Soldier Interrupted

[It humbles me and is my deeply felt honor to defer this post to my friend/survivor sister/wounded soldier/and one of the newest SCAR girls, Barbie. I was at Barbie’s quite recent SCAR photo shoot. She is one of the three newest young women to be photographed by David Jay for The SCAR Project.  By that, I mean UNFORTUNATELY… there are new SCAR photos… which is why we are doing this. The youngest of the 3 was 22. She was diagnosed when she was 21. Barbie was diagnosed WHILE IN AFGHANISTAN. I’m sorry for the all caps but again… this is why we are doing what we are doing. We must end this bitch of a disease. I think SCAR Project LA producer Diana Haye said it best: “Try fighting in Afghanistan, getting diagnosed with breast cancer, having a mastectomy, and then having the guts and fortitude to help raise awareness for other women baring it all and showing their scars…Barbie did.” And here’s what Barbie said, in this special guest post.]

The dog tags and camouflage are real. I am still active duty. I have been in for over 17 years and 2 combat deployments. In February 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Breast Cancer, four months after being deployed to Afghanistan.

At my own risk, I wanted to participate in the SCAR Project because it is important to me that people understand and know anyone can get breast cancer. In my experience, it’s not something that’s often paid particular attention to due to the overwhelming male population. At some units, I was one of a few and, at times, the only female. We tend to think we are protected and immune to things because we are given a weapon, a FLAK jacket and a Kevlar helmet.

I spent most of my time taking care of the troops that were under my charge, a duty that most service members don’t take lightly. I would lay down my life for them. That’s what happened in this case. It’s just that the topography of the battlefield got personal, encroaching way beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

I wasn’t willing to accept the lump in my left breast that became obviously larger to me over the weeks that quickly turned into months. I sacrificed my own health and life as long as I could in order to stay and deploy with my unit. We had prepared and trained tirelessly for months and worked ridiculously long hours.

Leaving my troops and my unit behind was and still is harder to deal with than my breast cancer diagnosis. The feelings that I abandoned and deserted them and wasn’t able to ensure that they were safely returned home to their families will haunt me for years to come. This may be hard for many people to understand but that is the reality within my world.

Breast Cancer has torn me away from not just a career but a way of life that I loved and dedicated and sacrificed for. I am not going to ever get over Breast Cancer or move past it. I will live with it for the rest of my life.

I don’t believe most people actually “see” Breast Cancer. They hear about it but they don’t listen. It is just a terrible thing that happens to everyone else but could never happen to them. I hope that when they look at my photograph, they open their eyes and allow themselves to absorb and take it all in and really think about why this is happening to so many young women.

Everyone needs to understand the absolute reality of this disease. We have the power to speak up and make a difference. The importance of this goes deeper than just me. My whole family has inherited the Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA2). The fact that there is a great possibility that I have passed this gene on to my son and that my nieces are also at risk makes this whole fight worth it. Even if it is 5, 10, or 20 years from now, it could save their lives. It is my responsibility to preserve their future and ensure their longevity.

Every woman David Jay has photographed has their story. That is what makes this project so important. As different as we all are, we share a common bond. It connects us, and it reaches out to others, and connects them to us as well.

David Jay has given me the gift of allowing myself to be seen by others as I am now after being chewed up and spit out by cancer.

As awkward and uncomfortable as it may be for others to view, I am not embarrassed or ashamed. My young life has been rudely interrupted — and yet, I continue to forge on and accomplish things that others only talk and dream about. Perseverance, endurance, determination….these are the things that have been taught to me and instilled in me. I live in a world where giving up or giving in is not an option. Overcoming is the only way.

About joulesevans

Occasionally radioactive with a chance of superpowers. I use them to fight cancer. Also I write. My book Shaken Not Stirred...a Chemo Cocktail is available on Amazon and Kindle. Currently I am working with David Jay as The SCAR Project Exhibition Consultant & Social Media Manager.

47 responses to “Soldier Interrupted”

  1. Rosie Goldstein says :

    G-d Bess you Barbie! I’m very proud of ALL your sacrifices! I’m proud of your decision to be photographed to help drive home what a horrible disease this is! You’re a very brave woman and should be very proud of yourself and your accomplishments.
    Thank you for serving our country, and I truly wish all the best in the world for you. You deserve it!
    Your son must be so proud of you!
    You are a true inspiration to all who know your story.

