Meet Idara. She’s genuine, fueled by faith, and a giver by nature. Over the years her faith and relationship with the church have allowed her to be apart of some awesome things, including being a founding member of One Community Church. Idara’s relationship with God and her church family have continued to be the pillar of her strength throughout her life, but especially in the last couple of years which have been by far her most challenging.
Fall 2017 Idara felt a lump in her breast. It was tender to the touch, a symptom she hadn’t known to be associated with every woman’s worst fear in this situation. Idara, then 41, immediately made an appointment for her 1st ever mammogram. In situations like these they say no news is good news and after a while of not hearing anything a letter was mailed telling Idara that her breast exam had come back clear. In most cases this would be a sigh of relief, but a combination of God speaking, women’s intuition, and knowing her own body led Idara to feeling differently. She made an appointment for a 3D mammogram. A week after the appointment she was called into the doctor’s office for more tests, and again to schedule a biopsy. According to Idara a biopsy isn’t painful, but in that moment, having to acknowledge what’s happening around you and realizing that the thing that you’ve feared all this time might actually be true finally hit her, and that pain was unbearable. “As soon as they took the sample [and I felt the pressure], I felt it, I couldn’t stop crying, I just knew.” On January 22, 2018, a date I doubt she will ever forget, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After a cancer diagnosis it’s full speed ahead. It’s appointment after appointment, meeting after meeting, and one hard conversation after another; but there was one hard conversation that you can never prepare yourself to have, telling your parents. The moment you tell the people closest to you about something this significant, it becomes real. You’re required to face it head on. Idara knew telling her parents would come with a ton of questions that she didn’t have answers to. What she did know was that to have this conversation, she would need to find courage, and strength within herself. “It took me 3 days to even say the words breast cancer without breaking down. I had to get to a point where I could say breast cancer to my mom and my dad without falling apart, because if I was falling apart [so would they].” Idara is the glue of her family. She’s the encourager, the peacekeeper, and the giver. Telling her family that she had cancer now meant that the roles would have to be reversed. She could no longer afford to be the support system for others because this time she had to focus on supporting herself. “That conversation with my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, because I saw their fear and I knew exactly what their fear was.” Cancer was not a new experience in her family, and it wasn’t one that came without loss of life. There’s nothing like the loss of a child, and how do you tell your parents you’re getting chemo to treat breast cancer without acknowledging the risks? Cancer is unpredictable and ignoring the reality that death is a possibility was not going to make this battle any less difficult for her or her family. She had to accept it, have faith, and prepare to fight. The best things in life are usually on the other side of fear, and despite the fear of telling her family and friends about her cancer. I believe it was also the thing that gave Idara the most relief and freedom to face it with the full force of support and love of her family and friends.
The best advice her doctor gave was that there are 3 things that there isn’t a pill for; eating clean, exercising, and staying positive. Cancer treatment is an uphill battle. The entire process is a mental, physical, and emotional rollercoaster. “The mental game that you have to play to get yourself ready for chemo, I can’t even put into words.” It seemed like she was constantly being told, “we can’t do this now, there’s something else wrong.” After finally being cleared for treatment, she went on to start her chemo treatments and underwent a mastectomy later last year. Having the full support of her family and friends made the whole process bearable. Sometimes you have to encourage yourself, but on days when you can’t quite get there, knowing that there are people around you willing to share that burden gives you the strength you need to keep moving forward. Last year for Idara was a year full of faith tests. Faith in God, faith in herself, and faith in her family and friends. All of which held strong. Deciding to face fear head on, knowing that God had her back, and reminding herself that to serve others she first has to take care of herself, challenged her in ways she never thought possible. But today she can now say she’s on the other side of it. She’s in remission now and lives life with a new motivation, to give as much support to herself as she does for others. Remission comes with a new form of fear. As a cancer patient its always hard not to think, “what if it comes back.” Choosing to live instead of sitting in fear keeps her even more encouraged with each passing day. Today she’s all smiles, ready to move forward with her life, and live it to the fullest. “For me 2018 was about surviving, but 2019 is about living.”
CustoMYze Me is the creative studio of photographer and designer Keva Burns. Based in Dallas, Tx.