This Sunday, June 7, we recognize National Cancer Survivors Day, a chance to celebrate those who have survived cancer and to support those who are currently battling it. In advance of the day, we’d like to share a story of a cancer survivor, Barbara Buck.
April 23, 2004. The day Barbara Buck found out she had stage 2 breast cancer.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh no,’” says the 63-year-old retired school teacher. “I had lost both a grandmother and a cousin to cancer.”
The Elkton, Md., resident happily counts herself as a cancer survivor, but it wasn’t an easy journey.
Upon her diagnosis, Barbara experienced what countless others felt upon their initial diagnosis: disbelief and then a fear of the unknown. But after her initial reaction, she fell back on three essential supports that brought her through her cancer: her faith, her medical support team, and her family.
“I just prayed and prayed,” she recalls. “That was the one thing that helped keep me calm. I had no control over my body, so God was in control.”
Relying on her faith to help with her mental health, she also relied on her expert team of medical professionals to tend to her physical health. After getting the diagnosis, Barbara and her family decided to take quick action. (A follow up on Barbara’s faith: She also gives credit to God for helping her so quickly find a team of experts who performed her surgeries and provided her follow-up care.)
So, she had two surgeries to remove the cancer followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy and then finally radiation treatment. From first diagnosis through final treatment, it was seven months.
The treatment was successful, as Barbara can now attest. Her crack team of doctors, nurses, and therapists used their skills to help defeat the cancer…and give Barbara a chance for a full recovery. She remains grateful for that expertise.
But like many others who have been in her shoes, the journey wasn’t easy.
She went through the pain of recovery. She lost her hair due to the chemo. She endured setbacks and days of doubt. But that’s where the third part of her support came in her: her immediate and extended family.
“There was a great support system for me,” she says. “My husband and kids were there for me. My church organized meals for us. My friends at school organized a driver for me when I had to go to chemo. Everyone was a blessing.”
Barbara’s son, Jonathan, even joined her in solidarity when she lost her hair during chemo. He shaved his head, save for one part on the back. “He spelled out ‘Mom’ with the remaining hair,” laughs Barbara.
She also had the support of a couple of friends who had gone through their own bouts of cancer, who offered advice when needed. Her Bible study group also was a constant source of encouragement.
She adds two additional things helped her through her treatment.
“I kept a positive thoughts journal and recorded all of the gifts that I was given, both big and small,” she says.
And the other?
“I wanted to stay alive for my new grandson. He gave me a strong reason to live.” Today, Barbara gets to spend lots of time with her now four grandchildren, all of whom live nearby.
“I just enjoyed my granddaughter Alyssa’s company at the annual Elkton Relay for Life last month,” she says with a smile. “She took several laps with me.”
She has not forgotten her experiences and remembers to count her blessings every day. She also shares these words of wisdom for those who might be going through their own cancer journey:
“I would let them know that God is with them. Have a positive attitude and find reasons to keep going. That’s what helped get me through.”