Guest Post: Still Surviving
My first encounter with the “Big C” was through friends of the family or acquaintances. But two of my aunt’s friends died from it. People whispered when talking about it. We knew that it was awful and once you got it, you died. That was the extent of our exposure until my mom’s oldest sister was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. She opted to only have radiation. She refused chemo. During that time it was radical to just have chemo. But she did and she survived during a time when it was still considered a miracle. She was our survivor. Then in June of 2001, my mom’s older brother had a “stomach virus” that wouldn’t go away. He was treated for months with prescriptions that didn’t work until they finally put him in the hospital, ran some test, and determined it was stomach cancer. It had taken months to diagnose and was so far gone when they found it that nothing worked. While we were praying for him, one of my first cousins (my mom’s nephew) passed away from cancer that August. He had been sick a while. And on Sept 11, 2001, my uncle also passed away. It was hard on us, but we survived.
Four years later we thought we were done with the “Big C”, when the firstborn grandchild to the Simmons family was diagnosed with cancer. He was surviving – but he had a fear of chemo. Not uncommon for his generation. Refused it, but survived. Then on Christmas day 2004, he succumbed and lost his battle. It didn’t stop there. On Jan 12, 2005 his mother, my mom’s oldest sister also passed away. She had survived breast cancer, but she succumbed to complications of kidney failure and heart disease. This was not getting easier. Little did we know there would be an even rougher storm ahead? In 2006 my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer – stage 0. She had a radical mastectomy to better her chances of no return. Then in early 2007 her sister was diagnosed with uterine cancer – stage 4. Her fight was short, but she fought honorably. Then in September of the same year my mom’s baby sister was diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones. They treated her for two weeks and prepared to send her home.
We thought it was over, then on Sept 15, 2007 she was being released to go home from the hospital. We were excited. She decided to take a nap while waiting for her discharge papers. She never woke up. It was heartbreaking, but we still survived. This was beginning to feel like we were under attack by cancer. When was it going to end? The Komen Walk became even more personal to me. I began search out more info, seek help, find ways to prevent it from happening again. My mom had a first cousin who was surviving and she also supported the Komen Foundation. She walked. It was sobering. On January 1, 2008 another one of my mom’s first cousin passed away from lung cancer. We still survived. How did we handle it? We prayed a lot. We became even closer – if that’s even possible. The Simmons sisters (3 left) made sure they had their monthly sisters’ day out. We were on our way to being healed from the grief. Then on June 7, 2008 while at a church conference in Center, TX I was awakened at about 7am with a phone call from my mother. It wasn’t alarming because it was my birthday. You gotta know my family. Everybody calls everybody with a birthday song. I was expecting a song but instead I got news that her sister, my daughter’s godmother, was rushed to the hospital. They thought it was a stroke but found that it was breast cancer and they were checking to see if it had moved to her brain. I was devastated, but I stayed focused. She was going to call me back later with results.
About three hours later she called, the results were in and it was in her brain. They were trying to decide how to proceed. I just couldn’t believe that we were going to lose her. I knew God was a miracle worker. Mom called Sunday morning and told me that they called the family in and I needed to get home. My daughter was just getting back to town from a vacation with her brother in Ohio. We met up at Methodist Hospital and I had so many flashbacks that I almost buckled. We had been through this before at this very hospital. I walked to the door of the room and tears welled up. She stayed with us a few more days but deterioration was fast. On June 12th, 2008 she died. Now the fight was on. I’m on a mission. Everyone I see I speak good nutrition, cancer awareness, donate, donate, donate. It became a part of me. But we survived. 2009 was finally a year with no death, no sickness, and time to heal. In October 2009 I was awakened by a sharp pain. I thought maybe something bit me but it was more intense. I felt a knot on my left breast. My husband felt the knot too. We decided I had to go get it checked. This was different, this was odd, but we knew it wasn’t cancer because cancer doesn’t hurt. My doctor told me so. We had just buried my god brother and I was just trying to keep my sanity. I knew I was going to have it removed but I knew it wasn’t cancer. I went to the doctor and after all the tests, it was determined that it definitely was cancer.
Diagnosis: Stage II triple negative malignant carcinoma insitu. Yes, it was cancer. It hadn’t spread, but it was triple negative. I underwent surgery – lumpectomy, chemotherapy – 6 rounds, and radiation-33 sessions. But you know what, I’m still surviving. It hasn’t been easy these last 9 years but I am determined to continue my fight. I have continued spreading the news and helping others as much as I can. I’m still surviving.