Becky Barham is an optimistic and energetic mother and teacher who happens to have been diagnosed with breast cancer. But instead of letting it define her, Barham said she lives her life more fully since being diagnosed with cancer.
"Being diagnosed gave me the courage to make some changes in my life. I knew it was time to take care of me. Every minute could be my last chance, so I have to make them count," said the survivor, who is an active supporter of the annual Relay for Life fundraiser.
Four years ago, Barham's doctors saw the first sign of breast cancer during a routine mammogram. The doctor found a small mass in her breast with no apparent exterior lump. After an ultra-sound, a biopsy and radiation, the malignant mass was identified and removed.
The fear of the cancer affecting her body again, however, still remains for Barham.
"Right now the cancer is completely gone. Even after the surgery and radiation, I am still afraid of it coming back. It is always in the back of my mind," she said.
Cancer was always a concern for Barham because of her family history with the disease. Every one of Barham's paternal uncles and aunts had cancer, as well as both her grandparents. Barham described her family's reaction to her diagnosis.
"Most of my family was very supportive, but also scared," she said, "I think Ben (my son) was more scared than he even let on."
Barham explained that she regards a breast cancer diagnosis as a wake-up call, and she said she believes patients should not lose hope.
"It makes you realize that every day is a gift," the Central Elementary teacher said. "It made me make the best of my opportunities. As a teacher, I make sure to tell my students that they are doing a good job every chance I get. I make sure to tell the people around me how much I love and appreciate them. I have learned to appreciate the little things like the sun rise, beautiful flowers, the cat in the yard, and all the other wonderful things that go unnoticed."
Barham is a strong advocate of routine mammograms and other preventative procedures.
"With early detection, breast cancer is not a death sentence," she said, "Early detection, medicines, and mammograms can save lives."
Barham is an active participant in Relay for Life. She, along with Tammy York, was one of Central Elementary's team captains last year. Barham expressed strong opinions about the importance of the annual American Cancer Society fund raiser.
"Relay for Life is really important because it shows the community just how many people are touched by cancer,"she said. "Everyone knows somebody who is affected. It just keeps it in the front of our minds. It is important to participate and donate to the cause."
Central Elementary has created a wall display of people affected by cancer. Students and staff members can post pictures of the people they know who were lost to or have survived cancer. Barham described the wall's significance.
She said, "The wall makes cancer more real for the kids," she said. "They see me and Sharon Evans and several other people they know up there and it hits home with them. By the end of Relay, the wall will be covered. It is a touching thing."