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2008 Calendar

2008 Calendar

Friends, It’s Another Beautiful Year!

We are celebrating the lives of 13 more Breast Cancer survivors – 13 more ambassadors ready to spread the word in the African American community that with early diagnosis and treatment you can increase your chances of survival. Our hopes are that their courageous story telling will inspire so many to schedule yearly mammograms and perform monthly self breast exams.

While we celebrate lives extended we need to take a moment and reflect on the lives lost: Beverly Hilton Kimbro, Arabella “DeeDee” Pina, and Yvonne Cooper-Watson. We will be forever grateful to them for bravely sharing their stories with us, stories that empower others to share as well. Yvonne, in particular, not only shared her own personal story, but also was a pioneer in our journey of helping so many who were fighting their own battle with cancer. We will miss our friend who not only encouraged those with cancer, but also encouraged those of us who worked with her side by side. Our condolences go out to all the families and we hope they can find comfort in knowing that their loved ones helped so many.

This year, we also are saluting a Breast Cancer survivor who turned 100 in October. This special person happens to be my Aunt, Vivienne West Brown. She is proof that early detection and prompt treatment is the key to saving lives. Although my family is aware of three generations of breast cancer, we may never know like so many other families of incidences of generations’ prior. Through it all we have learned how very important it is that we know our family’s medical history, are educated on this subject and are proactive in our own health care.

Making a calendar has highlighted the strengths of our sisters and women who have faced and defeated breast cancer. We share your triumphs each and every day. Again, thank you for your continued support throughout the year. We would not have been able to continue without you.

Phyllis W. White
President

Survivor Stories

Sharon LaVerne Aiken, January View My Story »

Sharon LaVerne Aiken

“Yearly mammograms are so important!”

“My body is a temple of divine life and energy. I am healthy and whole!”

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to New Haven, Connecticut with my parents James and Alperata Battle at the age of six months old. Through the years, God has blessed me with two beautiful children Dedric and Adwowa, my loving husband, James, whom I have been married to since 2003.

In October 2005, I went to have an annual mammogram. I received a letter and a phone call from my primary physician, Dr. Kumar, suggesting that I should have further testing performed on my right breast. After having a breast ultrasound, all the physicians that had seen me up to this point agreed that I should be scheduled for a surgical biopsy. On December 2, 2005, my husband James, daughter Adwowa and sister Edna checked me into Saint Raphael’s Hospital for a biopsy on my right breast. At the time of the surgery, I had no idea what the physicians might find during the surgery. I went home after the surgery to heal and wait for the pathology report.
On December 3, 2005, I received a phone call from North Carolina informing me that my mother had passed away. God is so good, I had no time think about myself. I knew that I had to make several arrangements. My only son was deployed for a one year tour in Iraq. I had to contact the American Red Cross to get my son home to Connecticut and then to North Carolina.

While in North Carolina, arranging for the burial of my mother, I received a phone call from Dr. Kumar inquiring about why I had not called for my results. After explaining my mother’s sudden death, he expressed his deepest sympathy and advised me to call for my results when I returned home.

On December 12, 2005, I finally had the opportunity to meet with the physicians and review the results of my biopsy. When I received the diagnosis – “You have breast cancer!” – I was shocked, speechless and devastated. I met with Dr. Johanna M. LaSala, oncologist. She explained my breast cancer and my options. Dr. LaSala suggested that I receive six weeks of radiation followed by five years of Tamoxifen. I was unable to take the Tamoxifen because of prior medical history. Within a week, I reported to the Father McGivney Cancer Center at Saint Raphael’s Hospital to begin my radiation treatment. My radiation oncologist, Dr. Chung and the staff were “God sent” – always a smile, so helpful and supportive!

Thanks to my husband and my sisters Edna and Loretta for always staying close and giving me love and support; my daughter-in-law, Lyndell, for all the breast cancer information she downloaded; Ray and Elijah – “Mema’s Boys” – who bring so much joy into my life; family, friends and clients for all the support and beautiful cards they have given me. I am grateful to have lived to see my first grandchild, Terrell, born on September 2006. Terrell is the light of my life and has brought so much joy to our family. I give God all the glory for bringing me through this life changing experience.

