Lobular carcinoma, Stage 3: the diagnosis six years ago. Then the steep learning curve to understand tests, treatments and surgeries during months of chemo, surgeries, blood transfusions and radiation that left me hairless, nail-less and walking with a cane.

What I learned: There are remarkable people — family and friends — who provide transportation, moral support, food, love and prayer.

My daughter was welcomed into the home of a phenomenal family where she was treated as their own.

A friend learned to inject me daily, searching for the least bruised areas of my belly for the next injection.

My mother watched as her oldest child struggled, cared for me as I fought my way through uncharted waters, especially those nights where death felt near.

As important is what I now teach. As the art teacher at St. John’s High on Johns Island, I have incorporated breast cancer awareness into art and community involvement curriculum.

We wrap the large oaks on campus with pink paper while studying Christo; we involve athletics and “Think Pink” at football games, and I visit classes, answering students’ questions to demystify this disease.

This year, we are collaborating with Barrier Island Medical Clinic, supported by the Clinic’s Komen Grant. Students will draw portraits of local survivors who pose for the classes while sharing their stories. These portraits and student writings about survivorship will be displayed at the clinic.

This journey taught me to live authentically every day, sharing my experiences to encourage breast cancer awareness and support.

Dona Dowling