In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, our A&D Design Director Royce Epstein shares her experience with breast cancer – and how she keeps moving forward. Her insight and outlook are an inspiration.
Last September, I had the honor of addressing the opening crowd at the Komen Philadelphia 3-Day Walk. I looked at my fellow breast cancer survivors and their family members from the stage and spoke humbly from the heart with a quiver in my voice. In May, I led the Komen Philadelphia Survivor’s Parade with two friends and other survivors, all who have recently battled breast cancer.
In the pouring rain, we marched with a giant banner down the Art Museum steps (the famous “Rocky Steps”), allowing the rain to wipe our fears and our tears away. And this September, I was asked again to speak to the Komen Philadelphia 3-Day walkers, this time as part of the evening speeches at the Hilton at Penn’s Landing. I was incredibly nervous, I mean, what can I tell hundreds of people about breast cancer?
I focused on a theme that was important to me during my treatment and recovery: Be your own hero.
I first learned about this idea from a card someone sent me that said “She needed a hero, so that’s what she became”. You see, when you are diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease and your fate is unknown, it’s not only overwhelming but lonely. No one around you really understands what you’re feeling and what you’re going through. And for many of us, we need great inner strength to get through every step. And while I had family and friends at my side, I felt very alone. And I watched my life as I knew it completely change. It’s like you shed an old skin and molt into another.
So, I became my own hero. I held myself up during the darkest and most demoralizing times. I did this one step at a time, literally minute by minute and reminding myself that these challenges are temporary. Minutes became days, days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became four years.
Yes, it’s been four years and I am still here. I shared my mantras of support and strength with the group by telling the stories of my three tattoos (BRAVE, VALOR, AVANTI), and left the stage perhaps inspiring a few people to get some new tattoos, but more importantly to advocate for their own wellbeing and space to heal.
I keep learning of more and more friends that are getting diagnosed. This disease is an epidemic and we will all be touched by breast cancer within our families and circle of friends. In August, I lost my friend Roberta from Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, of which today there is still no cure. I was in a band with Roberta, we had a lot of fun together (she also cut my hair), and I will honor her every time I march with Komen. It’s been a heavy burden for me to carry that I got better and she didn’t.
Please join me and Mohawk in the fight against breast cancer, in fundraising via our Specify for a Cure program, and being supportive for the cancer fighters in our lives. Every minute, every day, every week, every month, and every year is something to be thankful for. I don’t take that for granted at all.
Stay brave, have valor, and keep moving forward. Avanti!