Sonja Durham was a beloved member of the Born This Way Foundation family. She passed away earlier this year following a long, brave fight with breast cancer. In celebration of her memory, and in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we’re sharing the below message from Sonja’s husband, André Dubois.
Nearly a quarter million people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Click here to learn more and to support the American Cancer Society’s efforts to raise awareness, improve treatment, and find a cure.
When Born This Way Foundation was born Sonja, mentioned to me that this would be the next step she would take and it would become the passion project that would get her off the road and touring. If you know Sonja like we know Sonja, you’d know touring was her life and nothing could get her off the road. She looked at the foundation as her life line not only for herself but for the people of the world and especially the Little Monsters.
It’s no secret that Sonja was battling stage 4 metastasized breast cancer for over five years and we all know cancer so I’ll not put the spotlight on it, but rather on how to get through the darkness that accompanies the disease.
Sonja’s battle didn’t stop her from living or from handling her daily affairs for Haus Of Gaga and still manage to organize some events to support the foundation while on tour. She earned her position as Managing Director of Haus of Gaga, but she’d often say it was just a title and not her status.
I think Sonja found in Born This Way Foundation a way to explore, question, and challenge many of the social issues we as a people are facing today. Sonja was always a very humble person but as she became more involved with the Foundation she became even more humbled and full of so much gratitude – everything Sonja did was with gratitude. She lived her life feeling the world with “both hands and an open heart.” That’s a philosophy she applied on a daily basis – as we all should.
In the beginning it was rough, real rough, having to come to terms with cancer and knowing what the final outcome could be will toss your world upside down. We found our answers and a way to overcome our fears and challenges with three simple words that require action and consistency in order to survive the horrors of the disease or really any thing you’re dealing with in your life. Sonja was a shinning example, always positive, and nothing about this disease ever got her down. She was a warrior!
How Can We Do This Together?
Love is the only way we can survive, it cures all and can carry us through any challenges life puts forth. For us, that was the one thing that kept it all together, it was our catalyst. The love we had for each other and that of our families, our friends, and the countless strangers that offered their words of support and ideas was love to us. Love kept us strong.
“Community” in times of struggle is key – we need more resources in order to educate, support, and lift up all going through their battles, not just with cancer. Compassion and kindness – that’s what we learned along the way and this is what we continue to do, we practice compassion and kindness, we accept and we progress as a community.
Find Resources and Support that Help You Be Brave.
Bravery is a word that served and serves us well. Being a part of Haus and Born This Way Foundation we are encouraged and inspired to be brave and we are thanks to our community. We needed to be brave at all times, fearless and focused with any and all choices we made about Sonja’s battle and treatment. We had many resources – doctors, nurses, spiritual healers, and an army behind us from all corners of the world. We chose all of those resources to help us be brave.
People need to know and feel that there are resources that can help with all of life’s struggles and what we need is more research and more awareness – a whole lot more then what we currently have. Create awareness and we can cure our pain and suffering so we can be a better people, a better community.
“It Is What It Is, We’ll Figure It Out”
Faith is something Sonja had, her deep roots in her southern Baptist upbringing as a small girl certainly paved the way for how she would later lead her life. That ground work would be her life’s mission to be of service to others.
Faith is what you believe in, it’s a personal choice. While many of us don’t always have a lot of faith, it’s about believing in something, a belief that no matter what your struggles are your personal faith will carry you through the most horrendous times. This was one of our darkest moments but our faith shined light. If it weren’t for our personal faith it certainly would’ve been much harder for us to carry on in the manner in which we did.