Monday, October 1, 2012

Portrait of Strength

Breast cancer affects all of us. I guarantee it. I want you to stop and think for just a second...Who do you know who has been changed by this disease? Chances are you have a mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, or friend that has dealt with it firsthand. I know I do.
Meet Rebecca O'Neal. This is my grandmother--my mother's mother. She was an incredible wife, mother, and grandmother, and she just so happened to be a breast cancer survivor. Mimaw (as I called her) was diagnosed in 1966. At the time, she had a 16-year-old son (my uncle) and a 4-year-old daughter (my mother). Can you imagine how scary that was?  As a mother, I cannot even fathom having a small child and dealing with breast cancer.  But she did it...and she beat it.
At the age of 42, Mimaw discovered a lump in her breast and knew immediately what it was.  After a doctor's official diagnosis, she had a hysterectomy and a major mastectomy that removed her breast and most of the tissue in her rib area, underarm, and upper right arm.  She also underwent radiation therapy (cobalt therapy, to be exact) because chemotherapy wasn't available at that time.  My mother distinctly remembers her being very, very sick during the experience.  But she also remembers how much strength her mother had to fight it.
My grandmother went on to beat breast cancer.  It went into remission after a round of radiation and never returned.  She went on to lead a life filled with her favorite things: God, family, and friends.  She passed away in 2005 after 81 full years of life. Rebecca O'Neal was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met...breast cancer or not. She taught me how to cook, helped me sew the curtains for my first college dorm room, and taught me how to be a survivor.
My grandmother is just one example of millions of inspiring breast cancer survivors.  I am so thankful that Bank of America has launched a new microsite in partnership with Susan G. Komen, Everyday Portraits, which transforms a picture and a story into a one-of-a-kind portrait that allows users to honor anyone who has fought or is fighting breast cancer.  Click here to see the Everyday Portraits of extraordinary survivors.  You can make your own portrait and for every portrait made in the month of October, Bank of America will contribute $5 to Susan G. Komen!