An International Women’s Day Inspiration
While Berniece has learned to listen to her body, she has also learned not to be defined by her body: “When you understand that breasts and hair don’t define you as a person, it becomes easier to demand different things out of your relationships and life.”
Her story of strength and faith in both herself and others highlights the hallmarks of International Women’s Day, which celebrates the achievements and power of women worldwide. This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge.” While Berniece may not have chosen this challenge, she did choose how to respond to it.
Looking for the silver linings
Berniece—a mother of six kids—was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38. Her mother was the first person she told. “She would talk to me in a slow, stern but gentle voice and remind me of how strong I was, and had to be, in order to beat cancer,” she said. “I needed to survive no matter what.”
She made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy and promised she would never sugarcoat chemotherapy—she cried every day she had it and also struggled with “chemo brain.” Berniece turned to her family and faith on the good and bad days. “Breast cancer has strengthened and challenged me to be my best self,” she said.
Today, Berniece is working towards a degree in Human Services and enjoys spending free time with seniors and kids alike because life is “about touching as many people as you can with kindness and love.”
For women going through treatment, Berniece offers the following three pieces of advice:
- Now is not the time to neglect yourself – take time to focus on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
- Stop worrying that every ache and pain is a sign of cancer. Stay positive in the face of fear.
- Make plans to celebrate your survivorship: Pray and keep the faith!
Every step of the way
It’s been 7 years since Berniece’s diagnosis. “This experience has taught me to love hard, to go over and beyond for others. I want people to know that breast cancer is not a death sentence. Yes, it is scary, and you will be scared at first, but prayer changes things,” she said. “Be bold and face it and know that you can win with the hope of survival, strong family support, a great patient navigator, and—most of all—faith.”
She also encourages breast cancer patients to plan ahead, envisioning yourself alive and well in the season to come: “Buy those nice winter red boots that you know you’ll look good in. Buy a summer wardrobe in the winter. It is important to get up and get dressed, get fabulous, and live your best life!”
National Breast Cancer Foundation remains firmly committed to Helping Women Now and ensuring that no one navigates breast cancer alone. NBCF provided a patient navigator for Berniece, who helped and supported her every step of the way.
“I met my patient navigator, Evelyn on my first visit. We talked, we laughed and I cried—to talk to someone who was really listening was something I really needed.”
“We encourage you to unite with NBCF on International Women’s Day as we celebrate every woman: for all that the women in your life do and for who they are,” said Cinthia Gonzalez, Director of Education & Outreach, National Breast Cancer Foundation. “No matter what your individual journey looks like — from raising a family to pursuing dreams to focusing on your health — know that you are beautiful, strong, worthy, and loved.”
National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to getting you the help you deserve.