Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. Today survivors are honored across the country with events celebrating their cancer journey. Today, Unconditionally Her (Karen Shayne) and Amazing Grace Event Management (Rhonda Hicks) are hosting our first Celebration of Life 5k Walk/Run in Raleigh, North Carolina. So, to honor a survivor from Raleigh, we feature Brookshire Wynn McDonald – our most fun-loving Kitted Knocker Poet.

My 2nd Act

I’m the lady who came to church on crutches, then wearing a wig AND who can’t sing a lick!

I fell from a ladder, shattered my leg, endured three surgeries and a blood clot. (I wasn’t as young as I thought I was!)

Eight months later a nurse seeing me on crutches blurted, “Oh you have that, too!” My physician confirmed I had right-sided breast cancer.

I underwent a mastectomy with reconstruction, tattoos, and chemotherapy.
Two years later I was diagnosed with left-sided breast cancer. I underwent a second mastectomy.

How did I get through this and manage My 2nd Act? I found humor helped me navigate and helping others brought great emotional rewards.

I was diagnosed the same week as Elizabeth Edwards. She made television, but I didn’t!

It wasn’t funny then, but I pierced my surgery drain pinning it to my gown. I called my doctor at 10:30pm. The duct tape he recommended worked just fine.

My grandchildren came to visit. Seeing my wig in my hand, a grandson yelled to his brother, “Come quick! Geegee has just take-ed her hair right off the top of her head!”

In fun, some support group old timers wrote our obits and listed a song for our funeral. Mine was “Go Tell Aunt Patsy the Old Grey Goose is Dead.”

A female doctor came from Chapel Hill and gave a presentation on Sex and Cancer. I volunteered for the research. And added, “But I need a referral.” They never had a clinical trial!

My passions are survivors, the elderly, grandchildren and people with special needs. My 2nd Act is not one big act, but many smaller scenes, which enable others to maneuver their detour on life’s road.

In honor of my grandson with Down Syndrome, I signed the national anthem at the “Miracle League of the Triangle,” baseball for special needs children.

I’m on a bereavement committee and am a board member of the Adult Day Care at Edenton St. Methodist Church.

I took a writing class and wrote, “My Three Boobs.” (The third one I’m glad I didn’t have!) I learned to knit breast prosthesis known as “TaTas” or “Knitted Knockers.”

I sent an editorial titled “Living Advocate” to the News & Observer in response to their mammogram article. I stated that it gave me goose bumps to think I might not have been here to write this had it not been for mammograms.

I modeled for Saks in their “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” fashion show.

I realized women chose different options. One woman wondered what she would do with those foreigners had she opted for implants. She preferred placing the prosthesis on the shelf at night and opting daily for a different size!

I feel fortunate to have met Kay Yow, the woman’s basketball coach at N.C. State University and a breast cancer survivor. Her message was, “You can get on the pity pot, but swizzle your feet around, then get off.” Sadly, she passed away, but her message remains strong.

Showing my grandchildren I’m not still on the pity pot, I joined them riding an elephant, parasailing, and water tubing. Several of my grandchildren even call me fisherwoman.

People tell me I look good. I hope so. I have a new knee, a new hip, a new head of hair, and two new girls I call my knockers.

Having completed my bucket list, I was encouraged by my daughter to make a new one; so for a start we went to Holland to see the tulips.

Sometimes I write poems for special occasions. Here’s mine for My 2nd Act:

I headed for my annual mammogram
as I always do.
They handed me one of those lovely gowns
named for ICU (I see you.)
They smiled as they said,
“Now place your breast in here;
We will not press until it turns blue— so do not fear.”
To make a long story short
after all of this,
Next came ultrasound, biopsy, and cancer diagnosis.
So my fear of all things
of the past,
Grew into strengths that would last and last.
When I read the email
for this very Act 2,
I felt a miracle
came out of the blue.
My advice for others
after ending treatment,
Is don’t feel nervous
or that your life is spent. Seek new avenues
of which you never dreamed. They can turn out better
than life ever seemed.
Grab a little humor to join you on your way
You’ll find in a rut
you will not stay.
The journey is as exciting
as can be;
And maybe, just maybe
you’ll find Act 3!!