On a cold, snowy, early February morning, in 2008, I noticed a large lump on the left breast. My first thought was breast cancer. I called the Eldest Daughter and described the lump. Using the voice I had grown accustomed to hearing after working in her medical practice for more than eight years, she calmly said, “breast cancer doesn’t usually present in this manner, but I will take a look before my first patient arrives.”
Shortly after starting the exam, she walked out without saying a word. I waited on the exam table for about twenty minutes before I went looking for her. I found her in my Youngest Daughter’s office. She was talking on the phone and the Youngest Daughter was crying.
I asked the:
- Eldest Daughter, “Why did you walk out in the middle of my exam?”
- Youngest Daughter, “Why are you crying?“
Fear of the unknown best described how I felt when the Eldest Daughter said, “Mom, I just scheduled an appointment for you at the Women’s Health Center. I felt something unusual and want you to be evaluated there.”
The mammogram, ultra sound, biopsy, and needle biopsy all confirmed breast cancer. On the first visit with my oncologist, I asked, “How is this possible? I just had a clean mammogram five months ago.” I am not sure if he answered the question, but I clearly remember:
- the diagnosis of Stage 1, Triple Negative Breast Cancer, and
- him cautioning me to not search for answers on the internet.
Over the next eight months, I complied with the oncologist’s treatment plan; which included a lumpectomy; chemotherapy; radiation; and staying off the internet.
While in treatment, I connected with a local breast cancer advocacy and support group. I am grateful to the women in this group as well as its founder and my mentor, Phyllis Holder. They helped me to move from:
- thinking of myself as a victim of breast cancer to
- becoming an advocate for breast cancer awareness in the African-American community.
Even though miles separate me from the women in this group, I continue to support their programming efforts and it’s comforting to know that they are there for me..
Nine years later, in 2017, it’s a warm, sunny February afternoon in Orlando, Florida, I am:
- cancer-free with a loving family, supportive friends;
- blessed with the gift of self-awareness and self-love; and
- worthy of living life to the fullest after my breast cancer diagnosis.