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2005 Calendar

2005 Calendar

Welcome to another year of courageous stories about breast cancer survival. My brother and I would like to take a moment to share with you what Sisters Journey means to us and what we think it meant to our mother, Linda White-Epps.

Sisters Journey is about bringing awareness of breast cancer and its devastation to the community. Our mother wanted to give women of color support and hope at a time when she felt they had none (there were times when she felt this hopelessness for herself). She always believed that if you were an advocate of your own body that early detection was the key to saving lives.

Those of us who are not breast cancer survivors have no idea what it is truly like to be one. Just like those of you whom never lost a parent and a best friend have any idea how difficult that is. We can only imagine and support one another. But as children of a survivor, we know you need support because…We have seen how often you are touched, poked and tested. We knew how much you didn’t like it, but you would tolerate anything just to stay alive, just to be here, with and for your children.

We continued to watch the fear in your eyes every time you went to an annual doctors visit. You were afraid they might say “you have cancer all over again,” even though you feel you have done everything you could not to hear that ever again. We also noticed in your eyes the celebration of another year of survivorship, especially when you get past five years and you think you are free and clear of cancer for good. YOU THINK YOU MADE IT!

After watching our mom struggle through her years of surviving and then her fight to the end, we feel our mother died with dignity and God in her heart. She did as much as she could for those that she knew and even those she didn’t.

This calendar was more than just an idea, discussion, or topic that our mother liked to talk about. It was her passion! And every year once the calendar was complete, you would think she would be able to relax, but she would get started on the next year. Now that it has been almost a year since she passed, we realized that this calendar was not only a constant work in progress, but also her legacy.

Please join us in congratulating the survivors in this year’s calendar on their courage, strength and the willingness to help others by letting their remarkable stories be told. May God bless all of you!

Dawn White-Bracey and George T. Epps, III

Survivor Stories

Nora Price, January View My Story »

Nora Price

October 29, 2001, was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Isn’t it amazing how cancer survivors remember that day as if it were a birthday? But I wasn’t celebrating that day. Instead, I worried that my life would forever hover in gloom and sickness. Would I ever laugh and dance again? Would I live to see grandchildren? Little did I know that my life would
soon be brighter, richer, fuller.

It all began at about 3:00 one morning as I lay awake with insomnia. I felt tenderness and a small lump under my right breast. Because I regularly performed self-breast exams and had annual mammograms, I thought the tenderness must be from the estrogen I was taking. But after a week, the
lump was still there. A very clear voice inside me said, “Nora, don’t wait any longer. This could be breast cancer.” Whoa! I got chills thinking about that possibility.

Terrified, I made an appointment with my gynecologist. He felt the lump but concluded it was probably just muscle tissue. That was encouraging. But I still had a gnawing feeling. I hoped my upcoming mammogram would let me know for sure. Mammograms are somewhat uncomfortable,
with the squeezing and holding your breath (who designed those machines anyway?) But mammograms are really necessary. The doctor who read my x-rays saw nothing irregular. I was once again relieved. Yet in the next few
weeks I still felt the lump. My instincts told me not to let this go. No one knew my body better than I did. Something just was not right. I wanted, I needed, a third opinion. I scheduled a physical and wasn’t surprised when my primary doctor felt the lump. She agreed that it needed to be
removed, and I thank her for saving my life. She reassured me that a woman needs to look out for her own body. She was the doctor who listened. She referred me to an excellent, caring surgeon.

As I sat in the waiting room shortly after the biopsy, my surgeon gave me the diagnosis. He also assured me that we would “get the cancer.” All I could think of was, “How?” My husband Calvin, my daughter Marissa and I sat quietly in shock for what seemed like hours. They were there for me
from that first day, and they are still by my side. I cherish and love them more than life itself, so I grew determined to kick this cancer for them and for me.

Still, the next days were filled with anger, numbness, and fear. How could two doctors and technology have failed me? How long would I live? How would I tell my beloved sister, Carol, that I had breast cancer?
Soon, my family and friends, who have always been priorities in my life, gave me their strong support, love, and kindness. I began to replace fear with the peace of knowing that God would keep me in His loving hands. I had a conversation with a support group counselor who helped me
to realize that I was going to be a survivor. Once I let go of the idea of being a victim, my outlook and life changed. I found courage, hope, and strength. The sunshine returned in my life. God had a plan for me.

So I faced the lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments with a positive outlook. I even got to like the feeling of having shower water tap on my bald head. Bald was liberating! Did you know there are thirty ways to dress up a saltine cracker? Same with my head! Sure, there were rough times and unpleasant side effects, but the cancer was treatable. I was determined to live!

Now, as a survivor of almost three years, I thank God for taking me under his wing; for giving me my loving husband, daughter, sister, cousins; a blessed church family and my dear friends. I love each day that I’m alive. I do not feel alone because I know there are other breast cancer survivors who are there for me, as I am there for them. I now have excellent doctors who continue to provide me with the best of care.

I have tried to embrace each year with an open heart and soul, and have learned a few simple lessons I wish to share: Prayer is powerful. God is a healing God. Thank Him for your blessings. Listen to your instincts. It may save your life. Take control of your own health and body. Be forgiving.
Doctors and all of us make mistakes. Enjoy the golden sunsets, the smell of rain, the laughter of a baby, a hug from a friend and the freedom of being alive. Tell those who are special in your life that you love them again and again and again.

 

Carole Berrios, February View My Story »

Carole Berrios

My name is Carole Berrios. I feel blessed to be alive, blessed to be the mother of five beautiful children and delighted to be part of this calendar as a 41 year survivor. I was diagnosed, after self exam and a biopsy, with breast cancer, and scheduled for a radical mastectomy on March 22, 1963. I was 28 years old, had five babies under the age of eight and was devastated to think what would happen to them if the Lord chose to take me. But that didn’t happen. He had other things in mind for me.

As a result of His plan, I was able to raise my babies; hold down full time
employment, including school-community relations worker; and teach school in Puerto Rico from 1977 until 1999, I am currently retired, back in my home state and enjoying my family and my life to the fullest. I thank the Lord and a family that makes everything worthwhile. If I can be of any assistance to anyone, as far as moral support or just someone to talk to, please feel free to get in touch with me.

 

Camille Thorton, March View My Story »

Camille Thorton

Throughout the ages the female breasts have been the embodiment of femininity and motherhood. A women’s breast feeds and nourishes the young in all civilized and animal cultures. For centuries our breasts have been a portraiture of our sexuality and attraction of the masculine
patriarchy. Thus, breast cancer can be the most feared affliction to plague a woman’s body. The agony of losing one or both breasts can spark a catastrophic blow to the victim; family, friends and others can be permanently bruised by this adversary.

I was a divorced, 72-year-old retired TWA employee living in Peach Tree City, GA when I discovered a pea-sized lump in my right breast. Consumed with a past history of fibrocystic disease while living in Los Angeles, CA (resulting in the removal of benign tumors during three separate surgeries
and my mother was dying of cancer in Pasadena, CA), I unwisely dismissed the immediate need to see a physician.

Reluctantly, in June, 1998, I sought medical attention. My primary care physician, alarmed by my negligence and the size of the tumor, scheduled a mammogram and an appointment with Eligio Abellera, MD, within the week. I have three children, Barbara, Tom and Dave. My daughter Barbara, the eldest of the three, accompanied me to the doctor’s office. We returned the following day for laboratory results. I watched terror rise in my daughter’s eyes as Dr. Abellera voiced his diagnosis. I had breast cancer. Two days later, he performed a right radical mastectomy that revealed a 6x6x4 cm breast cancer. My right breast had been taken from by body.

Three weeks later, Gurinderjit Sidu, MD, oncologist with Atlanta Cancer Care, administered the first of seven cycles of CMF chemotherapy ending in November, 1998. Also recommended were six weeks of daily adjuvant radiation therapy for the right breast, subsequent to the chemotherapy, to end in February, 1999. A five year tamoxifen regimen was prescribed to reduce high levels of estrogen.

Embarking on a new and perilous journey, I sought to embrace courage and wisdom in my life and settled into the routine of a breast cancer survivor.

I am a native of Pasadena, CA, a free lance writer who migrated from Long Beach, CA to New Haven, CT in April, 2002, after accepting a marriage proposal from a cherished childhood neighbor and friend whom I had not seen for thirty plus years. Gerald Thornton and I exchanged vows in Battel
Chapel at Yale University on July 21, 2002.

September 2003, with his blessing, I elected to have trans-flap breast reconstructive surgery. I was now a five-year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed as a viable candidate for a first surgical phase which was an ambulatory procedure performed at Yale-New Haven Hospital by J.
Grant Thompson, plastic surgeon, September 11, 2003. Blood vessels were realigned from left to right in my body to sustain normal blood flow into the reconstructive area. On September 25, 2003, the mastery of Dr. Thompson and his extraordinary surgical staff reconstructed the newest addition to my body from my stomach tissue. The skilled and compassionate sixth floor nursing staff together with the tender care of the TLC home nurses comforted my new breast to recovery. At home, we welcomed “Ms.
Teniqueqwa Tittie.”

Humor is an integral component of my daily activities. Laughter nourishes my soul and energizes my faith. It is the eminent healer. I found the uniqueness to sustain my being through my writing. I bolster my blessings through the strengths received from my husband, children, grand-children and friends that have been by my side with their presence and passion.

 

Kathleen Merritt, April View My Story »

Kathleen Merritt

My name is Kathleen L. Merritt. I am a native and resident of East Hartford, Connecticut. I am 62 years young and the proud mother of 4 children, Unique, Joseph, David and Gregory. I also am the grandmother of 13 grandchildren whom I love very much.

My journey began in the year 2000. I had a lump in my right breast for quite some time. My doctor and I were monitoring it very closely. Because it was benign and not growing, I chose not to have it removed at that time. As I was examining myself one day, I notice that the lump seemed larger than usual. I immediately phoned my doctor to have it checked again.

After an examination, my doctor recommended that I make an appointment with my surgeon. The diagnosis was breast cancer.After all options were given to me, my decision was to immediately have surgery. From there was chemotherapy and then radiation. My journey to recovery had begun with a
bang. It was frustrating and always very tiring. But, with strength and commitment I made it through.

I am now in my fifth year as a cancer survivor. Without the support of my family, especially my daughter Unique, who accompanied me to my appointments; my twin sister Maureen; and my dear, dear friends, Pat, Lou and Marybell, my journey would have been much, much, harder.

 

Jacqueline Jenkins, May View My Story »

Jacqueline Jenkins

My name is Jacqueline Jenkins and I am a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut. I am the proud mother of one child and two grandchildren. I’ve worked for the Department of Social Services in New Haven for 18 years.

In January 2000, after completing my monthly breast exam, I thought I felt a lump. I had a scheduled mammogram for later that month so I waited until then to talk to the doctor about it because I never felt it again. The day after the mammogram was performed; my doctor called me and said for me to see a surgeon as soon as possible.

I set up an appointment and brought my x-rays. The lump was so close to my chest wall, that it could go undetected for a long time.

The results of the biopsy confirmed cancer and after much prayer and consideration, I decided to have a mastectomy. I then underwent six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatments.

I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for blessing me with supportive family, great friends and a loving daughter.

My advice for other women would be for them to know they don’t have to take this journey alone. Be open, strong, and don’t panic because “this too shall pass.” Have faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and He will see you through. This was a hard journey, but now I can say, “I am a survivor”!

 

Margaret Patterson, June View My Story »

Margaret Patterson

Hi! My name is Margaret Patterson and I am a breast cancer survivor.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 1999. I discovered a lump a couple days after leaving the doctors office. I was asked to come in immediately. I was referred to see a specialist and she did a biopsy, which came back positive. I was floored!

It is only by the grace of God that I came through with flying colors, because he told me that he would not put any more on me that I can handle. I had surgery because it had gone into the lymphoid.

I went through chemotherapy and radiation, lost my hair after the first treatment, was admitted in the hospital for six days because the chemo was wiping out all my white blood cells and my body was not able to fight off germs. But I knew that I was going to be okay, because of my faith in God.

 

Lynn LaFrazier, July View My Story »

Lynn LaFrazier

I am a native New Havener, and mother of two daughters, one living and one deceased. I also have three grandchildren.

I first discovered that I had breast cancer in December of 1996. I went for my annual mammogram. It was then that the doctor discovered a lump in my left breast. I was told to have a biopsy. I then received the call from my doctor telling me that I had cancer.

I was shocked! I didn’t want to believe that I had cancer. I had a lot of family and friends supporting me, especially my cousin Jeanett and my friend Linda. So, by February 1997 I had surgery. I had a lumpectomy. The doctor told me that my cancer was in the first stage, but suggested that I have radiation and chemotherapy. I thank God every morning when I wake up because three women who underwent the same treatments as I did are no longer here.

I advise all women to have a mammogram once a year because had I not went for my yearly exam, I might not be here today. As a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you that early detection is the key.

Thanks to Molly Myer and Dr. Farber at Yale Health Plan and special thanks to Jehovah God for keeping me here.

 

Mildred Louise-Stevenson, August View My Story »

Mildred Louise-Stevenson

My name is Mildred Louise-Stevenson and I am a native of Norfolk, Virginia. I am the second child of three children. I moved to Connecticut in April 1960 and now live in Hamden.

In February 1998, during my annual mammogram, the technician took several pictures of my right breast. A few days later the nurse at my gynecologist’s office said the doctor would like to see me.

My gynecologist gave me the names of three good surgeons. I chose the best one for me and made an appointment at Yale New Haven Hospital to get a biopsy. The day I went for the biopsy, my husband (Leonard Stevenson) and my sister (Geraldine Gause) stayed with me through the entire procedure. Two days later my surgeon told me that I had a lump in my right breast. I went home and told my husband, my son, Mitchell, Sr., my daughter Michele and my two sisters. We were all very sad, but we knew that with the grace of God, we would get through this together.

On March 10, 1998, I had a lumpectomy on my right breast and 13 lymph nodes were removed from under my right arm. The 13 lymph nodes were not cancerous (Thank God!) Once I healed from the surgery, I went to the Father Michael J. McGivney Center for Cancer Care. I was given radiation
therapy for six weeks. After the fifth week of treatment, I had to stop for a few days because my skin could not take the radiation. We gave my skin a few days to rest and then continued the radiation for the last week. A few weeks later I was put on tamoxifen for the next five years. In June of 2003,
I was taken off the tamoxifen. I go for a mammogram once a year.

I would like to say to all women: Get checked annually! With the grace of God, I am a breast cancer survivor.

 

Barbara Brown, September View My Story »

Barbara Brown

“No one likes to be ill but yet we all know it takes sunshine and rain to make flowers grow and sometimes an illness that seems so distressing is a time of renewal and a Spiritual Blessing.”

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago at the age of 46, I was blessed to have been surrounded by hundreds of persons who supported me during the entire treatment process. At the time of my diagnosis I was an elementary school Principal. The day after my cancer diagnosis, I called a faculty meeting and shared the news with my entire staff; they shared it with their students; and the students with their parents. The entire County of Goochland, Virginia knew of my battle with cancer. The school and
community kept me lifted up in prayer. I will always treasure the verse that is stated above that was on one of the many cards that I received. For truly the diagnoses of cancer has been a blessing to me in many ways.

Prior to my diagnosis in 1989, I had been diagnosed as having fibroidal breasts and had undergone numerous biopsies that were all benign. A few months prior to my scheduled mammogram I felt another lump and asked for an earlier mammogram than what had been scheduled for me.
The biopsy indicated that it was malignant.

At the time, I was divorced and my younger daughter Mary was attending Spelman. On the day of the surgery my daughter Martha, who was at that time 24years old and a graduate of Hampton University, accompanied me to the hospital and prayed for me as I was escorted into the operating room. (At the age of 37, Martha was ordained as the first female deacon of our Church).

I had a lumpectomy. Many lymph nodes were removed. This was followed by 33 treatments of radiation and months of chemotherapy. I also agreed to participate in a clinical trial, and I encourage my African American Sisters to give serious consideration when asked to participate in a clinical trial. The blessing was that I was never ill, neither from the chemotherapy nor from
the radiation, and did not loose my hair. After each chemo treatment, I went home took a 3-4 hour nap and continued with my daily activities. I recalled on one occasion of taking chemotherapy and flying to the Bahamas later that night. Through it all I kept a very positive attitude and developed a wonderful relationship with, my physician, Dr. Walter Lawrence.

Dr. Lawrence invited me to participate in a video focusing on clinical trials and also invited me to speak before the General Assembly on insurance issues related to breast cancer. Due to my school community’s knowledge of my breast cancer, parents who were diagnosed felt very comfortable in using me as a sounding board as they struggled with their diagnosis.

I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer but my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 79. She is now 85 and continues to take Tamoxifen. My daughters are now 35 and 40 years of age, respectively. They have religiously had their mammograms every year for the last 10 years. I have become a true advocate for the support of my African-American sisters with breast cancer. God has endowed me with the ability to conduct breast cancer workshops. My next presentation shall be on Lymphedema even though I have a severe case of Lymphedema in my
right arm. I met with Hillary Clinton in 1992 and testified twice before the National Institute of Health on breast cancer issues. Just this year I was honored as The Breast Cancer Hero for Richmond, Virginia by BMW and the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

In April of 2004, I was selected to visit with President Bush at the White House to kick off the National Race for the Cure. I serve on the Board of the Massey Cancer Center Advisory Board and The Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Board and I am an active member of the Richmond Chapter of Sister’s Network.

I recently celebrated my 15th year as a breast cancer survivor and invited 80 of my friends to worship with me and my daughters at my Church. All of the survivors came to the altar and a special prayer was offered for them. After the worship service I hosted a Survivor Luncheon for them. I know that God has blessed me and he wants me to always be a support for my sisters through their journeys of healing.

 

Mary Alice Holmes, October View My Story »

Mary Alice Holmes

My name is Mary Alice Holmes, and I’m from Hamden, Connecticut. In September 2003, after a routine mammogram, I was told a closer look was needed. I then had a MRI and biopsy. The test results showed malignant tumor/cysts.

I was then sent to a surgeon and, after a second opinion, the decision was made to have a lumpectomy performed. I had 10 lymph nodes removed, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. I have not yet been put on Tamoxofin, but today my prognosis is positive, and I feel just fine.

I thank God for his divine intervention; for my two sons, John and William; and for my dear friend and fiancé Moore Crossey. I am also thankful for my church family and friends. Their prayers helped to sustain me during this difficult period.

I learned from this experience just how important routine mammograms, second opinions, and the power of prayer truly are.

I will always remember the words of the poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes: “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair… I’se still climbin…”

 

Eleanor Birt Caldwell, November View My Story »

Eleanor Birt Caldwell

Jesus you’re the center of my Joy! All that’s good and perfect comes from you. You’re the joy of my salvation, Hope for all I do Jesus you’re the center of my joy.Through the grace of God I have survived cancer for more
than 13 years.

My name is Eleanor Caldwell. I have two sons, Bill and Bruce. My husband died on March 30, 1988. On that day I lost my very best friend. Another significant event in my life occurred on a snowy day in February, 1991. I had just settled down with a book and with my dog Teddy in my lap, when I felt a strong dull burning sensation in my left breast. The pain seemed to last forever. When the pain subsided I performed a self exam. I
discovered a small lump.

I wasted no time in consulting with my primary physician, who referred me to a wonderful, very capable surgeon. My surgeon explained in detail what was going on inside of my body. He advised me to what my options were. I opted for radical mastectomy.

After my surgery I was informed by my surgeon that I would not need any after surgery treatment. However, he did stress the importance of a sensible eating regiment, exercise and most important an annual mammogram. He also stressed the importance of taking the time to
regularly perform self examinations.

 

Kathy Matthews-Barbour, December View My Story »

Kathy Matthews-Barbour

Nineteen ninty-nine was a devastating year for me. I lost My Friend, My Hero, and My Mom, Mary Santos Matthews-Sullivan who died May 26, 1999. While still grieving my mother’s death, I discovered a lump in my right
breast.

My name is Kathy Matthews-Barbour. I have two loving sons Jermaine and Shawn. Also, the proud grandmother of Jermaine, JR. After discovering the lump, I called my physician, Joel Silidker, who is a magnificent physician as well as a person. He scheduled an ultrasound. Yes, it was malignant, a biopsy confirmed it. He then called Dr. Nina Horowitz and setup up my surgery for a lumpectomy.

I had 12 weeks of radiation at the Father McGinvey Cancer Center under the care of Dr.Robert Sinha. Through the grace of god and many prayers, I made it through. I thank God for the love and support of my loving husband Charles R. Barbour, family, and friends who continued to lift my spirits and give me encouragement. I continue to have checkups every six months along with self examinations.

I want to thank a dear friend for all her love and support who has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. Our Lord and Savior had not brought us this far to leave us now. It is crucial for women, especially African American women to be an advocate of their bodies. The Lord is my Shepard!

 

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