 

Sheila Turner, February View My Story »

Sheila Turner

“The Armor of God is a Devine Defense… Put on the whole armor
of God”– Ephesians 6:10-18

My name is Sheila Turner and I thought that I would share my story with you!

Breast Cancer. The diagnosis is frightening, even overwhelming, as you
struggle to absorb the news and begin to consider your options. Women in their late 30s to 60s often find themselves taking inventory of their lives and adapting to new roles with their families, partners, parents and friends.

My life came to a screeching halt, and suddenly I was forced to prioritize my life all over again. The beginning of January 2007 – a new year, a fresh start – all came crashing down to an abrupt end. This was quite the humbling
experience. I am a 47 year old African American who went for her routine physical examination with my new primary care provider. I was ready to get started with the new year, new outlook for 2007. I quit smoking 10 years ago and was ready to shed those unwanted pounds for the summer. I had my one and only child at age 34. She is my pride and joy! I was sent for a routine mammogram and to my surprise there had not been one documented on my records since 2001. I had somehow fallen through the system.

I was anxious and nervous to hear that my last mammogram was six years ago. You see, being a busy single parent, working twelve hour shifts as a nurse in an intensive care unit at a fast paced teaching institution as well as going to graduate school, I was neglectful of my own health. None the less, I was devastated to hear that I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma (DCIS), which is the most common kind of noninvasive breast cancer. Given the
circumstances I was at the highest staging before my cancer would have become invasive.

This was an eye opener for me, my family and my friends. I thank God each and every day for a loving support system in my church family and pastor. Among my many blessings was a knowledgeable team of physicians. My medical oncologist, Dr. Michael DiGiovanna; the radiation team headed by Dr. JoAnne Weidhaas at the Yale Cancer Center; and last but not least, a special “thank you” to the surgical team at the Surgical Associates under the guidance of Dr. Paul Barcewicz.

I endured through faith two surgeries in the month of March 2007 for the equivalent of a partial mastectomy, followed by five weeks of radiation therapy, while trying to makeup my school hours during the summer. I’m currently taking the oral medication Tamoxifen as a preventive agent for further reducing my risk of cancer in the future. After having genetic testing my BRCA I and BRCA 2 genetic markers indicated that there are no familial traits for breast cancer.

For now my precious thirteen-year-old daughter has been spared. My mission statement and my purpose in life is to educate women to acknowledge the existence of a disease process that is attacking my sisters and to maintain a state of well being.

 

Linda Davis, March View My Story »

Linda Davis

“A special Thank You to my 15-year-old daughter for being so strong!”

My journey started on December 28, 2006. I was schedule for my yearly mammogram. I have been going for the past ten years because of my family history – my mother, aunt and first cousin they are all breast cancer survivors.

During the ten years that I have been going, I have had one call back because of several cysts in my right breast, but they were benign and removed by laser.

On January 8, 2007, I received a called from the Radiology Group and Dr. Shoshanna Zax that I needed to come in for additional testing of my left breast. I was scheduled for a biopsy on February 15, 2007.

Three days later I received the call from Dr. Dalliah Black, breast cancer surgeon, that my biopsy came back and it was breast cancer (situ ductal carcinoma) and that it was in the early stage.

She advised me that she would schedule me for surgery on March 15, 2007, for a Lumpectomy, followed by six week of radiation and five years of Tamoxifen.

I was very calm with the help of God, faith and prayers that I decided not to inform my family and friends until I got the results back, because I didn’t want them to worry. We have made it through Thank you God.

I thank God for blessing me with a beautiful family and friends that supported me during this time and their continuation of support, also the team of Doctors that will be following me through this journey.

 

Alice Johnson, April View My Story »

Alice Johnson

“Every day is an opportunity to help someone and reach for the stars”

I am a New Haven native and lived here all of my life – educated, married and raised two wonderful daughters. I am also the proud grandmother of
one grandson and five great grands.

