With a family history of breast cancer, Bernadette Simpson had no doubt what she was feeling when her fingers came across a lump. She found it in the shower on Christmas Eve, 2008.
At the time Bernadette was 42. The diagnosis was Stage II breast cancer.
Fast forward through scary months… Bernadette had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She claims it was her 5-year-old daughter, Lauren, who gave her the strength to push through the sickness. Lauren went to all the radiation treatments and, according to Bernadette, "maturely" handled the news "mommy was sick, and would be changing."
Lauren's only request was for others to not see her mother without hair.
To oblige, Bernadette wore wigs. When heat made wigs uncomfortable she switched to hats.
"One of the greatest things that helped me help Lauren understand, was a doll someone gave us," Bernadette said. "It was designed to help cope with chemotherapy. It had adjustable hair, that could be shortened as I underwent weeks of treatment. It was also a Chinese doll, and looked appropriately similar to Lauren, who I adopted from China."
As friends, family, and faculty at Lauren's school rallied behind her, Bernadette gained more enthusiasm to fight the disease. She lost the discomfort that came with being viewed by others as a cancer patient.
"Having cancer taught me many life lessons," she says. "I learned to view the world with optimism, and to take things as ‘glass half full'. I gained a greater appreciation for life itself and though it was hard at first, I learned how to accept help."
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Family also played a big role. Bernadette says her mother, a breast cancer survivor, came to treatments and offered endless love.
Bernadette's advice to others facing breast cancer is simple: Let others assist (no matter how stubborn you are) AND remember to laugh.
Since wrapping up her treatments, Bernadette has been in remission. Every year she participates in Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure, the survivor ceremonies and other awareness events in Charlotte throughout the year. Lauren is always by her side.