” Am I going to die?” The call that changed everything came Memorial Day in 2005: breast cancer. Becky DuBois was just 29 years old, celebrating her second wedding anniversary.
DuBois, author of Still Me, a children’s book depicting the odyssey of a mother battling cancer gives voice to the questions many children are afraid to ask and encouragement for open dialogue in the frightening war zone that is cancer.
Her pilgrimage through treatment was a whirlwind of chemo, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, the removal of 9 lymph nodes, and the unwelcome knowledge that she couldn’t have children for 5 more years.
At that time DuBois was a stepmother and preschool teacher, she found it difficult to track down appropriate literature to explain to her young step daughter, and students, what was going to happen. All she found in her research were books that contained scary symbolism, or even mentioned death. ” They all talked about dying while I’m over here trying to live,” explains DuBois.
In the midst of hair loss, physical changes, and the pressures on relationships that piggyback a cancer diagnosis, Becky found herself coming back to the same phrase to reassure her young ones, “I’m still me.”
Still Me was created to help those in the heart of the battle with cancer to find the words they need to help the young people in their lives understand what is happening. The poetry from the story poured out of DuBois one afternoon as her youngest daughter took a nap; this artistic release allowed her to finally have the conversations with her oldest that she was struggling to verbalize. This was a healing moment for her family and sharing it could potentially heal other families as well. “Kids have a hard time with change. They need to be able to say what they think and not be afraid.”
Having Still Me published was a great accomplishment, however this survivor continues to focus more on how the poetry touches families and provides encouragement which was her hope for the book.
After a trek through darkness, it is easy to lose hope. Becky wanted to let those walking down an uncertain road to not let fear paralyze their lives. “Journal. Join a support group. Make the treatment plan that is right for YOU so when your head hits the pillow at night you can feel at peace with yourself.”
DuBois found immense light in the unconditional love she found in her family and friends, and in her adopted daughter Ani. “I always knew one day I would adopt, I just didn’t think cancer would be the reason.” Cancer changes everything and reverberates into all people’s lives. In the end, DuBois stands firm that her disease had a purpose and knows at the end of the day, “I’m Still Me.”
This past Memorial Day painted a scene completely opposite of that nightmarish call from 2005. DuBois stood in front of the lake to take her selfie during one of her favorite Pure Michigan activities: family time up north at the cabin. “I know selfies are for young people, but I also know Kathie Lee and Hoda have one.”
With a grateful heart DuBois is very aware of what cancer has cost her, but also recognizes the gifts it has afforded her. Being able to share her story and meet people along their journey is an opportunity she holds dear.