My journey began while on vacation in Germany. I discovered a lump in my left breast. It was removed and I received radiation treatment.

A friend’s mother who had been free for twenty years took me under her wing. A women’s support group from Saint Raphael’s surrounded me with love and care.

I am the first women in my family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. All my female family members now have yearly mammograms. God has allowed me to travel life’s journey cancer free for more than fifteen years. Everyday of life is an opportunity to help someone and reach for the stars!

 

Nettie Taylor-Roberts, May View My Story »

Nettie Taylor-Roberts

“For the Joy of the Lord is my Strength”

Hi, my name is Nettie Taylor-Roberts.

My Journey started in February 2003. On February 3 of that year, I went to Quest Diagnostic imaging for my yearly mammogram. Two days after my mammogram, Dr. Richard Barse, my primary care physician, called and asked me to come to his office for a biopsy. Two
days after my biopsy, Dr. Barse called me at my job and asked me to come in as soon as possible.

I couldn’t focus at work so I left, called my husband told him to meet me at the doctor’s office. The biopsy revealed that I had Stage 3 cancer in my right breast. I wasn’t expecting to hear that. I said, “this is it, my life is over! But then I thought about my 84 year old mother, who is a breast cancer survivor of nine years – praise be to God!

Dr. Barse made an appointment for me to see Dr. Christopher McLaughlin, a surgeon, who scheduled my surgery for March 27, 2003 at Hospital of Saint Raphael. One week before my surgery I started getting pain in my lower abdomen. I went to St. Raphael’s ER. An ultrasound revealed that I had tumors, so I went to see my gynecologist Dr. Tony Asis. Dr. Asis told me that I needed to have a total hysterectomy.”

I opted to have both surgeries done at the same time. Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Asis both stated it wasn’t a good idea, feeling I would loose too much blood. I put everything in God’s hand and talked it over with my husband and daughter. I went to the operating room; the hysterectomy and the mastectomy were both done. Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Asis were amazed at how well everything had gone.

In April, I met with my oncologist, Dr. Samuel Babrow, and received six treatments of chemotherapy. I went through a period of depression having good and bad days during my illness from the chemotherapy.

Three weeks later, I received a one-month-old Lhasa Apso from my co-worker and friend Val. Taking care of the puppy gave me strength and kept my mind off my illness. That was almost five years ago, so I give praise to my Lord and Savior. I’ll continue giving praise for the rest of my life, because if it wasn’t for him I would not be here today.

I thank God for my husband Al who never left my side and I thank God for the love of my family, friends and coworkers who gave me tremendous support throughout the whole ordeal.

 

Beverly Gilmore, June View My Story »

Beverly Gilmore

“Play the hand you are dealt in life, seriously”

“Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Victory must be applauded because it is so easy not too battled at all, to accept and call that acceptance inevitable.” – Andre Lorde, writer/poet

This quote has inspired me to rise above any challenge, take hold of a life changing experience and be empowered by it.

During the summer of 1970 on my way home from work, as I had done numerous times before, my life was dramatically changed forever. In an instant, I was involved in a devastating car accident. After the wreck, I was rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital where I later regained consciousness only to learn I had sustained six broken bones in my right leg and three broken bones in my left. My injuries were extremely severe, so I was told by doctors that I would never walk again. Nevertheless, through rigorous therapy, sheer will power, and by the grace of God, I regained the use of my legs and ability to walk.

After surviving this trying ordeal, I was convinced that the hand dealt me in 1970 was as bleak as it gets for one in this lifetime. However, thirteen years later my faith would be severely tested again. In April 1983, the battle of my life was just beginning. Breast Cancer was trying to seal my faith, to take my life, but I was not done living. Yes, after enduring two (2) biopsies, a mastectomy, and radiation therapy while under the excellent care of Saint Raphael Hospital, I found the courage to approach the battle for my life with a positive attitude. With an individual care plan, special treatment, and the thoughtfulness of my physicians, Dr. Job and Dr. Amodeo, I received the medical expertise and support which helped me claim victory. Most of all, I found comfort and strength in my family, the soil from which I grew, to which I returned for the nourishment of my roots.

