• Kristi Bayerlein

Warrior Sessions: Family and Hope Prevail after Cancer

Updated: Aug 13

Over the past 10 years, I have followed Barb's story from a distance as friends on Facebook, so as Breast Cancer Awareness Month approached, I couldn't think of anyone more deserving of a session to showcase her strength and bravery. I am so honored that she and her daughters allowed me to be a small part of their journey to spreading awareness and sharing her story.

This family session was, by far, my most emotional one yet--the amount of love and laughter, tears and embraces was like nothing I had been witness to before. The bond between Barb and her daughters was palpable--an all encompassing love that has only grown stronger through their trials, I am sure.

In 2009, Barb was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The doctors found one lump, and then another, and so Barb made the courageous decision to have a Double Mastectomy, in hopes that her fight with Cancer would end there. After the surgery and full reconstruction over the coming months, Barb was told that she was in remission. She enjoyed 5 years being cancer free, but instead of celebrating like many do at the five year mark, Barb experienced abdominal pain and was told shortly after getting checked, that she had cancer again--this time an aggressive type of cancer usually presenting in childhood, Rhabdomyosarcoma. Once again, Barb had to endure more surgeries, while also adding on 5 rounds of chemo and radiation. During this time of treatment, she had to have a 5 pound tumor removed and a new bladder constructed, fight off infections and illnesses, and have a colostomy bag placed. Barb fought through all of this with her family by her side, but found it extremely difficult to accept the new reality of having a colostomy bag. She couldn't bring herself to care for it or even touch it, so her loving daughter stayed by her side and offered the support and care she needed. Barb was able to have it reversed eventually and enjoy a small stretch of "normalcy".

After this second occurrence of cancer, Barb went religiously for her scans every three months. In February of 2016, cancer was found for a third time invading her body, this time in her right lung. She underwent surgery to remove the bottom lobe of her lung, taking all of the cancer with it--she was once again in remission. This remission, however, did not last long.

In April of 2017, Barb woke up feeling off. She called off of work telling them she was having difficulty breathing and thought she had bronchitis and pnuemonia, however, somehow, the person she called off to knew there was more to the story and got others involved. Barb's boss came to her home with an ambulance not far behind. Things progressed quickly as Barb was given a breathing tube, put into a coma, and transferred by helicopter to another hospital. It turned out that she had a golf ball sized tumor in her trachea and her daughters (who traveled home from vacation) were told by the doctors to "not get their hopes up". Miraculously, Barb came through her surgery, and returned to work quickly--but it wasn't finished there--she was brought to the hospital every day for the next 35 days to endure Proton Radiation Therapy.

As of this writing, Barb is 2 years, 1 month CANCER FREE!

While there is no cancer within her, she still struggles with the effects of 8 surgeries, multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, and the constant fear of dying before being ready. I asked Barb where she has found the strength to continue fighting, and she told me that she simply needs to be here for her kids, and that she would rather it be her fighting than one of her siblings--talk about selfless. Through all of this, Barb remains hopeful and left me with words that have been echoing in my head-- "God gave me this, and I am going to cherish it."

Scroll down to view the full gallery from Barb's session, and if you are able, please consider donating to help fund Breast Cancer research and awareness by clicking the link below



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