Kat’s Personal Message
A butterfly is a symbol of beauty, free spirit and change.
Throughout my life, my mother has called me her butterfly, a picture of grace, beauty, and impact in so many facets of everyone’s lives. I was always busy with family and friends and making plans for my life. She often told me, “be careful not to plan too far ahead because you never know what life will bring you”. A little over year ago, my life changed its course and I realized then how valuable my mother’s advice was. I learned very quickly that LIFE happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Last summer, after finding a lump on my breast through self- examination, I learned I had breast cancer. In that moment, my life stopped. At 32 my nightmare began. I was scared and I felt alone. I realized however, I was not alone and that so many women of all walks of life received this news every day.
I was blessed in so many ways. I had my family by my side – my husband, my two-year old son, my parents and siblings, cousins and friends – to love and support me and to make me laugh. It is because of them and my strong faith in God that I was able to hail victory over this emotional roller coaster this past year. They lifted me up when I needed it most and assured me everything would be OK.
I had access to a medical network that provided me with care, support, and guidance. I often wondered about women who do not have the means to obtain medical care and who do not have family and friends to hold them up. Where do they go? What do they do?
The journey led me to doctors, surgeons, nutritionists and other medical experts. I also relied on family and friends who held my hand during doctor’s appointments, throughout my surgeries and as I battled through chemo. They made me laugh and took care of my son. They cooked and washed my hair for me (while I still had some). And on those days after chemo when I had the energy, they treated me to lunch and some retail therapy. The nurses at the hospital became my friends. All of these people were my network – my network of angels. And the women who sat next to me during chemo – they were my sorority of sisters and we found comfort in each other knowing we were in this together.
Each day, I looked forward to getting back to ‘normal’. As time passed, I met more women like me and began to wonder if this was the norm. I observed women on the subway, in the supermarket and at the gym doing regular ‘life’ things and wondered ‘did they go through this?’ ‘Are they going through this?’ During the days of the last year, I found myself focused on how I can help the women battling breast cancer who were not as blessed as I was. Women who were JUST LIKE ME but who did not have the means for medical care and a support network of family and friends.
On my 33rd birthday, I had my last treatment of Adriamycin, otherwise knows as ‘the red devil’ of chemo. Taxol chemo was next. This was 6 months after my diagnosis and so far I had undergone a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. In my solace, my family and friends lifted me up with a surprise lunch in NYC. Their love gave me unbelievable strength. I felt I could do anything after that day. Since that day, I have spent countless hours thinking about how I can help women who are not lucky like me. After careful planning and tons of excitement and energy, my husband, sister and I started the Kat’s Ribbon of Hope Foundation to help save lives by supporting breast cancer research, raising awareness for early detection and assisting women who do not have the means to be proactive in their fight.
Throughout my battle, I tried my best to smile every day – for me, my son, my husband, and my family. I realized that I too gave them the strength to be positive and look to the future with Hope. Still today, on my darkest days, I remind myself of the beautiful blessings life has to offer and that my cancer reinvented me as a new woman – a new butterfly. I conquered cancer and adapted to a new me. I am stronger now both inside and out. And I need to take the lessons of the last year to spread my wings and do something to help other women.
I pray one day we will find a cure. Until then, my HOPE is that Kat’s Ribbon of Hope will make the difference in the lives of many women.
– Katerina Dinas Raptis