Today, I’m proud to say that after nearly a quarter of a century (more than 24 years) with God beneath my wings, I am Cancer Free.

TO THE READERS:
Play the hand you are dealt in life, seriously.
The 1st Card:
Make sure you take the time for monthly self-breast exams (the
buddy system).
The 2nd Card:
Should your results come back not so good follow through, whether it is surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments. Just follow through!
The 3rd Card:
Stay positive (lean on your faith).
The 4th Card:
Educate yourself, close friends and family.
The 5th Card:
“Living and Dying is not the big issue. The big issue is what
you’re going to do with your time while you’re here.”

 

Maria Ramos, July View My Story »

Maria Ramos

“Early detection is everything, not only for women of color but for all women”

I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I moved to Meriden, Connecticut in 1990 with my two sons.

In the year 2001, I was hospitalized for gall bladder surgery. I had mentioned to my nurse of a lump in my breast and was concerned because I had lost a
considerable amount of weight.

When I was discharged I had made an appointment for a mammogram. After the mammogram, I was told then that I had a calcium buildup in my right breast that they would have to keep an eye on. My next mammogram was for the following year. When I went for the next mammogram I was told that a lump that doesn’t go away was of some concern. I was advised to have an ultra sound done on my right breast. The ultra sound indicated there was something there, but that they couldn’t tell what it was because it was behind a mass of tissue. I became very upset, stating that what ever it was, had been there behind the same mass of tissue as the year before. I was angry knowing that I had waited about ten months to be told that there was something abnormal. This time it was suggested that I see a surgeon; a biopsy would have to be done. I called the surgeon that had removed my stones. In my visit with the surgeon, I asked him to please remove the whole lump not just a piece of it. I made him promise me that he would, he kept his promise. Five days later I received a call while at work from my surgeon asking me how I was feeling. My answer was that I was doing and feeling just fine. He paused for a moment then told me that in examining the lump they had removed they found “Microscopic” Cancer. I felt like my world had just fallen on top of me. And the only thing I could think about at the moment was how I was going to tell my family. But I held strong and asked the doctor what would be my next step. He said that a Stereo tactic biopsy, a test to see if the cancer had spread to the left breast or anywhere else in my body would have to be done. I had to wait 48 hours after that test; it seemed like an eternity by this time I had lost more weight.

The call came on a Sunday and I was told that everything was OK. The test showed it was benign. I asked if I was able to go on my vacation that I had planned and was told to go and enjoy myself. I enjoyed every minute of each day. To my surprise, I received a message to call my doctor as soon as I returned from my vacation. I found out that the surgeon had to go back inside the right breast, this time a bit deeper. There were more microscopic pieces removed to make sure nothing was lingering deep inside. This time around I was left with a right breast that didn’t look pretty at all. I was given radiation treatment for about six weeks afterwards at the Mid-State Medical Center in Meriden.

The doctors and staff members who attended to me were just wonderful. They were always caring and patience. I always felt that I was getting the best with each of them. I thank every single one of them because it is something I wish no women should go through.

It’s all behind me now and I will be cancer free for five year’s this November. First, praise the Lord for my blessings. The prayers and love from my family and friend’s are forever lasting. And our faith in the lord is what gets us all through these trouble times.

The Lord also blessed me with a wonderful man who came into my life during my ordeal. His compassion and understanding was without a doubt what I needed. He was by my side every step of the way. He gave me the strength and more than I ever expected. We were married this past year. This will be my last year on my medication “Tamoxifen.” What comes after this I don’t know, but I tell you this: don’t ignore nor neglect anything that is different with your body, know it well, and do get your mammograms as
needed.

 

Crystal Morton, August View My Story »

Crystal Morton

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”
– Psalm 121:2

Crystal’s story is a little different than those who are honored in this calendar. Her story will be told in the second person by her sister Gail because Crystal is mentality challenged.

