How She Kept Her Smile

Barbara Anne Ballew

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WAXHAW, NC – The journey through life is not always a set path. It takes curves and twists along the way, but staying positive and living life to the fullest is a track that everyone can choose. Barbara Anne Ballew experienced a life-changing event when the pandemic hit the nation. As the world was shutting down, she was facing a battle that she never expected would be in the course of her life.

Over the years, Barbara had experienced a few “scares” with breast cancer, but she always kept a positive attitude toward the situation. Her positivity shines through not only in her personality but through every aspect of life that she lives, so when they talked to her about removing another abnormality she thought, “no big deal, I got this.” When she woke up from the procedure, it was different this time: they had found cancer in her breast and in her lymph nodes. As the reality hit, she cried. It was hard to understand. She thought to herself, “This is going to be hard, very hard, but how do I not let this define me?”

The first step in the treatment process was to start chemotherapy. During this time, people are typically surrounded by family and friends, but during COVID, this was a different journey.  For the first time, people having chemotherapy were not able to bring anyone with them. Barbara knew that she was going to have to wear a mask, as most chemotherapy patients need to, but the changing world made it even more important than ever, so she decided at that point, this will not define me. I may have to hide my smile, but I will not lose it.

Barbara didn’t just keep her smile. “I started with wearing silly masks and recording the responses, painting my protruding port as an alien abduction scene, decorating my bald head, and having my kid paint and document a series of eyebrow memes on my expressionless face,” she said.  “I laughed alongside the pain to protect my girls. I didn’t want anyone grieving for me. People are naturally curious, but most are afraid to ask cancer questions because they’re conditioned to think that’s rude.  I realized that the more I laughed, the more OTHERS laughed and the easier it was for people to approach me like a seagull to fries at the ocean.”

“Everything about breast cancer is depressing,” Barbara continued. “I wanted to be the change for others: to let people know that they can use MY journey to LAUGH because LAUGHTER is HEALING!”

Throughout her entire journey, even when she didn’t want to get out of bed, Barbara got up and did the things that she loved, the things that brought her joy. She took the negative out of every aspect of the path and turned it into a positive experience that she smiled through. The pure vibe of joy and positive energy that Barbara brings to this world is amazing. When the world turned upside down and the world of being a cancer survivor became a reality, she picked herself up and brought joy to others through the power of a smile and the healing of a laugh.

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Jessica Mentzer
Jessica Mentzer is a mother and freelance writer that loves to travel and write. Whenever she is not traveling with her family or writing she enjoys hiking, canoeing, swimming, and spending time with her two children. She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys watching her children grow and learn each day. Her passion for writing and her love for travel are two things that she loves to share with friends and family.