By Barbara Sneary, as told to her cousin, Verlie Edwards
There will not be any ‘Pity Parties.’ This is how I have approached the last 20-plus years of living with cancer. A major part of my adult life has been spent being diagnosed with and overcoming cancer six times! I laugh when my doctor and family say I’m like the Energizer Bunny – I keep bouncing back time and again.
My journey began in 1996 with parotid gland cancer, followed by breast cancer in 2002, thyroid cancer in 2005 and 2009, breast cancer in 2013 and now this year my final round of breast cancer. I say final round because I chose to have a double mastectomy in early August even though the cancer was only present on one side. After having genetic testing, I was found to have a mutation in the CHEK2 gene that is primarily associated with cancers of the breast, colorectum and prostate. Removing all breast tissue was recommended. I encourage everyone to visit with your personal physician about genetic testing (a medical advancement not available in 1996). Plus, be sure you schedule your preventive exams!
How have I kept positive throughout this journey? My faith, support of family, friends (church and work), employers and health care professionals have continued to provide genuine care and concern. The relationship I have with my God and Savior is paramount to any strength I have. It is central to who I am and how I live.
I have also been blessed to have had a strong role model in my mother who confronted breast, thyroid and bone cancer with the strength of a military tanker. I watched her charge forward to live a productive life all the while seeking treatment and working side-by-side with my father in the family business. She kept our family together and moving forward.
My unexpected journey has given me an appreciation for each day I am allowed to live.
Since I have already traveled down the cancer highway, I have some knowledge of what to expect during the next 12 months of post-surgical treatment. Thanks to the vast amount of medical improvements and knowledge, I am able to receive the most effective treatment protocol available. Matter of fact, this regimen is the result of a clinical trial I participated in some 15-16 years ago. I’m so glad I was able to help develop treatment that is now beneficial for not only myself, but especially for others facing this same journey.
Maintaining a positive attitude through mind, body and spirit has preserved my sanity. I’ve kept my mind strong as an educator and wellness instructor, my body strong through exercise and healthy living and my spirit uplifted through prayer and an active faith-based life. While going through college and graduate school I never dreamed that the health and kinesiology classes I took would provide me with a medical background that would help me understand the new language (medical terminology and protocol) I would later encounter.
To those of you taking this same journey, I encourage you to find your center of strength. You will need to lean on it. For me, it’s my faith. If faith is not part of your life, then identify whatever brings you peace.
Barbara Sneary is a strong, inspirational, single, professional woman who has earned her butterfly wings over and over. She has taught on the college level since 1981. Currently, she is an adjunct professor in the Kinesiology Department of Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as an exercise physiologist and recreation specialist with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Dallas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and speech from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in health education from the University of North Texas. She now lives in Grapevine, Texas after growing up in Dallas.
Favorite verse:Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (New International Version)