My name is Crystal Morton and I am a native of New Haven, Connecticut.

Crystal’s story began in 1992 when she went for a mammogram because of the hormonal therapy she was receiving. Her test results showed abnormalities which lead to her having a biopsy of her right breast. After further testing it was revealed that Crystal had breast cancer. Her right breast and lymph nodes were removed followed by Chemotherapy and
Radiation treatments.

During this time Crystal remained strong and soft spoken while dealing with a health situation that was not easy for her to articulate. In 1998 Crystal faced another emotional battle, the loss of her mother. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that again there were abnormalities in her x-rays resulting in another series of radiation treatments.

During this time Crystal never complained and was always smiling. She continued to work at Gravy Master, a company that provides employment through Easter Seals Goodwill in New Haven. It has been noted that Crystal is one of their best employees. If you ask her what she likes best about her job, she will answer: “Making my own money!” Crystal likes to shop and keep her hair well groomed so when her hair started to come out due to her cancer treatments we had to become very creative with her hair because see did not wear scarves or hats as fashion statements.

In 2006 Crystal again was diagnosed with breast cancer. This time it was her left breast and a mastectomy was preformed and reconstructive surgery was later preformed with no success due to infection. But through it all Crystal has remained positive, strong and never once has she ever complained or felt sorry for herself.

When I asked her how she felt about her cancer, Crystal would respond: “I just want it gone!”

That being said, she has not had any new occurrences of cancer. Being her older sister I am very proud of Crystal. She has shown me that if you never give up and remain steady on course you can have a happy and productive life.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have traveled with Crystal on this journey. The staff and residents of Ellsworth House were Crystal lives. Her team of doctor’s were Dr. Monaco, Primary Care, Dr. McLaughlin, Breast Surgeon, Dr. Reilly, Plastic Surgeon and Dr. Katz, Oncologist who have treated Crystal with dignity and respect, my husband James who has been by our side from the very beginning.

Most of all we would like to thank God for His goodness and tender mercy.

 

Dorothy (Dotti) McCleese, September View My Story »

Dorothy (Dotti) McCleese

“I am a survivor… I have cried my last tear yesterday”

My name is Dorothy (Dotti) McCleese. I am a native of New Haven, Connecticut.

One evening, I was giving myself a breast examination and discovered a small lump on the right upper part of my breast. The following morning I repeated the exam (like it was going away) and sure enough it was still
there. Four days I repeated the same process, until I finally decided I must make the phone to my primary care physician before my nerves were completely gone.

In a week I was scheduled for a mammogram, shortly thereafter I was scheduled for a needle biopsy on March 4, 2004. The results showed that I
did have breast cancer.

On April 12, 2004 I had a mastectomy of the right breast. My surgeon scheduled me for the regular return visits, and informed me that everything was going quite well (or so I thought).

On returning to my primary care physician for my yearly exam, I was asked how everything was going with my Oncologist. Another shock, I was never informed to have or make an appointment with the oncologist, which was quite upsetting to both me and my primary care physician. Never the less I was “Blessed” and told to make an appointment with Dr. Silber at the Father McGivney Cancer Center immediately.

After careful examination she informed me that she would have offered me chemotherapy had she seen me at the time of being diagnosis. Dr. Silber started me on 5-6 years of hormonal therapy, which by the ‘Grace of God” as I’m writing all is well, under the watchful care of Dr. Andrea
Silber.

The struggle still continues, but it’s not heavy “God is on my side” and with the support of my special friend being there through all of this, doctors visits, results, tests, surgery and etc, I say thank you. I know it wasn’t easy, and to my Sister’s:”

The Lord gives us time for our stories to be told

For our journeys to be made

For our purpose to unfold

The Lord gives us time to grow stronger in his grace

To become who we are born to be

To find our unique place in his creation

“I am a Survivor…I have cried my last tear yesterday!”

