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Priscilla Bacus:
A Peek Behind the Curtain of a Selfless Survivor

By Genevieve Branco

Many people in our community know Priscilla Bacus because she’s been involved with Links for Life since 2001, since she received her first of two breast cancer diagnoses. So, I don’t have to tell you
how kind and generous she is with her time and her volunteerism.

In fact, even while I was preparing to write this survivor story about Priscilla, people reached out to me to tell me wonderful stories about how she lent more than a helping hand during their times of trouble. To me, Priscilla is calm and easy-going. She’s one of those strong-silent type of people, who doesn’t seek attention or applause when she does something good or goes through something bad. Because of that, I’m especially excited to share her story – and what a fantastic story of resilience and bravery it is!

Priscilla found her first lump in 2001. Being a runner, she has a small frame and she remembers that could see it, even standing head on and looking at her left breast. She thought at first that it would
go away, perhaps after her next period. But it didn’t. This prompted her to go to her doctor, who scheduled a mammogram and sent her to a surgeon. Priscilla said they did things differently back in
2001, and she really had no idea what her options were at that time.

After being diagnosed with stage two DCIS breast cancer in her left breast, she was scheduled for a lumpectomy, without being given any other choices. After her surgery she saw an oncologist, who had her begin chemotherapy.

You know how everyone has at least one moment in their lives when they remember exactly what they were doing during an historic event? Perhaps it was when President Kennedy was shot, or
when Princess Diana died in her car accident. Well, Priscilla has one of those moments, and it will be forever tied in her memory with her cancer journey. Priscilla had her first chemotherapy on a Friday. She
remembers that she felt pretty bad all weekend. The next Tuesday, which was September 11, she was at home when she saw the twin towers fall on her TV. Such a strange and dramatic moment in our history, Priscilla wanted to feel normal that Tuesday, so she got up and cleaned her house all day. Unfortunately, all that did for her was make her feel terrible, and her husband told her she was never to do that again during her treatment! She ended up completing eight rounds of chemo, in May 2002, and then had 35 radiotherapy sessions as well. Priscilla says that times (and treatments) have certainly changed since her first diagnosis.

For Priscilla, the hardest part of her first cancer diagnosis was telling her children, who were in 9 th and 12 th grades. In fact, she and her husband didn’t tell them until she was heading into surgery. They
made up stories like they were going to the grocery store instead of saying they were going to a doctors appointment. Once, Priscilla had a mammogram and ultrasound scheduled on her daughter’s birthday, so she and her husband told her that they were going to buy a cake. She remembers having to pick up a
cake on the way home to keep up the charade. Priscilla just didn’t want to worry her kids any sooner than was necessary – a mom’s selfless act for her children. She said she cried that day.

Priscilla knew a woman who took her to a Links for Life meeting at a church. She remembers there were eight ladies there (in fact, she can still name four of them). She became active in Links for
Life, attending support groups and soon mentoring other people who were going through breast cancer.

She also got strongly involved in the Relay for Life, and still supports both groups to this day. Because of her heavy involvement in Links for Life, she said she was prepared for her second diagnosis of breast cancer, 17 years later. She had known two others who had also had recurrence around their 17 th year, which is a weird coincidence, but she said she wasn’t surprised when it came
back. It was 2018, and this time it was in her right breast. This time she experienced bleeding from her nipple along with other symptoms. Again, she had stage two DCIS cancer, with six tumors. Even though she opted to have a single mastectomy this time, she still had to undergo radiation therapy again, because of the proximity of the detected cancer cells to the margins.

Priscilla’s body wasn’t a fan of the expanders, so those had to come out. It also caused her drains to stay in a bit longer than expected. But nothing could stop her from getting back on her feet
and jogging again. She finally got her tubes out on a Friday and her son got married 2 days later!

Because of the previous radiation on her left breast, skin grafting from that breast wasn’t an option, so Priscilla opted for a prosthetic after the expander complications prevented her from traditional

During the interview, Priscilla’s husband shared what it was like for him during her cancer journey. He said that he felt sad and powerless. He tried to give her comfort and always stayed by her
side, even when friends told him to go home. He was the one who shaved her head when she ran her fingers through her hair and found it was falling out. He was the one who administered her shots and did other nursing duties during her illness, even though he said he was terrified. (Priscilla said he didn’t show it, but instead made her think he was happy to do it!) He has been with her every year on her Relay team, and supports her passion for Links for Life. Just seeing them together, one would have to be blind not to notice how close they are with one another.

Not only has Priscilla created a legacy for herself through her advocacy and volunteerism for cancer organizations for over 20 years, but she has also created a generational legacy. See, both of her children went into medicine, inspired by their mom’s amazing story. Her son is now a Nurse Practitioner,
and her daughter works in Pathology for AIS Cancer Center. When Priscilla got cancer the second time, in 2018, she told her children right away.

Priscilla has been instrumental in the Lace’n It Up Links for Life fundraiser for many years and joined the Links for Life board of directors in 2018. She and her husband have both been generous to
the Kern County community by volunteering in many organizations like the American Red Cross. Priscilla even had the largest Relay for Life team (“Survivor Bakersfield”) in the world at one point, and they were featured as a national team for the American Cancer Society. But despite all their vast volunteerism, Priscilla says that Links for Life was the biggest part of her journey, because her sisters at Links for Life were so meaningful to her throughout her years as a survivor. Even when Priscilla had her two heart attacks in 2015 and 2023, her Links for Life sisters were there for her and her family, and she is so thankful. She puts the most energy and fundraising efforts into Links for Life, because she loves how the funds stay local, and she wants to help other women like her.

Hopefully everyone who reads this story of Priscilla Bacus now sees what an impact her life of volunteerism and charity has been on the cancer community of Kern County and beyond. To leave you
with one last thought, I’ll share Priscilla’s own words: Breast cancer is not a club that everyone wants to belong to, but if you have to belong, well, it’s a great group of women in that club.

Priscilla’s story is also dedicated to Tracy Ponce who left us early – but not before she led many women, including Priscilla, to find hope and sisterhood in organizations like Links for Life.