It is often said that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your reaction.” Some people take the lows in stride, finding the best way to live with the situation. Others completely breakdown and let the situation overtake them, giving in
Stayce Bynum is not the latter. As a Lupus survivor, she is an illustration of hope, faith, unmatchable belief and determination. Now 47, Bynum has been batting the debilitating disease for the better part of 18 years, when Lupus was an unknown medical mystery. She’s been challenged by it in every way possible, from the telltale butterfly rash, to it attacking her major body organs to the affects it’s had on her hair and skin.
Never losing hope, Bynum decided to fight the situation with all she had and is doing better than her doctors have imagined. With her advancing age, she is prepared to face even graver and more challenging health conditions, but trusts that her faith in God, along with her hope and her enthusiasm for life will remain her constant companions.
Stayce uses her time to educate others and promote awareness about Lupus. She serves as a volunteer with the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) and also runs her own YouTube vlog called “Sistas Living w/Lupus,” where she speaks out about her triumphs and tribulations, while educating others. Additionally, she is the author of her own greeting card line, Sista’Worth Greetings, where she empowers other women.
Domestic violence has become a prevalent issue in society, encompassing more than just physical assault, making the act difficult to categorize or report. Women and children are the major victims of domestic violence, often making them victims in their own homes, a place where they should have felt protected.
Wife and mother, Sunshine King, 39, found out firsthand how unprotected she was in her home, and is living with the consequences. At 23, she was attacked by her husband, who shot at her 4 times, leaving her for dead. Two bullets found a home—one entered her right jaw, exiting the back of her neck; the other lodged in her spinal cord, giving her an incomplete T4-T5 paralysis at chest level.
King took this incident as a lesson and the tragedy influenced her to break free of the terror that had held her captive for the majority of her youth. With a mission to “create wellness by healing through the arts,” King has used her experiences to become a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, entertainment coach and a wellness specialist, all of which have aided her in spreading awareness regarding domestic violence and its consequences, since knowledge is the only way to keep yourself safe and empower others at the same time.
Considering her dreams to be her greatest source of inspiration and assistance in helping others rebuild their self-esteem, King created Sunshine Project H.E.L.P (Healing, Educating, Loving, People), an organization that uses workshops, classes, and health and fitness activities for people with and without disabilities. Next on her “to-do” list is to complete her biography and start a fundraiser program to assist in her goal to obtain a wheelchair-accessible van.
Inspired by the quote, “If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention, from the movie, Sister Act, King’s missions and motives are a living example for those who have yet to find the courage and confidence to regain the control of their lives after suffering domestic violence. She’s turned the tables, making her past experiences her strengths, and continues to use that strength to empower others.
Shay Sharpe, 37, has been battling Breast Cancer for the last 12 years, after first being diagnosed at age 26, then again ten years later. Her journey has not been easy; she’s undergone multiple surgeries and has had numerous adverse reactions, but unbeatable will to fight the disease and her steadfast faith have turned the battle in her favor.
As a survivor, she uses her determination, fight and influence to help others suffering from Breast Cancer. Her non-profit organization, Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, grants the last wishes of terminally-ill breast cancer patients under 40, provides food, blankets and clothes to the homeless and local shelters, as well as provides Christmas “wishes” for children of Breast Cancer patients.
Sharpe believes that not only can “you be sexy after breast cancer,” as she plans to undergo her third breast reconstructive surgery soon, but that being your own defender and fighting for yourself is the strongest trait a woman can possesses.
At the age of 34, Damitra Sorden-Viera was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. To say that it turned her life upside down would be an understatement; the heart-wrenching news shattered her hope, her courage. She was unable to socialize, so much so that she was unable to be there for her children, as her depression grew. Her once vibrant and cheerful life suddenly appeared hopeless and dark, her future bleak.
With each chemotherapy treatment, Damitra grew extremely weak and distressed, often deliberating her children’s welfare, if she was to leave them. Most devastating to her was the fact that she’d been a strong and independent person all her life; the sudden dependency on others left her fragile and shaky, so much so that she even attempted suicide to get rid of the unbearable pain and suffering that was inflicted on her with each chemo treatment.
