It just so happens that Liberty Barnes had her one-year mammogram, following treatment for breast cancer, the day after World Cancer Day 2018. The news was excellent. This year, she will be two years cancer-free. “I’m feeling well,” she says. “I’m glad I survived.”
Liberty has given a lot of thought to what happens after cancer. “When you have cancer, you can always play the cancer card,” she says. “If you don’t want to cook dinner, you play the cancer card. If you don’t feel like going to that baby shower, you play the cancer card. There’s something really powerful about the cancer card, because for this period of your life you never do anything because you feel obliged to do it. You know how you want to spend your time. Your priorities are so clear.”
As grateful and relieved as she is to have come out the other side of cancer, Liberty acknowledges that survivorship has its own set of challenges. Like all things in life, you pace yourself. And Liberty had been building up to the mammogram that would give her the answer: would she need further treatment, or was she in the clear? She got the best possible news – but quickly realized that she hadn’t scheduled a single outing or activity on her calendar beyond the date of the mammogram.
“It was as if my life didn’t exist after February 5,” she says. “I think I was so afraid on some subconscious level that if they found cancer, I would start up the treatment process again. So I was committed to nothing."
"I realized: Now I have to pick up the pieces of my life. And create something. It’s wonderful and daunting all at the same time.”
As a working mom of four kids, Liberty has no shortage of activities to fill her calendar. “The kids have their swimming practices and soccer practice and my daughter plays the violin so that’s a very full and busy life,” she says. She’s a sociologist currently working on her second book and, in her free time, relaxes with fitness classes and travel. One of her favorite things to do is take a break from work and meet her husband for lunch.
Life goes on – but with a greater awareness of the possibilities, and an enduring sense of gratitude. “I feel really good about the next ten years,” she says. “Two years ago I was thinking: I just want to make it to my youngest son’s graduation. Now I think: We got this! I know what’s on my bucket list. I know the things that I want to do and see. Now, it’s just a matter of making those things happen.”