  2. Nichelle Fox says :

    A real soldier thru and thru!!! An amazing story of self sacrifice that you’ve made as both a leader and a woman that is nurturing and thinking of others and not yourself. You have given of yourself without thought and when you are thinking, it is of your nieces, son and family members. Continue this fight as only your could, strong, proudly and with honor.
    You represent to others what it needs to be, the image of a woman that is also a soldier -strong in many capacities yet human and soft with feelings.
    As a veteran, I deeply respect your choices to stay with the command and to want to see them through to the end of the journey. As a woman, I respect your journey and the choices you’ve made to handle this journey as it reflects who you are and having some control of what the next steps are to be.
    I salute you!
    Stay strong, proud as you have commanded respect of your family, platoon, command and the community.
    This is every woman’s fight!

  3. Nikki says :

    You make us proud!!!!! You’re so strong! This picture says I’VE WON THE WAR!!!!! Thank you for sharing your life with us!!! My daughter is a soldier and I consider myself a proud Army Mom…..

  4. Donna Spoonhour 14 year survivor says :

    Thank you dear one for telling your story and being a warrior for all of us in more ways than one. God Bless you.

  5. ~al!ce gerber says :

    AMEN to that said by Rosie G. ……………….all of it.

  6. A Sturrup says :

    God bless you and thank you for telling your story. I wish I had as much courage as you have, As a SCARred sister survivor…you make me proud!

  7. Roberta Aviram says :

    Dear Darling Soldier,
    I have tears in my eyes as I write to you.
    I am triple your age but I too am a survivor of
    a double mastectomy performed to save my
    life. You are right, you don’t really get over
    breast cancer, you just learn to live with your
    new reality.
    However,you are an inspiring courageous individual with or without breast cancer.
    God bless you,
    Kindred spirit
    Roberta
    with or without it.

  8. Marisa says :

    you’re an endurer. We all are. I’ve endured for 6 years. You’re awesome. (and I almost NEVER use that word)… You’ve endured. I’ve endured. And we will continue to endure…till we don’t.

  9. Kathy Bracero says :

    You are so brave and I’m humbled by you courage….my mother also carries the same scar…my sister’s spirit won the war…but cancer won the battle. Thank you for sharing your strength..your inner most beauty and for helping all to see Breast Cancer is real and can and does happen to anyone. God Bless you and your family.

  10. CINDY SANCHEZ says :

    AS A BC SURVIVOR OF ONE YEAR MYSELF…YOUR A TRUE WARRIOR!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND DEDICATION! HOPE TO MEET YOU SOON.

    ~USMC, CAMP PENDLETON, CA

  11. Catharine Frank says :

    My Dear brave Solder, I do live the same feer, for almost 3jears,with also stage 3, and a full mast.My remembering is, that when I undress myself, and go in my nighty,every night,I feel so little, nobody knows, what you feel, but y;r so brave, to give jourself to others.Thank you, brave woman,to keep us save. A humble friend.

  12. maryduranteyoutt says :

    All woman are warriors, some have fought their battles, some are yet to fight their battles, The stories are different and yet the same. Cancer does not discriminate, it crosses all ethnic, religious and age barriers. It comes in the dead of night and catches all off guard. And then these women, young and old garnish as much courage as it takes them to fight the battle of their lives.
    The SCAR Project is wonderful, it strips off the veils of secrecy and portrays these women/girls as individuals. Their fragility and strength seeps through and makes the rest of the world take notice.

    I have photographed a few women who have undergone surgeries and radiation/chemo treatments in order to help show them, that a Scar is just a line drawn across the body. That they are still beautiful, vital, loving human beings. They are both vulnerable and strong and they want their stories to be told.

    I met David Jay during the Scar Project – NY and I am humbled by the work he does as a photographer and journalist. But more importantly, I met some of the girls/women who exude more courage in their little pinkies then most people have in their whole bodies. I applaud you ladies and pray for each and everyone of you. Because… but for the grace of God, go I.

  13. Stacey says :

    Kindred spirits, my friend. I was also diagnosed while in Iraq…and there is no pain like leaving your Soldiers behind. I can’t say it’s something I’ll ever forget, but I’m sure you trained them well enough to fly alone while you cared for yourself. Your photo is so beautiful and strong!

  14. CandyBrockey says :

    Barbie – your dad shared the link to this incredible website with us. We knew you were a brave and proud Marine – the journey you are on only inspires us to respect you even more than we already did. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. The love your dad has for you is without limit – when you hurt he hurts. He is so very proud of you and is with you ever step of the way – behind you, beside you or in front of you. Until we see you on your next visit – be safe.

  15. Diane Aldada says :

    Your story amazes me, and humbles. As a fellow survivor, I salute you.

  16. Henrik says :

    Listen to me soldier,
    You did not desert your comrades. You were injured. Your task now is to get well so that you may return to your unit and to the fight!

    I bet you a beer that if you ask your comrades, they never thought of it as you deserted them. Bet you a second round, that you will find some that feels that they have deserted you in your fight against BC. None would have been served if you had stayed to die on your post.

