Sis­ter- sur­vivor helped ed­u­cate women about breast can­cer

Chicago Sun-Times - - ANOTHER VIEW - MARY MITCHELL Fol­low Mary Mitchell on Twit­ter: @ Mary Mitchell CST Email: marym@ sun­times. com

Cyn­thia King Dun­can was a war­rior. She sur­vived breast can­cer three times, and after each di­ag­no­sis she de­voted her­self to help­ing other women not only sur­vive, but thrive.

I met her in 1997 when I was as­signed to cover a Y- Me breast can­cer aware­ness event at Lin­coln Park High School.

The na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion ceased op­er­a­tions in 2012.

Cyn­thia was one of the vol­un­teers who taught teen girls about the im­por­tance of self­ex­am­i­na­tions and an­nual mam­mo­grams.

It was only three years after her first di­ag­no­sis.

“I had no rea­son to be­lieve I would ever have breast can­cer,” she told the class.

We ex­changed busi­ness cards and vowed to say in touch. Be­cause Dun­can is my maiden name, we were con­vinced that there had to be a fam­ily con­nec­tion.

But we didn’t re­con­nect for nearly a decade, and by that time, Cyn­thia had an­other breast can­cer bat­tle.

I didn’t know that be­cause Cyn­thia had been busy liv­ing life.

After all, she had her hus­band, Richard, her daugh­ter, Tai, her bank­ing ca­reer and her ad­vo­cacy work with Y- Me.

Cyn­thia saw no point in squan­der­ing time by wal­low­ing in fears and tears.

“I love my life,” she used to tell me when I won­dered out loud how she kept it all to­gether.

Over the years, we would oc­ca­sion­ally touch bases.

She re­cruited me as a model for Y- Me’s an­nual fashion show be­cause she wanted to make sure the event had di­ver­sity.

My own bat­tle with breast can­cer a few years later made me a part of Cyn­thia’s spe­cial sis­ter­hood.

And on the day that I couldn’t stop the tears, I called her. She dropped ev­ery­thing and rushed over to my of­fice. While every­one else was urg­ing me to be strong, Cyn­thia let me cry like a baby.

Two years later, she was di­ag­nosed a third time and chose to have a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy. Still, she didn’t curse her fate. “Can­cer has taken me on a tremen­dous jour­ney. I know there is not only life, but abun­dant life, after di­ag­no­sis,” she wrote in an op- ed piece pub­lished by the Sun- Times in 2014.

“I’m glad my mis­for­tune has al­lowed me to reach so many peo­ple. After all, no one should have to face breast can­cer alone,” she said.

Cyn­thia King Dun­can, my sis­ter- sur­vivor, passed away on Sun­day after a fourth can­cer di­ag­no­sis.

The can­cer was di­ag­nosed only three weeks ago. She was in hos­pice care for only three days.

“She was there Fri­day and Satur­day. On Sun­day, she went home to be with the Lord. She just went to sleep,” her hus­band told me.

She was born on Oct. 20, 1947, in Chicago. Her par­ents pre­ceded her in death.

Her fa­ther, Miller King, owned a cou­ple of Ace Hard­ware stores, and her mother, Louise, was a school­teacher.

Cyn­thia earned a B. A. in math­e­mat­ics, and re­tired as Vice Pres­i­dent at the Bank of New York. Be­sides a daugh­ter, Tai Dun­can, and her hus­band, Richard, Cyn­thia is sur­vived by a brother, James King.

Although a pri­vate per­son, Cyn­thia was a car­ing and thought­ful friend.

In her 2014 op- ed, she said this about her more than 40- year friend­ship with Toya Thompson- Thomas:

“We’ve shared ev­ery­thing but hus­bands, un­der­wear and tooth­brushes. That’s be­cause we be­long to that not- so- small soror­ity of breast can­cer sur­vivors and fought the dis­ease to­gether twice.”

Thompson- Thomas points out that Cyn­thia’s can­cer bat­tles did not stop her from en­joy­ing her life.

“If any­thing, can­cer in­creased her com­mit­ment to live life to the fullest and pro­vided her an op­por­tu­nity to meet some in­cred­i­ble women,” she said.

“She loved gar­den­ing beau­ti­ful flow­ers, read­ing and solv­ing puz­zles,” Thompson-Thomas said in an email.

She also loved tak­ing a sis­ter by the hand and help­ing her make it through.

It would be wrong to say that my sur­vivor-sis­ter died from breast can­cer. The dis­ease did not take her. Her work was done. God called her home. Vis­i­ta­tion is Sun­day, Feb. 18, from 5 p. m. to 8 p. m. The fu­neral ser­vice is at 11 a. m. Mon­day, Feb. 19, at A. A. Rayner & Sons, 318 E. 71st Street.

Cyn­thia King Dun­can

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