 

Tamja Grey-Moore, October View My Story »

Tamja Grey-Moore

“I know that God gives us nothing that He truly thinks we cannot handle”

My name is Tamja and in June of 2006 I was informed that a biopsy that was
performed on my right breast came back positive for cancer. I was informed by my oncologist that this was going to be a very simple procedure to remove a cluster of what she called cancerous
cells that were in just stage one.

Although I must admit that just hearing the words cancer and surgery and months of radiation treatment everyday had been the most traumatizing words I had ever heard, I still was positive and believed that as my doctor said and I would have my lumpectomy in late June. I would be out of work for about two weeks and back to me and my regular life.

So the surgery happened as scheduled. My recovery time was two weeks. I went to see my oncologist for the OK to return to work but those were not the words I heard. I heard instead that they were unable to clear all the cancer. Unfortunately I was going to be rescheduled for a second lumpectomy in just a week’s time. I was told this one should do it.

But even after the second operation there still was cancer. My final surgery ended up being August 11, 2006 – one day before my birthday – and my fate was a double mastectomy.

The worst thing I feel any women could hear was she has breast cancer and that both breasts have to be removed. I did everything possible to stay positive. I focused on graduate school, doing papers and exams in between surgeries.

I finally returned to work full time the last of October 2006, even though many told me it was too soon. I finished my internship for graduate school and my final year even after many told me to stop and finish the next year. I am happy to say that I graduated, on time, on May 15th of 2007!

I continue to work full time at Connecticut Mental Health Center as a Masters of Social Work clinician. As of this date I am still free of cancer and when my three-month checkups come around, I work hard at maintaining my faith and continuing to be positive knowing that God will be by my side.

I consider my self a very strong individual and I know that God gives us nothing that He truly feels we can not handle. So I give thanks to my lord and savior for bringing me thus far.

I also give heart-felt love and thanks to my sister Dee Dee, who was my nurse after the visiting nurses had left; to my mother who never left my side all those months; to my father, who without his humor, there would not had been much laughter; and to my 8- year-old son Brandon who is my focus and my reason for needing to survive.

I cannot say thanks enough to my many friends from a lifetime before and friends for a lifetime to come; my church family at St. Matthews, co-workers, Eastern Stars, classmates and family members who stayed with me through it all.

And I will never forget those that are truly special and loved me continuously and unconditionally. To Dr. Zuckerman my oncologist surgeon and Dr. Fusi my plastic surgeon – I never doubted for a minute that they both would not take good care of me. It was a blessing to have their expertise and to Dr. Fusi, thanks for the new me. His gift and expertise was a blessing.

 

Betty Greene, November View My Story »

Betty Greene

“O Give Thanks unto the Lord for He is good for His Mercy Endureth Forever” – Psalms 136:1

Praise God!

My name is Betty Greene. I love teaching, working with children and volunteer programs. I was employed for 32 years with the New Haven
Board of Education and I continue to volunteer with RSVP.

My favorite scripture is: Psalms 136:1 “O Give Thanks unto the Lord
for He is good for His Mercy Endureth Forever”.

On December 30, 2005, I went in for my annual mammogram. I have
always done self exams and have never felt or discovered anything unusual. During the examination a shadow showed up on the x-ray. The technician recommended an ultrasound, which was done during the same appointment. After viewing the ultrasound, my primary doctor, Dr. William Crede, scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a breast cancer specialist,
Dr. Donald Lannin, whom recommended a needle biopsy. When the results came in, his suspicions were confirmed – I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I didn’t realize how much this news would change my life. I was devastated, but my spirit was calm. My girlfriend was with me, I did not know how I was going to discuss the results with her, so I didn’t at that time. I went home, cried, prayed and called my children. My daughter came right over and took me to church with her. I received special prayer and a prayer cloth which I placed on the breast where the cancerous tumor was found, believing God for healing.

I consulted with my surgeon, Dr. Lannin, a charming good natured person who I believe God ordained for my situation. He explained the different options of surgery and scheduled me to visit with a plastic surgeon so that I could make a decision that was best for me. I talked with my family and spiritual leader before making my choice. I choose to have a mastectomy.

