By Derek Tawiah

This year has been exciting for me, as I have had the opportunity to experience a long list of “firsts.” This list includes living out of state, interning in city government and being in a place of worship for the first time in years. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many tough and beautiful souls at once in one location.

The Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund’s 9th Anniversary Celebration in honor of her breast cancer support group was an opportunity to be in an unfamiliar but comforting environment. As I listened to the many stories of survival, pain, perseverance, the growth and wisdom that came out of their grueling ordeal was an eye-opening experience. The message that I received from their tales was there are so many ups and downs in life and that your perspective on life is forced to change.

Westminster Presbyterian Church Co-Pastor Rev. Ruth Hamilton’s story of her reaction to being diagnosed with breast cancer was especially touching to me. The news did not shake or break her spirit as she came to grips about the road ahead. Exposure to her mindset was inspiring and helped me realize that I could apply that approach to multiple aspects of life.

Just because life brings you lemons when you were expecting strawberries and roses, does not mean you cannot turn those lemons into lemonade. The most difficult part of that analogy is the practical side of it. How can one change their mindset into embracing that positivity? It is all about realizing that your journey and your struggles are not all about yourself, which was a powerful message delivered by guest speaker Jacqueline Beale, a two-time breast cancer survivor and staunch cancer advocate. It encompasses the souls, hearts, and minds of the people around you. The beauty of realizing your mortality sooner than expected is that it forces you to appreciate the here and the now.

Founded in 2012, the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund’s mission is to advocate and improve the overall health and wellness for women and men through outreach, education and prevention. The group promotes early detection strategies for breast health and access to the best biomedical and evidence-based complementary therapies to reduce the incidences and mortality rates of breast cancer. The TDJBCF’s vision is to save lives and embrace and achieve a world community free of breast cancer. The TDJBCF Support Group, the signature program of the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, was established in 2010 and meets monthly on the third Wednesdays. For more on the TDJBCF or its support group, visit

Derek Tawiah is a recent graduate of SUNY Albany, NY with a BA in Political Science, a concentration on global affairs and a minor in international relations.

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