it that all the people I knew who went through chemo lost weight?)
I won the battle again!
What does all this mean?
1. It means to me cancer was a gift –the best gift I ever got.
2. It means I am a far better person now. I appreciate everything in my life. I see the hundreds of miracles that happen every day, beginning with the miracle of waking up in the morning.
3. It means that I want to spend my life educating people about cancer and its prevention.
4. I want to fundraise for research. I want an end to this awful disease
5. I want to be there for the person that just heard the words “you have cancer.” My hope and fervent prayer is that no one should ever have to hear those words again: Through the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life, I am doing those things.
6. I want for no one to have to through what I did. Now that I know all the help the American Cancer Society can give people, I want to reach as many people as I can to give them this information.
7. I want to help people through Reach to Recovery and Road to Recovery.
8. I can hardly wait to retire so I can do even more!
I have had a slogan in martial arts that I have always lived by and it became my mantra for cancer also: seven times to battle, eight times up.
And finally, I have a little poem to share:
Work as if it were your first day.
Forgive as soon as possible.
Laugh without control and never stop smiling.
Please pray for those suffering from cancer.
Dickens is a 7th Dan Black Belt Universal Way and owns the White Horse Academy of Martial Arts in the Heights, www.whama.com. She was honored as a Hero of Hope by the American Cancer Society.
About Relay for Life of Greater Heights
“Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back”
Next event to be held 7 p.m. May 10, 2013
St. Pius X High School
811 W. Donovan St.
Sign up through http://tinyurl.com/c5yyg7r
Relay for Life events are sponsored nationwide through the American Cancer Society and represent hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated.