Stories of Hope »

2002 Calendar

2002 Calendar

At the risk of appearing philosophical, I believe that you must think of life as a journey – not a span of years, but a sojourn from the very first moments of birth. As we travel, various roads appear before us. Some head north and south, others east and west. We all make our way, fast or slow, on this journey.

The women on the pages of this calendar for 2002 tell about their journeys, describe their discoveries of breast cancer and discuss the various treatments that followed. You can sense their bravery. You can feel their emotions. You must applaud their courage. There have been 38 individuals highlighted in the calendars during the past three years.

Every year as we show Sisters’ Journeys, I stop and think about the number of women whose lives are altered by the discovery of breast cancer. Although, at the moment of diagnosis, some may think all is bleak, the roads are still there waiting for us to travel, to enjoy the passage, to move forward. I watch the numbers of relatives, friends and acquaintances living each day cancer free. For me, it has been ten years, ten glorious years of living a full life.

My personal journey has revealed many things to me. First, I understand that I do not travel alone. As many of you know, a large, rambunctious family surrounds me. It was this group that stood by my bedside when I needed to see them and told me to “get up” as my body healed. “Get up,” they repeated over and over again. And with their encouragement and constant support, I did.

My journey now includes talking to women – as many as I can reach – about our obligation to take care of ourselves. Breast self examinations should be a part of our routine every month. Our annual physical examination must include a mammogram. Most health insurance programs cover the cost and, if you do not have insurance, most communities offer free screenings and mammograms.

It was early detection that gave me life, that put me on another trek in my journey. As I travel, all kinds of people have joined me. I offer the camaraderie of a sisterhood, unlike others. We support each other and we remain open to all that wish to join in.

Linda White Epps- Founder

Survivor Stories

Jacqueline Monk Roberts, January View My Story »

Jacqueline Monk Roberts

My name is Jacqueline Monk Roberts. On January 20, 2002, I will be a four-year breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 1997. I had gone in for my annual physical, which included a mammogram. I was immediately scheduled for a biopsy. I was lying on the bed recuperating from the biopsy when I received the news that I had breast cancer. I was then scheduled for immediate surgery followed by four months of chemotherapy.

I did not have any of the commonly known risk factors, nor did I have a lump. I had faithfully gotten a mammogram every year. Had I missed this appointment the outcome may have been different. The lump was visible on the x-ray. However, God spoke to me and said, “All sickness is not until death”. I knew this was a temporary condition, something that I had to go through. I know God is a healer and that He would bring me out. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (Psalms 118:17).

When you are experiencing something of this magnitude, you begin to appreciate the little things in life. No matter how hard it gets or how sick you feel during your recovery, it’s important that you keep a positive attitude. Keep the faith. Feel good about yourself and hold your head up. Surround yourself with positive people and positive talk. Most important of all, pray. Studies show that religious people have miraculous recoveries.

From all the support and love that I received, the vision for Nubian Sisters Cancer Support was conceived. Sisters Connecting With Sisters, supporting one another.

I thank God and I thank all of you, that prayed for me and all the acts of kindness extended to me during my illness. I especially thank my husband, Clarence, my children, Janiqua, Jamar, and Jaquanna, my Mother, sisters, brothers and church family for their unconditional love and prayers. My father instilled in us at an early age that “A family that prays together, stays together.” Thanks to all the doctors, nurses and receptionists that would not let me give up on myself, but continue to encourage me to think positively. I thank God for healing me. It is through His healing that I am able to walk among cancer survivors. To God be the glory for all that He has done.

Mabel Johnson-Draper, February View My Story »

Mabel Johnson-Draper

My name is Mabel Johnson-Draper. I was born and raised in West Haven. I was married to my dear husband, Oscar, for 40 years. He passed away nine years ago with cancer. I have a daughter, Sandra, and a son, Donald. I work daily at my church.

When I get home, I have a habit of relaxing in my recliner for awhile, before doing anything. I have two cats who like to relax with me on the back of my recliner. This particular day in June, one of the kitties, Rockie, decided to run down my shoulder to my lap. As he ran over my chest, I felt this pain somewhere there. After examining the area, I felt A lump. I immediately called my physician and he made an appointment to see him right away. He then made another appointment for me to see a surgeon. She did a biopsy and a CAT scan was done. She said that the lump was cancerous and had me make plans to be admitted to the hospital.

To hear the word, cancer, after having lost my beloved husband with the same disease did shake me up a bit. I knew, however, that the Lord was with me and He would help me through it all.

I entered the hospital on that Thursday. Surgery was done and the surgeon told me that they did a lumpectomy and had removed all of the lymph nodes on the side where the lump was. My appointment with the surgeon after surgery was very positive. The lymph nodes were all negative. She explained that the kitty cat should be thanked for discovering that lump. My mammogram was not due until November and this was only June. A suggestion was made to “feed that kitty lobster, instead of tuna fish.”

It is two years now and all is well. With God’s help, my family, and my church family and friends, I know all will be well! I do breast exams every month, but did not discover that lump. It is a miracle that it was discovered by my kitty. Mammograms must be taken by women over 40 years of age. The best defense against this horrible disease is early detection.

Simone Mason, March View My Story »

Simone Mason

I am a native of Chicago and one of three children. In fact, I am the middle child. I have been a Connecticut resident for 20 years, living in Hamden since 1995. I am divorced and the mother of Noel B. Lewis, Jr.

My scripture to live by is James 5:13-16. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

My life was sailing along at a roaring clip. I was just starting the job that I always wanted with the City of New Haven. My retail boutique in Clinton, CT was doing well and the world was my oyster. Maybe I was stress driven; call it what you will.

There was no a family history of cancer, certainly not breast cancer. At 36 years of age, this was not supposed to happen to me. Not now, if ever!

I had fallen down a flight of stairs and sustained a lot of contusions and bruises. I had nearly sheared off my left nipple. Then, there was blood work, exams, mammography, pokes, prods, and pushing. Finally, a tumor that was malignant.

A lumpectomy, reconstructive surgery, and chemotherapy were all necessary. I did not want to concentrate on me and what I was going through. I just wanted to complete the chemotherapy and get on with my life. Angry, afraid and determined to survive so that I could live!

Through much prayer, the support of my best friend, I did not focus on me. Just the future.

God brought me through what I found to be a devastating disease for a reason, to help others. To focus on what is really important in life, a soul. Today, I am living for someone else. His name is Jesus. I always knew Him, but did not make Him a priority. Today, not only is He a priority, but so is spreading the good news of the Gospel to others as a living witness. Now, I know what I was missing. I was not living, until now. I survived so that I may live through Christ Jesus!

Joan Lumpkin Wheeler, April View My Story »

Joan Lumpkin Wheeler

I am now a resident of Portsmouth, VA, but formerly lived in New Haven, CT. I am the mother of two daughters and I have four grandchildren.

During a self breast examination, I found a lump. But, I didn’t think anything of it because in the past, I was told that I had fibroids. It was time for my annual mammogram and it revealed something on the X-ray. My GYN doctor was notified and he referred me to a surgeon. After several needle aspiration biopsies, a malignant tumor was found and I had a right mastectomy scheduled.

First, you cry. Then, you wonder, “why me?” But, the type of person I am, I turned my negative feelings into positive thinking and this sustained me. This may sound funny, but, if you have a severe toothache that causes inflammation and gum disease, one would consult a dentist and have a tooth extraction. That is how I had to think in order to deal with such a significant loss.

After the surgery, following some complications, I was released 18 days later to go home. Having my immediate family members, very special girl friends, prayers, and by the Grace of God on my side, I was able to convalesce with a lift to my spirit. All of the above made it possible to endure nine months of chemotherapy.

Following the surgery, the surgeon was confident that all look fine. I continued my yearly mammograms and all was well.

Five years later, in 1999, during an annual mammogram, cancer was detected again! Performing a self breast examination would not have detected the deep malignancy. Surgery was scheduled for yet another mastectomy. I give thanks to God because I spent only three days in the hospital. I was prepared for the second time around. Thank God.

Please maintain yearly mammograms. Self breast exams are important also, but, sometimes they are not enough.

April – “spring time” The beginning of new life for everything on Earth. As you can see by the photo, I am an avid egg collector. The egg signifies the beginning of life and being a breast cancer survivor, I am embarking on my new life. God bless!

Shalom

Nalini Nair, May View My Story »

Nalini Nair

I am 65 years old and I am married to K.P. Nair for 43 years. We have one son, “Kailas”, and two daughters, Renu and Hema. I have a Master’s degree in economics from the Kevala University, South India.

It was the last week of November 1995. I was in New Delhi, Capitol of India. I noticed a lump on my right breast, which was found to be malignant.

Without wasting time, within three weeks, i.e. December 19th, 1995, a radical mastectomy was done by Dr. R. K. Sharma. It was at the G. M. Modi Hospital, New Delhi, where he removed my right breast and lymph nodes. I was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Day and put on chemotherapy (CMF) for six months and on Tamoxifin for five years, ending in December, 2000. But no radiation!

Thank God. Early detection of cancer and surgery have saved my life. Since then, along with my husband, I have visited my son, Kailas, in Yale University, New Haven in May/June 2000 and in August/September 2001. On August 23rd, 2001, I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Linda White Epps, at the Presentations Ceremony of the “Daily Points of Light Award” to her. I was a guest of Dr. Iona Black. I take this opportunity to congratulate Ms. Epps for her selfless services to humanity.

Imani Thompson Wilkenson, June View My Story »

Imani Thompson Wilkenson

I have been a Hamden, CT resident for 15 years. I was married in February 2001. My family consists of my husband, one son, Pastor Eric Sr. and his wife, Mia, four grandchildren, Daria, Alyssa, Eric Jr. and Rachel, and two sisters, Joan and Amoy.

Being told that I had cancer will ring in my mind forever. Cancer did not run in my family. So, I did not think I was a candidate. Boy, was I wrong! Family history did not matter. Self-examinations and mammograms are so important, no matter what your family history is.

In December 1996, I discovered a small lump in my breast. But, I decided to put off having a mammogram until after the holiday. Because I was in denial, I rationalized it as just a small, little lump. I thought that if I waited a few more weeks, it would not matter. It was not until March 1997 that I had the mammogram done.

On April 1, 1997, I received a call from my doctor. The mammogram test results were back and I needed to come in to his office. He said the news was not good and that he wanted to set up an appointment with a specialist. When I went to the specialist, she said I should have a mastectomy. I had to tell her I would come back the next day because I was having a hard time with this news. I went home and prayed. The following day I went back to the doctor’s office and asked her to explain everything again to me. I told the doctor that I did not want a mastectomy, until all my other options were explored.

In May 1997, I had a biopsy done. A stage 2 carcinoma was the diagnosis. They removed the tumor while I was there. I requested to have a Lumpectomy in June 1997. The nodes were negative. I had radiation treatment for eight weeks. Only through the grace of God have I been in recovery. I know that, because of Him, I am here today. In the time it took to go through these procedures, from being in denial to having radiation, the lump could have grown until I had no options.

I thank God and will continue to praise Him for my healing. I have been cancer free for four years.

Hattie “Maxine” McClam, July View My Story »

Hattie “Maxine” McClam

My name is Hattie “Maxine” McClam and I reside in Hamden, CT. On July 19, 1996, I went for my yearly mammogram. Everything seemed normal, but my breast was sore. I called my doctor. But, he said not to worry – sometimes women with large breasts develop soreness after a mammogram. He said to give it a few weeks and it should go away. However, it did not get better. It got worse.

About a month later, I called my doctor again and scheduled an appointment. It was then that I first noticed a lump. My doctor examined me, confirmed that there was indeed a lump, and immediately scheduled an appointment for me with a surgeon so that a biopsy could be performed. I did not want to believe that this was happening to me. The only person that I could share this with, at first, was my friend, Clarence. He was supportive and gave me the strength to face whatever was going to happen next.

The surgeon called me at my job and confirmed that I had breast cancer and scheduled an ultrasound. I then told my daughter what was going on and she insisted on going with me to the doctor. My daughter, Theodora, and our friend, Glennie, went with me to get the results of the ultrasound. The results showed a small lump. So, a lumpectomy was scheduled for three weeks from that day.

A few days before the surgery, my mother came up from South Carolina to be with me and to help me after the surgery was over. I really believed that everything would be okay because after all, it was a small lump. However, during the operation, the surgeon saw another lump, much larger than the first one, that was not detected on the ultrasound. He removed them both and removed several lymph nodes. But, the only way that he could be certain that he had gotten all of the cancer was to perform a mastectomy. I went home for just 24 hours. I developed complications and was rushed back to the hospital. They discovered that I had blood clots on the lung. A filter was put in to solve this new problem and the mastectomy was scheduled for the following week. With Clarence, my mother, my sister Mabel and my daughter at my side, the mastectomy was performed.

Once the blood clots cleared up, I had to undergo six months of chemotherapy. As I now look back on my experience, I was very fortunate to have my family and friends around me. Thank you, Clarence. You were my rock. To my mother and my sisters, Mabel and Barbara, and her friend, Jessie, thank you all for your love and support. Thank you, Uncle Peter, for all of your prayers and words of encouragement. A special thanks to Connie Donovan and all of the workers on the Oncology floor at Yale New Haven Hospital. I especially want to thank my daughter, Theordora, and Glennie; the two of you never left my side.

I have learned to live my life one day at a time. The real power is in prayer. So, keep on praying. I have been a breast cancer survivor for five years: It was a long journey, but I made it!

Sara Fontañez Gonzalez, August View My Story »

Sara Fontañez Gonzalez

My name is Sara Fontañez Gonzalez. I live in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. I was born on January 23. 1944. I am the third child of seven brothers and sisters.

One day, I examined my breast and, on my right breast, I felt a bump. I went to the doctors and I was told to get a mammogram. In August 26, 1997, I was hospitalized and my right breast was removed. For me, this situation was not easy. I began not to care, getting nervous and crying all day. I couldn’t believe what I was going through. I felt like the world was falling on me. I wanted to die.

But, thank God and thanks for the help of my family and friends, I could have overcome this crisis. A lot of churches prayed for me and I know all the prayers were answered. After a month of my operation, I was in treatment and that was not easy. But, I wanted to recover. I started to see the light of a new day. I had to ask God for more strength for this treatment during the seven months. I am in a treatment of pills, which are called Norvadex for five years. It is chemotherapy.

I give thanks to God and all those who were with me through this tough time.

Today, I feel a great desire to live. I live with my Dad who is 83 years old. My mother died the same month of my operation. To all women, my advice is to get a mammogram every year just so any problem can be found early.

Me llamo Sara Fontañez Gonzalez. Vivo en Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Nací el 23 de enero de 1944. Soy la terecera de siete hermanos.

Un dia me examine mis senos y en el dercho tenia un abseso. Fuí al medico y me mandaron a hacer una mammogrofia, salidendo un tumor en la misma. En Agosto 26 de 1997 me hopitalizaron y me amputaron mi seno derecho en su totalidad. Para mi no fué facil esta situacion yo me desesperé, me puse muy nerviosa y llore mucho. No pude creer lo que me estaba pasando. Senté que el mundo me caia encima. Crei morir, pero gracias al apoyo de mi familia y amigos, he podido sobrepasar esta crisis. En muchas iglesias oraron por mi y se que Dios escucho todas esas oraciones. Comencé tratamento de quimo terapia.

El mismo no fue facil pero yo queria recuperarme, sequir viendo la luz de un nuevo dia, y tuve que pedirle a Dios animo para mantenerme en este tratamiento, durante siete meses. Auñ continuo con el tratamiento de Norvadex por espacio de cinco anos.

Doy gracias a Dios y todos los que me apoyaron por salir adelante de estaprueba. Hoy siento un deseo grande de seguir viviendo. Vivo con mi papa, al que cuido (83 anos). Mi Mama murio casi en la fecha de mi operacion. A todos las mujeres les exhorto a que se hagan la prueba de Mamogrofia cada año y se le pueda detectar calquier condicion a tiempo.

June Pierce, September View My Story »

June Pierce

I have worked as a nurse at the Hospital of Saint Raphael for 30 years. I work in the Nursing Staff Development department and I teach Critical Care Nursing. I am the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious Mary E. Mahoney Award from The Southern Connecticut Black Nurses Association for “Outstanding Service and Dedication to Nursing” and the 1995 Outstanding CPR Instructor Award from the American Heart Association (Connecticut Affiliate).

This picture was taken on my birthday, September 27, 2001. I am happy to say that I am a Breast Cancer survivor. My mother was a breast cancer survivor, too. Because of my family history, I had mammograms every year. Whenever I had a mammogram, I was told “everything is fine. You can leave.” But July 1998 was different. This time, the radiologist did not like how the tumor looked. You need a biopsy. I convinced myself that it could not be cancerous. I told myself that everything would be as it had been in the past, “fine.”

Thoroughly convinced, I took my Goddaughters on a vacation that had been planned for a year. We went to Disney World. I did not want to disappoint them and since the tumor was small, I thought that the biopsy could wait until I returned. Upon my return, I scheduled my biopsy. The results: Cancer of the left breast. I was shocked!

In September 1998, I had a Modified Radical Mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy. I am presently taking Tamoxifin. I am honored to be included in this calendar and I would like to dedicate my portion of the calendar to my sister, Joyce Wright. Joyce was my primary caregiver during my recovery and during my chemotherapy. She was my rock, my encourager and the source of my being able to laugh during this period of my life. Joyce, diagnosed with Breast Cancer one year after my diagnosis, did not survive.

Barbara Bellinger, October View My Story »

Barbara Bellinger

For years I taught a financial management for women seminar and would introduce the topic with a story about how my mother taught me to survive, to achieve, and to share what I know with others. I would think to myself, “Well, I can take care of myself. I’ve got survival covered and I’ll keep working on the achieving and sharing part, because, after all, I am a person who enjoys the role of mentor and advocate.”

In 1997 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mother’s teachings took on a whole new dimension. Now, I had to think about surviving in a new light. It’s a scary thing to have to face the “Big C”, the unmentionable disease, so often spoken hopelessly in a whisper, CANCER, and to understand in your gut that survival no longer means just providing food or shelter, drinking enough water, exercising and taking vitamins. In truth, I thought I was going to die soon, and I was frightened at the prospect of being separated from loved ones and not getting to realize some of my dreams. My family was in shock, and so were my staff members, who cried when I told them at a staff meeting.

First, my values and church upbringing told me that I couldn’t get through this crisis without God’s help, and so I engaged in a daily process of fervent prayer, quiet reflection and journal and prayer writing. Second, my background in project management and problem analysis kicked in. I gathered information, asked many questions, took notes in examining rooms, talked to doctors, friends, and to clergy. Third, my family rallied around me. My husband and daughters stuck close by, cheerful and willing to do anything to help me feel more comfortable and less fearful. Fourth, my priest and friends from church prayed with me and for me on Sundays, at meetings, at my house the night before my surgery, at the hospital immediately before the surgery, and their prayers continue. Fifth, my employer, People’s Bank, was understanding and supportive of my need to be away from work for surgery and facilitated my transition out and back in a way that helped to ease my fear about getting the work done and meeting my professional goals.

Little by little, in all these events leading up to surgery and following, I began to realize a few things. I was able to get through each day and feel more positive and less frightened. I was praying for strength, courage, and healing and I was getting it in a lot of ways. After receiving a good prognosis, I knew that I had to be open and share my experience for the benefit of others. In November 1997, I had a lumpectomy and, of 14 lymph nodes removed, all 14 tested negative for cancer. The following January I began seven and one half weeks of radiation. My prognosis is good and the feelings of cold comfort have been replaced by warm feelings of being blessed with the gifts resulting from early detection.

I believe that the measure of the kind of person you are can be found not in what life deals you, but how you handle what life deals you. Let’s deal with cancer through early detection. It’s a gift you can give yourself.

Carol Moore, November View My Story »

Carol Moore

This is my story to educate people like me who are not too keen on going to the doctor for regular check-ups.

I had been feeling a little pain in my left breast for at least a few months. The pain was not constant and did not bother me too much. Since I did regular self-breast examinations without feeling any lumps, I was convinced that this annoying twinge would go away.

I got hired for a job that I had been pursuing for some years and a physical was required by the new employees’ policy.

During my physical, my doctor examined me thoroughly, found that all was well, but noticed that I had not had a mammogram in a couple of years. My doctor scheduled an appointment for me and lectured me on how important it was to have a mammogram annually, since I was forty years old.

When I had my mammogram done, I noticed that the radiologist was taking more films than were taken at my last mammogram a couple of years prior. The doctor called me into his office and told me that I needed to see my doctor immediately, because there were calcification in both my breasts. I needed to see a surgeon to have a biopsy done. I had the biopsy the following week. The calcification in the left breast were malignant and the right was benign. Two days before Christmas, I had a lumpectomy. Thank God, they got it all. Radiation treatment followed for seven weeks.

After my six-month employment probation was over, I had a double mastectomy because the chance of the calcification in the right breast turning cancerous was very high.

I have learned the importance of regular check-ups, at a high price. Thank God for mammograms because, without that test, I would not have found the cancer at such an early stage. There were no lumps. I am a survivor of cancer for two years now and in high hopes of remaining cancer free. I get regular check-ups and follow up on all appointments.

Pauline Sims, December View My Story »

Pauline Sims

I am Pauline Sims, a resident of New Haven, CT. I have one daughter, Patrice Sims. I am a proud breast cancer survivor of three years. Twenty years ago, I had a benign fibroid tumor removed from my left breast. Although there is no history of breast cancer in my family, I often wondered if I would develop breast cancer. Yet, I was very shocked when I discovered that I had DCIS in my left breast.

In October 1998, I was scheduled for my annual mammogram. After the procedure, the doctor saw something in my right breast and scheduled a second mammogram within two weeks. After my second mammogram, the doctor scheduled me for a biopsy. During the biopsy procedure for the right breast, the radiologist suggested that I also have one on the left breast. I thank God that I agreed because the calcification was in the left breast, not the right. This could have easily gone undetected.

On December 1, 1998, I had a lumpectomy. Two weeks later, I went back to work. Then I started radiation for several weeks. I would like to thank my friends and family, especially my mother, Mary, my daughter, Patrice, and my dear friend, Howard for their love and support. I thank God for how far He has brought me and I have learned to live every day to the fullest.

« Back to Stories of Hope