    Now, I don’t say it is an easy task you have been given, but when you do – you will be stronger. Perhaps not physically, but mentally and in your heart. Carry on, with your duty, fight that b*stard.

    This fight is yours, but you will never be alone in it. The fight against breast cancer is for all mankind, women and men together.

    I humbly salutes you, fellow Comrade in Arms.
    //17 years of service, three deployments

  17. Donna Smith says :

    You are an inspiration to me! I had a full mastectomy on one side and a subcutaneous mastectomy on the other with reconstruction to both sides over 20 years ago. It was tough to go through, but nothing as difficult as you have experienced. Thank you for serving our country. You are a hero twice over! God bless you. My mother had breast cancer as well and my 32 year old niece. No one in my family has been tested for the gene…but, I am fearful for my daughter, son and grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your story.

  18. George Foster says :

    You are “Victorious” Barbie. I support you ladies. -Jazz

  19. Deana Kilmer says :

    Barbie, You should be so proud of what you have and are accomplishing. You are an inspiration to others that as you put it “accomplishing things that others only talk about.” Many blessings on your journey.

  20. Joan R says :

    Barbie, thank you for sharing your story. Just thank you!!
    Big hugs from another survivor xoxox

  21. shera says :

    “David Jay has given me the gift of allowing myself to be seen by others as I am now after being chewed up and spit out by cancer.”

    Oh man — this sentence got to me — made me break down a bit. Oh yes. It is so hard to explain this to people who see you as “all better now” — as if you had the chicken pox or something.

    Also — such are great point here:

    “I don’t believe most people actually “see” Breast Cancer. They hear about it but they don’t listen. It is just a terrible thing that happens to everyone else but could never happen to them.”

    This was me. I remember how I’d hear about it as if I were hearing someone else’s conversation in a difference room through a wall — all muffled. I felt bad but was not concerned. I checked myself but as a precaution because all women should. No one in my family ever had it. Somehow – the fact never sunk in that 80% (or something like that) of new breast cancers are in women with no family history. It all came in to blazing focus when it got me. I’m really not sure what would have popped the bubble I lived in — other than “it got me”.

    Education from my doctors would have helped a lot. My doctor telling me statistics like the one above, and statistics for women with dense tissue too. How to we get our doctors to stop trying to protect us from worry and tell us the facts?

    Anyway… great blog from an amazing woman.
    Thank you.

  22. vivsmiles says :

    Barbie,
    Thank you for telling your story. What a brave, incredible, resilient young woman you are. You are right that no-one understands unless they have been there and I understand your sentiment completely. You are amazing, keep on keeping on! You are an inspiration, love Viv (double mastectomy and survivor) xxxx

  23. joulesevans says :

    Reblogged this on The SCAR Project Blog and commented:

    Reblogging this. Barbie is currently battling a recurrence with the bitch that is breast cancer. Thought it would be lovely if everybody sent up a little love<3

  24. JenPastiloff says :

    Reblogged this on The Manifest-Station and commented:
    Reblogging for my dear dear friend Joules Evans, who is close with Barbie. Please read/comment/share!!! Love you all, Jen

  25. barbarapotter says :

    Beautifully written. God Bless.

  26. thispedestrianlife says :

    The definition of soldier! You are a beautiful soul. Thank you for sharing your story!

  27. Tanya Smith says :

    Hooah Barbie!!!! I hope I’m half the soldier you are someday!

  28. Karen says :

    Barbie,
    I am the only survivor of 11 women in my family of origin. I was diagnosed at 29 with the BRCAI gene mutation. Just 15 months after losing my sister, Marli, after a 2 year battle …
    As you so eloquently said … it is up to us to educate and to be part of the blind studies and the talks with medical professionals, families, etc. To be on the forefront of discussions and in making change for the proactive in this … I have a daughter. She was 2 when I was diagnosed. She is 12 now. I made 10 years on May 4th, 2014. The only one to do so … diagnosed prior to 40 to make it to 40 and to LIVE that long … I have never met anyone else in those ten years other than my sister … and she is passed.
    I thank you for sharing … because you did .. you picked up my heart a bit knowing you’re here, too. Another who is here … I know that it can be incredibly lonely and scary and exciting and positive … and good that we are making progress. It matters to my daughter, my nieces … my sisters … aunts … mothers … all of them … not just mine … everyone’s.
    Blessings and sending out my gratitude and hopefully, one day … I will see you at one of the events. Will be doing P.ink 10-10-14 in Milwaukee, WI this year and hoping to bring it back to Green Bay for the women in my community.
    The strength of women in my world is awe inspiring. You would be a shining example of more of the same.
    Karen Schultz-Hess

  29. hatlady says :

    Barbie lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away on September 26, 2014. She will be greatly missed.

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