The Warrior Within Me

On the surface, I could see the bruises, the long scars, what had been taken, and the alien-like drains seemingly growing out of me. I suppose that should have frightened me. Instead, the warrior within me reminded me I was alive and this was only temporary. I smiled every day because I had so much to be thankful for even in the midst of this battle. I shared my story with people, went on walks and stood beneath the sun looking out as nature began preparing for winter. The warrior within me was also preparing for changes brought on by treatment. It’s not that fear does not exist, but that courage overrides it. Since the beginning, I’ve been blessed with the courage to conquer cancer.

There is a warrior within all of us. That warrior will prepare you for the full-fledged battle cancer forcefully throws at you and will bring you peace and courage to conquer the formidable foe, cancer. You too have courage to conquer cancer!

Joshua 1:9

Kandi Stewart

Kandi Stewart

Unbroken Wings

Unlikely Inspiration: Cancer Inspired Action

Cancer has deeply affected my life. I have never received a personal diagnosis, but many of my loved ones have succumbed to cancer and I currently have one, Kandi, in the midst of a breast cancer battle. Those lives, their actions, and experiencing those losses continue to resonate and inspire me. My list of loved ones who lost this battle is quite long. Those closest who lost the battle to cancer include: my maternal grandfather (my hero), a very dear great-aunt, two uncles, paternal grandfather, numerous great uncles, and my list continues. My maternal grandmother was a 5-year survivor and left us due to other causes. My husband also lost his father prematurely to cancer. Recently, three of my sister-in-laws tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation, including Kandi. My unlikely inspiration to take action and help create Courage to Conquer Cancer and the Recovery Tee comes from my dear sister-in-law, Kandi, who was diagnosed late fall 2014 with breast cancer.

Early in my academic career, I developed an interest in breast cancer. My Master of Public Health thesis was written on breast cancer screening behaviors in relation to late stage breast cancer diagnoses. My interest in this subject matter led to my first position out of graduate school, which was coordinating breast health outreach in 15 counties in East Tennessee. I continued my education to obtain my doctoral degree, changed positions, but continued working on community health issues, such as cancer care, health education and other.

Last year (2014) before Kandi’s breast cancer diagnosis, I had a dream to begin a ministry called “broken wings”. My sister-in-law has shared her ongoing cancer care journey through social media to allow others to learn from her experiences. As she shared her very personal cancer care, it occurred to be that symbolically she had “unbroken wings”. Despite the diagnosis and even with the physical and emotional pain, her wings were unbroken. Her COURAGE, faith, strength and endurance remain resolute and her warrior spirit unfettered by the grace of God. Her wings of courage showed strength in the face of a formidable cancer battle. My husband and I asked ourselves how can we help her through this battle?

Cancer patients, including Kandi, experience an undue financial burden and emotional distress coping with the costs of cancer care. As she prepared for surgery and after her mastectomy, the mounting cancer care costs became a reality. Despite her diagnosis and treatment, Kandi wanted to give back to other cancer patients. We wanted to help her do this. We wanted to provide access to affordable products that aid in post-surgical management, but we wanted to be a resource for continued research, education and innovation.

Kandi and I, separated by 750 plus miles, began our task to form the company Courage to Conquer Cancer (C2CC) and to develop an affordable postsurgical Recovery Tee. The Recovery Tee Shirt was the initial impetus for founding the C2CC. The post-surgical shirt was carefully designed with functionality, comfort, cost effectiveness, and fashion in mind. This has taken us several months to achieve and had been undertaken with Kandi in the throes of chemotherapy. We formed the Courage to Conquer Cancer Company along with a non-profit arm to allow us to provide support for those families facing an undue financial hardship during post-surgical care (cancer or other health conditions) by providing products free of charge. Unlike other community health, patient education and medical supply companies, we are a community-minded patient advocacy organization on a mission to transform post-surgical outcomes, with a primary emphasis on cancer patients. We are committed to excellence in post-surgical patient care with integrity and compassion, while we hope to support cancer research and patient education.

Kristi Roberson-James