Warrior: Beverly McKee

What to you remember about the day you were diagnosed?

I received a phone call from my oncologist 48 hours after a biopsy. Her words, “I’m sorry, Beverly, you have breast cancer” changed my life forever. My husband was waiting for the call with me. I turned to him, said “I have breast cancer. I want a bilateral mastectomy.” Then I called my mom and sister. I had exactly five minutes between the phone call and 5 kids getting off of the bus. I had no choice but to hold it together and make dinner. Spagetti with salad and green beans. I was in a state of shock but I remember the events of that evening so clearly.

10.24 Make Dinner

What was your reaction after the dust settled?

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was life altering. It felt like someone walked up to me and smashed every ounce of security that I had ever had…tiny shards of glass falling all around me. I doubted that I would ever feel secure again with such an uncertain future. My own body had turned against me. I was in danger and there was nowhere to hide. I couldn’t believe that I had breast cancer.

What was your treatment plan?

I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with expanders, 16 weeks of chemotherapy and 28 external beam radiation sessions.

I know that’s the short list. Talk to me about how treatment has affected your current well-being?

After a year of poking, prodding, cutting, pumping in poison and radiating, my body has changed so much. I have twelve new scars (I just counted them). In the course of five surgeries, I said adios to my breasts, hair, lymph nodes, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, eye brows and eye lashes.

It seems logical that I might struggle with my body image after a year of invasive medical procedures. But here’s the amazing part: fighting and beating breast cancer has given me a new appreciation for every aspect of my body. I love that my body is recovering and I’m strong again. I appreciate that my lungs are clear and my bones are strong…allowing me to enjoy nature walks and long bike rides. I love to show off my new “girls”. They went from a “B” to a perfect “C” and they are soft, perky and beautiful. My hair is super short but it growing longer every day. Being proud and appreciative of my scarred, poisoned, radiated body has truly been a rainbow through the storm of breast cancer for me. I chose to embrace the differences and my message to all women fighting breast cancer is that while your life will never be the same after breast cancer, we can find happiness and acceptance.

October 17th marked your one year survivor anniversary, right? I like that you are already planning your 40th anniversary. Tell us about that.

It was frightening to hear my doctors talk about treatment options based on 5 year survival rates. 5 years? My boys would not be driving in 5 years and that motivated me to start planning my 40 year survivor celebration. I can visualize my party. It will be held on 10/17/52 on the beach of Sanibel Island, Florida at sunset. My friends, family and fellow warriors will celebrate with me as the sun is setting over the ocean. We will all be old but it will be the party of a lifetime. My “girls” will still be perky, which is one of many positives that have come out of my journey through breast cancer. In the meantime, I plan to celebrate every year.

How has having breast cancer changed you?

My journey through breast cancer has changed my life in many ways. I have adopted an “IRE” attitude towards life. This is a Jamaican phrase that means “no problem” and symbolizes an island state of mind. I strive to appreciate the little things in life and not sweat the small stuff.

Being diagnosed also inspired me to follow my passion for writing. I started by blogging for friends and family to keep them up to date on my journey through treatment. Writing has always been therapeutic for me, so I went public with my blog when I was halfway through chemo. It was exhiliating to hear from other survivors that my words helped them on their journey. I have dedicated my life to inspiring my fellow warriors and reassuring that they are not alone in their journey. My blogs and social media outlets have inspired breast cancer warriors throughout the world.

beverly-mckee

I know that feeling! Tell us about another project you are working on.

I am working on an exciting project to create HOPE for my fellow warriors.I started the HOPE project with the goal of providing inspiration and HOPE to all of my fellow breast cancer warriors. I am interviewing long term (25+ year) breast cancer survivors for the project and can’t wait to share more details when it is complete.

Do you think your professional background plays a part on how you view life now or in the way you support other survivors?

My background as a therapist put me on a quest to create HOPE for my fellow breast cancer warriors. It also helped me accept that while I could not change my Stage III breast cancer, I could control how I reacted to every step of the process. I knew that I would have bad days but I also knew that those days would pass. I chose to focus on the positives throughout my journey. I know that being positive won’t cure my cancer or keep it from coming back, but it makes my life much more enjoyable. The past year of my life has been the very challenging and I do not want to repeat it, but I have gained so many life lessons that have changed my life for the better.

I really admire your – for a lack of better words – chill attitude. Do you foresee any future roadblocks? 

The biggest roadblock for me is fighting the loss of security that comes with a potentially life threatening diagnosis. The follow up visits, random aches and pains and fear of metastasis can be anxiety inducing. I sometimes have to work at my “IRE” attitude and get back to enjoying life. It also helps to draw on the strength of my fellow warriors.

If you are or know of someone who has beat the disease for more than 25 years, you can contact Beverly at bcwarrior40@gmail.com or through her website at www.breastcancerwarrior.org. Please consider your aunts, grandmother, mother when thinking about long term survivors.

Comments

  1. Beverly is amazing. That she has already planned her 40 year survivor party made me smile!

  2. Have to say, I also really admire your chill attitude 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story, Beverly.

  3. I love love love the fact that she has a 40th party planned. Love it!

  4. Cooking dinner after you get ‘the news?’ Seriously?! Well, I guess that’s what a true warrior does: keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. You are a ray of sunshine and an inspiration Beverly! Happy early birthday!!!! xo

  5. A happy heart is good medicine. You have such an uplifting story! Keep working on those party details – with 40 years to plan it, it should be amazing! Best of luck to you!

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