We all have our image of what a cancer battle looks like, or how we would react if faced with a diagnosis ourselves. When Rowena Kincaid of Cardiff in the United Kingdom was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 33, it caught the professional pictured editor completely off guard. That was nine years ago. Rowena was treated and believed herself to be cured, but the cancer returned and is considered inoperable.
Confronted by a prognosis of less than a year to live and relentless pain and discomfort, she was asked whether she had a bucket list, and the question got her thinking. Not only has she created her own list of things she wants to accomplish in the time that she has left, she has chosen to document her journey in order to show the world what the experience of living with cancer on a day-to-day basis is truly like. Along the way she has invited other people with terminal disease to join her and offer suggestions for how to grab hold of life, and has included them in her documentary. She has called the film “Before I Kick the Bucket,” and it recently aired on the BBC.
Rowena Kincaid’s cancer ordeal began in much the same way that so many others have. At just 33 years of age, the active and adventurous young woman was traveling in New Zealand when she first noticed the lump in her breast. She says now that she was “too young to think of something as sinister as cancer,” and her physicians felt much the same way, suggesting it was fibrous tissue and nothing to worry about.
A second opinion yielded the same response, though she was referred for diagnostic tests to rule out any other possibilities. That was when she was told that she had cancer. She remembers the hardship of sharing her diagnosis with friends and family, as well as the challenge of going through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Her treatments ended in 2009, and she started 2010 determined to make a fresh start.
Unfortunately, it took just a few years for a variety of symptoms to reappear, starting shortly after she underwent reconstructive surgery to address the scars left by the lumpectomy. She began to find cysts and experience pains in her chest that no amount of painkillers could quash, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that she found more lumps in her armpit and neck, and a biopsy revealed inoperable secondary stage four breast cancer.
Though the location of the tumor meant that surgery was not an option, chemotherapy was offered and after six cycles her tumor shrunk significantly enough to offer hope for a short extension of her life. She has spent the time both ‘cherishing the little things’ and engaging in remarkable adventures, including purchasing a sports care, testing a coffin while dressed as Wonder Woman, and soliciting suggestions from others for the items that she should add to her list.
She had made it a personal goal to reach her 40th birthday and have a huge celebration at Cardiff Castle, and she achieved that goal. Looking back at the past several years, she believes that cancer has made her a different and stronger person. Addressing her disease directly, she says, “I finally know my worth. Blame yourself for the strength I set upon you, you made me this way. Even though you affect me physically, you will not define me, and when the time comes and you shoot me down, I know I will have given my all, and done myself proud.”
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