Cancer Survivors:  The voices of hope

By Khevin Barnes


A cancer diagnosis is an expedition in extremes.  It shatters every thought and plan we have about our future, and leaves us with many more questions than answers.  It is at once a mind-gripping nightmare into a world of the unknown and an auspicious gift, provoking us to gather our lives, confront our vulnerabilities and discover our strengths.

I say “thank you” to my cancer every day.

Oddly, this is the most significant and enlightening adventure of my life, and at the same time, it offers the greatest challenges I’ve ever encountered.

How we see the gift of a life-threatening illness is, in my opinion, how we come to know the depth of our blessings for being human and how we adopt a deep and resilient reverence for this thing called “a life”.

Cancer knows no boundaries and delivers few promises.

We wield small swords with which to defy it, yet march steadfastly time and time again to challenge its advance.  And in the moments that lie between terror and trust, there is a wisdom that far outshines the stuff we don’t know.

And it’s found in the words of those whose lives have paused for a moment to see something that many cannot. 

These are the voices of those with cancer in their bodies who shout out, demanding to be heard, and the voices whose gentleness should never be mistaken for surrender.  These are the words of those who have this cancer disease, but oppose the limiting thoughts that would have us believe that life with cancer is anything less than revolutionary.

And these voices are everywhere and all around us.  You’ll find them in the Blogs and stories from the survivors who reach out to share their fear and fortitude, their hope and frustration and their willingness to be of service with all who march in this cancer connection.

This then is the infantry and the cavalry who gallantly guide us to wholeness and recovery—all of which we richly deserve.

These are the warriors of health and healing.

These are our words--all of us who know cancer.

These are the voices of hope.

                 Male Breast Cancer Connections

                    Finding the right support group is great medicine.

                                                                                            By Khevin Barnes

History has shown that one person can change the world.  It doesn’t happen often, but when civilization takes a quantum leap as a result of revolutionary thinking, there is a shift in collective consciousness that propels us forward in unimaginable ways.

And when multitudes of us join together in a universal cause, the energy created is both tangible and life shifting.  Such is the power of unity.

Cancer has created a need in our world for compassionate comradery.  It’s a very human characteristic, this willingness to aid our fellow men and women, and it’s a tribute to our species and our planet with all of the terrorism and savagery we see around us these days that we steadfastly refuse to give up on one another.  We come to the aid of those in need, and in doing so enrich our evolutionary journey. 

As a man diagnosed with breast cancer just 24 months ago, I began to search for others like me.  As fate would have it, there aren’t too many of us since male breast cancer represents less than 1% of all breast cancer cases.  But I felt certain that if I looked around this big world by way of the Internet I would likely find the help, information and hope I was looking for.  Surely I thought, there must be a brotherhood of male breast cancer survivors willing to collaborate and connect with me and others like me to manage and conquer our cancer.

Enter the Male Breast Cancer Coalition.

Through a simple phone conversation I was suddenly connected to a group of positive thinkers, intent on supporting every man with this unusual and often overlooked disease of male breast cancer.

They are a not for profit patient advocacy organization intent upon bringing men with breast cancer, their families, spouses, partners and friends together with the purpose of building awareness through the experiences of fellow survivors. 

Their mission reaches far beyond men with breast cancer however as they endeavor to educate everyone, including the medical community concerning the need for more testing and clinical trials focusing on men.

Bret Miller of Kansas City is the inspiration behind the coalition.  He was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24.  After his mastectomy in 2010, Bret promised his surgeon that no man would ever feel alone when hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.”   And true to his word, and with the assistance of Cheri Ambrose, Lori Berlin and his mother and father, Peggy & Bob Miller, the coalition took flight and embraced every man they could find to offer their services.

Reaching out through social media, they have been successful in sharing the stories from male breast cancer survivors all over the world.  Bret visits schools, conferences and special events to share his own inspirational story.

Support groups offer an opportunity for all cancer survivors to share experiences and exchange information. They are also a possible source of emotional support and therefore can contribute to quality of life of patients with cancer.

Cancer support is an integral part to treating the whole patient. Probably the biggest advantage of support groups is in helping us to realize that we are not alone -- that there are other people who have the same problems.

Research shows social support has measurable benefits for breast cancer survivors, and whether its informal support from family and friends, or more formal support from group or individual therapy, social connections can improve your quality of life.

In my own case I can enthusiastically report that the “spin cycle” in which my life had been operating in those first months after my surgery has slowed considerably.  I attribute this in no small way to the interaction and dialogue I continue to have with my support group—The Male Breast Cancer Coalition.

You can find more information about them