On the wall of Nancy Buckingham's office is a photo with a poem by Mother Teresa titled "Do it Anyway." The poem urges it's readers to move forward in the direction of their dreams rather than listen to the dissent of those who were unable to accomplish their own goals.
For Nancy, the words of that poem are more than inspiring, they are a way of life.
Nancy has always been an independent thinker who thrives from the support of her friends and family. She has expanded and moved the Mankato Cosmetology Training Center to its current state and location, built a home in Madelia for her family (the Buckingham Palace as it's known) and even donated a kidney to her niece.
So, when Nancy was diagnosed with rectal cancer in May 2011, there was no doubt it would be something she could overcome.
Nancy had shown no symptoms for cancer. It wasn't until her long-time doctor suggested that Nancy receive a colonoscopy that she even considered the procedure.
What they found during the colonoscopy was a cyst the size of a 50 cent piece. Nancy had to take a leave of absence from her work at the Cosmetology Training Center and begin treatment immediately in Rochester.
"I always considered myself a workaholic – I always had two jobs, sometimes even three," said Nancy. "Now, because of cancer, I've realized I don't need that – life is so short, all we have is today."
Nancy's main concern when diagnosed with cancer was how the school would function in her leave of absence. She didn't know it at the time, but Nancy would be away from the school for more than eight months while she received treatment and counseling in Rochester. The staff of the school took care of business while Nancy went through the darkest time of her life. But, as Nancy will tell you, it is during the darkness that the lord shines the brightest.
"I try helping others to go through whatever, if I can be a role model, if I can be a mentor, if people can look at me and say if Nancy can do it, I can do it – but when you go through cancer, after that six months, I felt like I wanted to die," said Nancy. "I was so sad, I lost all my hair, I was so sad. Even though I was so positive, I was not afraid to die."
Nancy went on to say that chemo kills your body. It destroys your body and brings you close to death, then the doctors bring you back. It's poison.
"If nobody else was around, and if I could have shut my life off like a light switch I would have done it," said Nancy. "I was just so sick."
Page 2 of 2 - Nancy was admitted into an inpatient program at St. Mary's in Rochester and placed on suicide watch. There, along with just one other patient, a nurse watched Nancy and helped her through the most difficult time of her treatment.
Nancy found ways to find hope while working through the pain and sickness of radiation and chemotherapy. For cancer patients, it is important to understand that it is possible to beat the illness and that being diagnosed with cancer doesn't mean you are alone.
"You don't realize that people do care about you or that you do make a difference," said Nancy. "I was touched that people did care about me."
The support of her community and her faith in God, helped Nancy to make a full recovery and return home. She said quitting was never an option, and should never be an option. As co-chair for the St. James Relay for Life, Nancy hopes to spread awareness about the disease and the destructive wake of cancer.
Before Nancy was diagnosed with Cancer in May of 2011 she had known cancer through watching her friend and accountant Brent Halverson struggle with the disease. Brent had always pushed Nancy to accomplish her dreams.
"Brent believed in me before I believed in me," said Nancy. "That's why we're all here on earth, to help encourage others."
Brent had pushed Nancy to expand the school and build her home. He would later pass away from complications of cancer.
Nancy's mother was also diagnosed with cancer and passed away late last year. Even after all Nancy has been through, she said watching her mother pass away so quickly from lung cancer was the most difficult experience she has ever had to go through.
These experiences have motivated Nancy to take advantage of every day and live life for people – reaching out and helping others – rather than focusing on the material.
Cancer is a terrible disease that affects everyone. It spreads beyond those people who are diagnosed, touching family, friends and even strangers. For those individuals who are diagnosed, there may be times when life seems too difficult – but those are the times that pushing forward is the only option. It may seem impossible to imagine beating the disease, but you must do it anyway.
For the rest of us, watching friends and family struggle, and seeing lives lost in the battle with cancer offers us the opportunity and realization that life is short. Now is the time to chase your dreams, make a difference and affect change.
We walk in the Relay of Life together – all standing against a debilitating disease; a community in support of one another.