October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Events are happening across the globe to highlight the necessity for early detection, and to focus on the battle women — and men (about 2,000 men are diagnosed each year) — are so bravely fighting, or have fought, to live beyond the disease.
This month, our high school will hold a pink-out pep rally, with the spirit speech delivered by one of our local breast cancer survivors. In nearby Lubbock, Texas, Caprock Winery hosted a fundraiser where participants stomped grapes to “stomp out cancer.” Two of the many planned events.
When I think about breast cancer survivors, several women come to mind: my next-door neighbor; a high school classmate who recently posted a photo of herself when she was going through chemo, with a message reminding us of the importance of early detection; and my best friend from college. Like many, her chemo treatments claimed her locks of naturally curly hair, but a recent visit proved chemo didn’t have the last word, as her beautiful, thick hair has returned. Locks of faith, I told her, a reminder that God still heals.
But not everyone in my life has lived to tell about their journey. Only 39 years old, a wife, mother of two grown girls and a first-time grandmother, my sister-in-law Doniece Lawson was diagnosed with breast cancer. For five years she battled with courage, determination, and faith that could move mountains.
Doniece never stopped living on the outside, while the cancer was devouring her on the inside. Even when she was on oxygen and too weak to walk, she kept looking for opportunities to celebrate. She loved birthdays, family gatherings, and holidays — any opportunity to be together.
One Christmas, while in remission, Doniece decided we would play “Let’s Make a Deal.” We all dressed up in costumes including Doniece, who said since she had the short hair she would play Monty Hall, the show’s host. She photographed us in our silly costumes, later making memory albums for us.
Doniece never seemed to lose her zeal, though there were plenty of dark moments. She never seemed to stop celebrating, though there were days her pain and nausea stopped her in her tracks. And she didn’t allow the people around her to stop living either, though their hearts were breaking knowing they would eventually have to let her go.
Doniece is in Heaven with her Savior, pain- and cancer-free. While we didn't get to make a deal here on earth, I contend that Doniece beat cancer because she never let it beat her. She didn’t stop living. She didn’t stop loving. And she refused to stop believing.
To all those fighting this fight and those walking the journey with them, we pray for strength, healing, moments of celebration in the midst, and a cure!