The key to survival in life is to face each calamity with due braveness and determination. The concern of her kids over her deteriorating condition and the support of her mother gave her an internal strength and showed her a way to be an inspiration for so many others undergoing the same pain and agony. She decided to fight her cancer head on, while also educating people about the effects of the disease and how one should deal with it.
With her consistent struggle, she now has regained a lot of her strength and re-discovered her faith in life. She is able to love herself and her faith has become even stronger. She gives back to her community by giving “love coupons” to cancer patients and shows her support by organizing various fashion shows and community events to let them know that they are strong and REAL fighters. In addition, gets husbands involved by raising money for survivors and their treatment by her Shoot for the Cure charity basketball event.
Currently, Damitra serves as a Community Outreach Ambassador and volunteer for the Susan G. Komen non-profit organization that funds breast cancer research. She knows how to live, laugh, learn and uses those tools to empower others to get stronger, as well. Every day she lives is a testament to her struggle with cancer and it reaffirms her conviction to reach out and help others.
Being a mother is the greatest gift one can give. To create life, feel it grow, and bring life into the world is a feeling like no other. But, being the mother of a child who is sick, who is more dependent than ever, whose pain you wish you could take away, takes courage.
Nikia Vaughan has that courage. As a mother to a beautiful three-year old daughter named Cimone, she is an advocate and warrior for Sickle Cell Anemia. Cimone was diagnosed six weeks after her birth, which sent shockwaves through both Nikia and her husband, as they watched their baby girl writhe in continuous pain and misery. Devastate, but unperturbed, Nikia vowed to do everything possible to improve not only Cimone’s odds, but those of every person with SCA.
Using her favorite quote, “Oprah wasn’t built in a day,” as inspiration, Nikia started Cimone & Friends, a non-profit organization that provides financial, moral and emotional support to families by spreading SCA awareness, hosting support groups, and providing donations to families in need who have a child with SCA to offset medication and hospital costs.
Presently, Nikia works as the lead ambassador for the State of Maryland, assisting parents of newly diagnosed SCA babies. Spreading the message that “with dim light, the faith gleams brighter,” Nikia is a shining example of the fact with commitment, strong faith and hope, anything is possible.
Angela D. Wharton is the founder of a Christian-based, non-profit organization called Phynyx Ministries, which provides assistance to sexual assault survivors via professional and ministry counseling. As a victim of sexual assault, Wharton can truly empathize with those her ministry helps, crediting her strong belief in God, along with her self-dedication to healing, for turning her into a survivor instead of a victim.
At the tender age of 14, Angela was abused by a man her mother was dating. She was again victimized at age 24. Both incidents left her shattered, triggering a deep depression, considerably diminished self-respect and thoughts of suicide.
Undeterred and stalwart in her faith, she turned the tables, founding Phynyx Ministries in June 2011. With the sole motive of counseling and referral services, along with a prayer call for the affected survivors, Angela aimed to help victims out of the same deep, emotional abyss in which she had found herself.
At Phynyx Ministries, they endeavor to break the silence of survivors and provide a safe haven. Angela believes she is on assignment by God to become the voice of those who have been silenced by abuse, crediting all the survivors that came before her as her inspiration, confidence and strength. The realization that the incident was not her fault, and that she is not alone, has given her immense courage and the tenacity to fight, not only for her, but for other victims, too.
Mia Wright, the founder of We Can-CerVive®, a non-profit, cancer-awareness organization, can be described with one word: survivor. As a survivor of violence, both domestic and sexual, Mia was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 23. Through surgery, prayer, and her strong faith, she was declared NED—No Evidence of Disease—in 2014.
Using her non-profit organization to feed the homeless, create awareness in her community on the manifestations of abuse, and to educate others on the identification of the relatively concealed causes of the disease, while providing them an opportunity to share and discuss their health issues freely, Mia is a daily inspiration to others.
With her optimistic approach and strong belief on God, she continues to surpass any obstacle she encounters. Mia is currently working on a biography, is contributing to an anthology, and continues, daily, to empower women.