A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double. ~ Toni Morrison
On January 9, 2007, I lost one of the most extraordinary and influential sisters in my circle to the second leading cause of death among women – breast cancer. Since then and years prior, I’ve lost many others to this same epidemic. Over 95% of women in the United States alone who are diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 40.
Globally, every three minutes ONE woman around the world is diagnosed with this most common disease and every year, about 1 in 8 women in the United States alone will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2012, an estimated 226,870 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women – an increase of 19,780 from 2011. As well, 63,300 new cases in situ breast cancer [of which 85% will be DCIS] will develop this year opposed to that of 54,010 last year, an increase of 9,290. However, the rate of breast cancer deaths from 2011 to now have decreased by 330, and continue to decrease due to heightened awareness and early detection. My great late sister friend, Dyan Adams, taught me one of the most valuable lessons I will ever learn: awareness is the key that opens the door to staying in the boat. [Source: http://www.breastcancer.org]
Dyan Adams was a respected DC make-up artist, esthetician, mother, friend to all who knew her, and steadfast breast cancer advocate. A hero and messenger, she discovered both her passion and purpose [through her own diagnosis and advocacy] to help save those who could not save themselves and to communicate the importance of early detection. After watching a close friend loose her battle with breast cancer, Dyan became resilient and dedicated to performing her own periodic self-examinations. After a few mammograms that tested negative and implementing some of her own initiatives, she visited her holistic doctor for clarification and insight. After several more tests and several more results from those tests, things got quite blurry for Dyan. She was forced to go inward in stillness to attain the peace she was seeking.
It was this considerable perspective that influenced Dyan to realize her dream and ultimately become the sole proprietor of DV8 (Deviate) Intimate Day Spa, a health and healing, full service day spa centered on holistic wellness and the fostering of positive energy to aid in the healing of the mind, the body, the heart and the soul. Her primary focus of the spa was to balance wellness, beauty and inner peace with a daily objective to deliver the ultimate therapeutic and holistic experience combined with providing a nurturing atmosphere to those in need of a spiritual “deviation.” A cosmetologist by trade, Dyan also specialized in body and facial massages and promoted an array of products that customers could administer on their own initiative. Her mantra for the spa and a conviction she devoted to all, “Come in Pieces…Leave whole”, became her spiritual trademark and legacy. She believed that humble hearts could be interconnected, fragmented spirits could be mended, and life was full of creativity, connection and commitment. By honoring her beliefs in God, she was able to share with many and connect with most.
Dyan’s journey had begun. The race was rapidly approaching on June 4, 2005 in Washington, DC. It was yet again, the Annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, National Race for the Cure. Dyan was gathering up the crew for the big day- her big day and ours too. She even welcomed a sleepover since the day would begin as early as 5:00 in the morning. She became a team sponsor and established her own web page for registrations on the Internet. I encouraged as many sister-friends as possible to engage, sign-up, polish their running shoes and get ready for the big 5-mile challenge. We all wanted to support the cause. More importantly, we wanted to support Dyan in her personal journey as a breast cancer survivor. She was a great example and often reminded me that I must always ensure that my energy is on the right side of the track, for my own spiritual stability and for those that are frequently affected by it, such as my children and my peers. These are the people that look to us for guidance, approval, and inspiration when they are unable to find their own.
Everyone was someone to Dyan. A beautiful reflection of light and love, she honored her sister friends and cherished new acquaintances and was surrounded by love. I never recall her being reluctant to share her story, her faith, her home, or even the blemishes from her mastectomy with family, friends and strangers alike. For as long as I can remember, Dyan appreciated the road she traveled and never once resisted to share her knowledge, love and consideration for others. She opened up her home, her heart, her resources, and her time to the public.
The relevance of our journey is never about ourselves because life is much more substantial than it appears. That is one of the many beauties of human relationships. Those around you not only reflect, but also show you who you are and where you are in your own level of consciousness. It was nearly seven years ago that I began to fanatically fall in love with the color PINK when Dyan illustrated to me how to flaunt its’ true exquisiteness , and revealed her fear – flight – and faith in overcoming her diagnosis of breast cancer. I was merely amazed by her dynamic spirit of resilience and determination to battle the disease with a strong sense of certainty. Her favorite truism was, “I don’t hang out with fear; I roll out with faith.”
Every October is ardently dedicated to the annual international health campaign known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or NBCAM. This month, NBCAM celebrates 27 years of dedication to the awareness, education and empowerment of this cause. This worldwide campaign offers information, research, and support to those affected by breast cancer, as well as provides preventive attentiveness to others and in efforts to finding a cure. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening and increased awareness. Surprisingly, about 70-80% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. In Western countries, 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis. In the U.S., breast cancer strikes Caucasian women most often, followed by African American women, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Hispanic or Latina, and Native Americans. However, African American women are most likely to die first.
Male Breast Cancer, which is rare, is often overlooked. In 2009, male breast cancer advocacy groups such as the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men, Out of the Shadow of Pink, and A Man’s Pink joined together to globally establish the third week of October as “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.” In 2012, 2,190 new cases of breast cancer and 410 deaths are estimated to develop in men. [Source: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org]
Every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, communities raise funds, devote their time, and employ fundraising walks and a variety of global activities, from the United States to Australia, New Zealand to Romania, in an effort to engage in this pink passion of awareness, empowerment, and LIFE. Organizations such as Ride to Empower, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s, National Cancer Institute [NCI], Men Against Breast Cancer [MABC], American Cancer Society [ACS], and even the National Football League [NFL] fully support the research and continued initiatives for breast cancer awareness.
Every personal encounter we embrace in this life has its own decree of divinity. There is a reason, season, or lifetime lesson to be gotten. No connections are coincidental and all occurrences have their duration of time and significant meaning. Dyans courage and conscious conviction have saved hundreds of women’s lives today. Being engaged and connected to the heart of life can make you very resourceful. Taking time to observe, listen, and pay attention to our own bodies is paramount to our survival. Dyan shared a vast amount of knowledge with me and many other sisters on early detection and diagnosis. Her quest to embrace her own journey and minister to hundreds of young and old women all over the city was a golden opportunity.
Our sisterhood to one another is a gift. Some ways you can begin your golden opportunity and advocating are:
- Being present through self-awareness
- Sisterhood Support
- Screening and annual clinical breast exams [every 3 years beginning at age 20 and every year beginning at age 40]
- Understanding risk factors
- Communicating with your physician
- Utilizing resources [www.cancer.org, www.komen.org, www.iccnetwork.org, http://www.cancer.gov]
Today, there are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Our journey on this planet is not so much about how long we are here, as it is about how we use our time and energy while we are here. Share your story, share your resources, share your time, share your life – the life you save may be your very own.
A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. ~ Isadora James
Love, Light, and Awareness for your Tuesday and month ahead.
Dyan Adams public interview can be found on WUSA, Channel 9 Archives. For more information and commentary on Breast Cancer Awareness, reference October 19, 2010, The Power of Pink: A race and space for healing and October 4, 2011, Take Courage [Ms. Wanda Sykes]