PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENDA COFFEE ©2019
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Incase the universe thought it might have slipped my mind that 15 years ago I was diagnosed with this terrible disease, since then five of my girlfriends have been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. I understand their fears. I know how hard it is to think about anything other than cancer because we’re wondering if we’ll be here this time next year or five years from now.
I also know when treatment is over, it’s sometimes difficult to get on with the business of living.
Isn’t it funny how things like smells and music can jog our memory and remind us of places we’ve been or experiences we’ve long since forgotten? Like every time I open the dresser drawers in the guest room, I’m reminded of my grandmother. Even after all these years the rose pattern on her drawer liners still smell like her favorite perfume, Elsa Schiaparelli’s “Shocking.” And today an online photograph of a room I’d never seen before struck a familiar chord.
I knew it was related to a fabric I’d been seeking for over 10 years.
Good friends are like portals to the past and the hands that help move us into the future. In the last week I’ve gotten together with a number of good friends. One I don’t see often, but when we do, we pick up as though one of us just stepped out of the room for a few minutes.
No “Tell me what you’ve been up to?” We talk in shorthand and enter the conversation in midstream.
ME IN MY WIG, THE WEEK AFTER MY LAST CHEMO, APRIL, 2005.
This week I had my annual mammogram. Unlike past years I wasn’t worried, but as we all know… Mammograms can change our world in the time it takes to “Inhale. Hold it. Don’t breath.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and I’m an expert at reading every nuance in the voice and face of a mammogram technician.
This year my mammogram threw me a curveball.
I remember the exact second I learned I had breast cancer. I’d just come out from under anesthesia and was laying on an operating table in the hospital. My husband and a friend were standing next to my doctor who was telling me I had breast cancer. Everyone looked solemn, sad and shellshocked.
It wasn’t the result any of us were expecting.
ANNIE (LEFT) AND LULU, EIGHT WEEKS OLD, THE DAY I BROUGHT THEM HOME.
Like many women who’ve had breast cancer, sometimes I think about why I’m still here. In part it was due to the type and stage of my cancer, my good physical shape and the great medical care I received, but I always come back to my faith in God and my determination to survive. And when I think about the word “survivorship,” and all the courageous people, dealing with their own set of problems, it may sound strange, but also I think of my 16-month-old puppy, Lulu.
At birth, if you’d calculated Lulu’s odds of surviving, they would have been slim to none.
This isn’t your typical Fashion Friday blog so don’t be alarmed… I’m not suggesting you go out and buy an outfit like the one I’m wearing. When I came across this old photo of me and couldn’t stop laughing, I had to share it with you.
Have you ever tried something on, hoping your spouse or girlfriend would validate your purchase?
FACING CALENDAR PAGES. CALENDAR, NAME, CONCEPT AND PHOTOGRAPHS ©BRENDA RAY COFFEE, 2004
Writer and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson, referred to Napa Valley as “bottled poetry.” In 1880, Robert and his bride, Fanny, spent a two-month honeymoon in the Napa Valley area and fell in love with it. They would be heartbroken to learn of the raging inferno that rained destruction on their beloved valley. I, too, am devastated for everyone who loves Napa and who lives there.
My love for Napa Valley has nothing to do with the $100,000 bottle of cabernet the late, Robert Mondavi, opened for me… Although I drank $50,000 worth!
For anyone who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer—or knows someone who has—this week’s news that after 25 years, Olivia Newton-John’s breast cancer has recurred is devastating. There goes the myth that after five years you’re cured, although most of us who’ve had breast cancer know we can never use the word “cure.” The correct term is NED. No evidence of disease.
NED is like living with a landmine in your body, wondering if, and when, something will trigger it.
Philippa Kibugu-Decuir, Founder of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa. Photographs by Jennifer Denton
Philippa Kibugu-Decuir is singlehandedly changing the face of breast cancer and women’s healthcare in Rwanda. Philippa Kibugu-Decuir is not only educating one woman at a time—one village at a time—but she’s educating the doctors and nurses of Rwanda as well.
In 2007 doctors in Rwanda hadn’t heard the words breast cancer, and there were no oncologists. Now, thanks to Philippa’s efforts, there are two.