One of Joplin’s most vocal supporters of breast cancer awareness, Sarah Burkybile, died of the disease Aug. 30 after a five-year battle. She had served as president of the Hope 4 You Breast Cancer Foundation, through which she had launched a survivor-run support group.
Burkybile was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007 at the age of 26 and underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, a hysterectomy, radiation treatments and breast reconstruction surgery. There was a recurrence of cancer in 2009, and a year later it had spread to her lungs and, eventually, to the lymph nodes around her trachea.
She died at age 31 and is survived by her husband, Travis; her 7-year-old son, Phil; her parents, Barry Tyler and Melanie Coleman; her sister, Megan Tyler; her brother, Heath Tyler; and her grandmother, Carolene Coleman.
Burkybile was never one to hide her struggles with cancer or her passion for awareness and early detection. The following are excerpts from two video blogs she taped and posted to her personal Facebook page, printed with permission from her sister:
So, what’s up, everyone? I just wanted to let you all know that I am starting up chemo in about seven hours, so I’m up doing homework, and I just thought I would do some Web videos. I’m going to try to do a little bit more documentation this time around to kind of show people a little bit more about what a chemo patient looks like and what they go through. ...
I’ll kind of show you, like right here, that (pointing to a spot on upper chest) is where they put my port in. I have a little incision right there. It’s kind of like an underneath-the-skin IV.
They just take it here and they just attached it here to a vein that goes straight to your heart, and they take a pin and they just stick it in, and that’s how you get your chemo.
It goes in through your skin right here, and that way they don’t have to keep sticking you with pins and stuff. ...
I’m a little emotionally drained right now. I think I know what to expect, but I really don’t. I really don’t like to go through it, do it again, but you kind of have to.
The last couple of days have been kind of emotionally rough. I have a little boy turning 4. I just hope I get to see a lot more of his birthdays. It’s scary.
... If there’s anything I can tell other people out there, it’s just not to take life for granted. It’s so precious. So, anyway, I don’t mean to sit out here and cry but I just need to get it out.
... We can only be successful in life if we are enlightened and continue every day learning and trying to understand other people. So I want everyone to understand what other people go through, and I think that’s what’s so great about these kind of networking sites because people connect and they can tell their stories better, and we learn more from each other.
At least I know (as) my son does get older, if we learn from other people’s experiences, then I know he will grow up in a good place. I know that I can feel comforted in knowing that he will live a successful life and hopefully he will not have to live in fear; he will not be scared; he will not be worried; he will not have to live in suffering like so many people do on a daily basis.
So I’m done for this evening. It is 2:35 a.m. I still have a lot of work to do, so I love you all. And ... peace.
— Posted on July 9, 2009