Pre-viving…

Nikki Speer is a mother; a daughter; a granddaughter; a niece; a sister; a wife. She is like many women, she can be described by numerous meaningful relationships. Relationships she treasures.

But there is one more descriptor that came as a result of Nikki’s relationships, she is a “pre-vivor.”

She is one of an increasing number of women who looked at a combination of factors, genetics and family history being just two, and decided to have a double mastectomy prior to receiving a cancer diagnosis.

In 2006, Nikki’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through her own determination and the gift of cancer research, her mom lived 9 years beyond her diagnosis. Those 9 years were years that allowed her to meet her grandchildren.

Nikki’s aunt and grandmother also had breast cancer.  Having lost her mother, grandmother, and aunt to cancer, Nikki and her husband made a difficult decision to protect her future and their family. She elected to have a preventative double mastectomy.

The psychological impact on a survivor and their family is a less talked about effect of cancer. In Nikki’s case, she was motivated to reduce the threat of the disease which had already ravaged her family and her mentality. The uncertainty of the future when the past was full of cancer – this is a harsh reality faced courageously by many women and their families.

Nikki, whose strength originates from her faith, found in her journey, a chance to give strength to others.

Having experienced first hand the aftermath of a double mastectomy, Nikki developed a post-op shirt for women to help ease the physical burden of surgery. The shirt fits loosely and has interior pockets to accommodate drains. It is a gift in every way imaginable.

As we talk about beating cancer, there may be no greater example than Nikki Speer. Her family lost so much to cancer, and yet, Nikki is winning the fight. She elected to make a pre-emptive strike on cancer and now she is helping others in their journey.

Talking to Nikki, it is obvious she wants nothing more than to see cancer eliminated. She is thankful for the constantly advancing research that is giving hope to her family and many others. Research that gives both quantity and quality of life.

But, as is the case with most things, there is a gap. A gap between where we are and where we want to be. In this case, the gap is the distance until a cure is found. Nikki is helping fill the gap by making it easier for women, one at a time, to face cancer.

By her example, by her gift, she is making the difference. A difference that will beat cancer.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visit KayYow.com.

One Win at a Time…

There are a lot of ways to give strength. We live in a country blessed with heroes. Blessed with people who, in the circumstances of their lives, find ways to give to others. Erica Jones is one of those blessings. She is a person who, in grave circumstances, found a way to serve.

Erica was 44 years old when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. As she said, her family tree did not have breast cancer in it and she had not imagined herself being “the party starter.” Yet, she found herself – a single mother and an only child– facing the words nobody ever imagines themselves hearing, “You have breast cancer.”

Erica certainly was not expecting to hear, “You have breast cancer…and it’s an aggressive type.”

Where do you go from there?

Erica went to her faith, and faith is where she found hope.

It wasn’t easy. Her son was just starting his sophomore year of college. A collegiate football player, Erica did not want to present news that would certainly devastate.

After a second opinion revealed that the cancer had indeed spread to her lymph nodes, Erica began chemotherapy. The second treatment sent her to the ER with a week-long stay and sent her heart racing to an alarming 180 beats per minute for 2 hours straight. The fix was to stop her heart and bring it back to normal again.

Imagine.

Stopping the heart.

But isn’t that what cancer does?

The three words nobody wants to hear: “You have cancer.” These are heart-stopping words.

We hold our collective breath, waiting for relief, for good news.

Thankfully, in the case of Erica Jones and an increasing number of women, there is good news in a story that has an unwritten ending.

While treatments come to an eventual end, serving others is an ongoing process. Serving, giving. Now defining forces of Erica’s life – a life that will not be defined by cancer, but by giving strength to others.

In the time since her diagnosis, Erica started a ministry to provide healthy Cuisine Care Packages to single adults undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Her slogan is “Smiles through Trials.”  The ministry is one big ripple effect from one of the 15.5 million Americans surviving cancer, a ripple that is helping others find their way in the journey too.

Erica is just one example of how we are collectively beating cancer. One woman finishing treatment, one ministry started, one meal provided, one life changed – one win at a time.

 

To donate, or to learn more about the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visit Kayyow.com.