In July, Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day coach Gayla emailed me some pictures from a walk-and-talk she had just done with a first-time walker named Nikia B. The photos showed Gayla and Nikia posing with the the various Komen 3-Day posters they spotted as they enjoyed a 5+ mile stroll around a Dallas-area mall (ah, air conditioning!). Even before Gayla told me any details about Nikia or her story, I was struck by the images and Nikia’s energy. When Gayla later told me a little bit about Nikia, I knew we needed to have her tell her story – starting with her own breast cancer diagnosis at age 16, and leading all the way up to those poster photos in the mall. So we asked her, and she agreed! Prepare to be inspired by this amazing young woman.
We’re less than 90 days away from the Susan G. Komen Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, and I could not be more excited to join the thousands of women and men who have experienced the pure magic of the Komen 3-Day. This year in particular will be special for me because it marks 20 years in my own battle against breast cancer.
In some ways it feels like only yesterday when I first encountered breast cancer at the age of 16. I’ll never forget the moment that I first felt that lump in my breast. No family history. No known patients or survivors in my life. I felt like a complete alien, and I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I simply don’t have words for the fear and grief that tried to rob me of my youth. But recently, while out walking with Dallas/Fort Worth coach Gayla, I ran across a some 3-Day® posters in our local mall that reminded me of what pulled me through my journey, and what I hope to instill into others as I walk. The words that stood out on the posters were Strength, Purpose, and Inspiration.
Strength – The truth is, none of us really know what we’re made of until we’re put into a position to prove it. At the young age of 16, I was forced to make a decision to LIVE and not let my diagnosis define what kind of life I would have. The surgery, treatment and subsequent challenges were undeniably life-defining, but not necessarily in the way you might suppose. Up until the point of my diagnosis, I let life “happen to me,” but I quickly realized how precious life was, and it made me decide that I needed to be the one to make life happen. Somewhere along the way, I found the strength to set my own course and determine what future I wanted to see. Step by step, I’m seeing it unfold, indescribably and beautifully, before my eyes!
Purpose – There’s something about staring breast cancer in the face and living through it that made me realize that nothing about life is coincidental or absent of meaning. In fact, I realized quickly that starting from the moment of my diagnosis, I could find purpose in even the most challenging moments of my journey. We all can. Purpose helps us to define and find meaning in the situations and circumstances in our lives that would otherwise make us feel hopeless. Purpose helps us to channel our emotions and frustrations when life isn’t quite going our way and reminds us that what we’re going through educates, empowers and encourages someone else. In fact, I believe our greatest purpose is only realized when we’ve helped someone else get to the place that we’ve come through.
Inspiration – I never would have climbed out of bed on the tough days if it weren’t for something nudging me, provoking me and inspiring me to find a reason to fight to see another day. For some, it’s a child, a loved one or spouse. For others it’s a spiritual power that centers and empowers them. Whatever the source, everyone needs to find their reason to keep going – it serves as fuel for uphill journeys and marathon missions. My inspiration was a combination of my faith and my family. My gratitude for my life and purpose in this world, motivated me to fight for my presence on this earth for years to come.
This November, when I embark upon my first-ever 3-Day, I will pull from all the strength, purpose and inspiration I have ever felt and received. I hope to channel it into every step I take, remembering the countless lives that have been lost to this horrible disease. But more than that, with every step I take, I will reflect on the incredible opportunity I’ve been given to use my life and experience to help others. I will walk with a renewed sense of my obligation to be a voice and a hope for those who have lost theirs along the way. I plan to walk every step of my 60-mile journey in appreciation of this wonderful thing called life–a life that I look forward to one day living in a world without breast cancer.
Thank you, Nikia! We look forward to sharing the 3-Day with you in November!