On February 27, 2006, 1 underwent four hours of surgery to remove a lobular carcinoma tumor (3cm) and three lymph nodes, following with 16 weeks of chemotherapy treatments (May-August). I experienced many different emotions and physical changes during/after my cancer treatment. Dr. Lannin, my oncologist, Dr. Masa Abu-Khalaf and her assistant Michelle gave me plenty of helpful information about cancer and cancer treatment.

I thank God for all my doctors, nurses, friends, family, spiritual leaders and supporters. My son-in-law Charles is heaven sent. He escorted me, making sure I was at all of my appointments and treatments meanwhile taking notes to be sure I would not forget anything the doctors were saying.

As of March 21, 2007 -1 am cancer free! Praise be to God!

 

Geraldine McDuffie-Brown, December View My Story »

Geraldine McDuffie-Brown

“I took the news with faith that I would be alright”

On September 19, 2003, I was scheduled for a mammogram. The mobile came from Stamford, Connecticut to the RTCC for the day. RTCC is connected to P. L. Dunbar School’s community center. I thought I would try
them. I usually go to Advanced Radiology each year. As a matter of fact, this took place on my birthday.

About two weeks later I received a letter for a repeat mammogram.
The first showed abnormalities in the right breast. I did not have any lumps in the breast. Cells had to be magnified to be truly identified. The repeat was done. I was then contacted by my doctors and they recommended a biopsy to analyze the cells. The results were that I had cancer of the right breast. A lumpectomy was done and then radiation, which didn’t help. I finally had a mastectomy on December 20, 2003. Thank God I didn’t have to have chemotherapy, only Tamoxifen. My cells were so tiny they had to be magnified to be identified. My doctor was surprised at my reaction. I took the news with faith that I would be alright. God was on my side. Reconstruction was conducted on my right breast which called for more surgery to reduce the left breast for symmetry.

I continued having my mammograms and in October 2006 I was diagnosed with the same type of cells in my left breast. A repeat procedure was done and a simple mastectomy followed. Thank God I am medication free and reconstruction I did without. I praise God for his healing hand today because if it wasn’t for him on my side where would I be? I know my God is good.

For the last 20 years, I have taught for the Bridgeport Board of Education as a social studies teacher at P. L. Dunbar School. My focus has been to establish clear expectations for students and provide academically rigor curriculum in order for students to understand and assure they can articulate what they have learned.

I give thanks to all who help me along the way as I traveled this journey.

 

Delores Burgess, View My Story »

Delores Burgess

“Breast cancer crystallized a divine purpose for my life”

Since I was three years old I wanted to be a star. My only desire was to entertain on a big stage and bring joy to people through singing dancing and acting. I was a little show-off with a big personality and I loved helping people!

As life would have it, my dreams would not begin to come to fruition until much later and to my surprise not quite like I had imagined. At age 40 I became an award winning gospel recording artist who toured the country ministering to souls for Christ. After one year of touring, the shock of my life threatened my promising future. In October of 2003 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A wife and mother of two teenage daughters, I had absolutely no warning, no lump, no symptoms, no family history!

I was the first in my family to experience breast cancer. Devastated and shocked beyond disbelief I was further tormented by my doctor’s
recommendation to treat the disease with a mastectomy! Because the cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ) was detected early, I felt a mastectomy was far too aggressive treatment for a Stage 0 pre-cancer diagnosis. However, I quickly understood that the cancer was disseminated throughout my breast and the mastectomy was the best form of treatment. This forced me into a world-wind of emotional distress, quick decisions, and unfamiliar doctors.

Fear and grief often consumed my thinking but being a woman of faith I knew somehow I would beat breast cancer and stand as astrong survivor! One compelling confirmation of this fact, unbeknown to me at the time, was God had already placed me with my survivor organization well over a year before my diagnosis. Through my musical associations I had become the honorary songstress for Sisters Network Atlanta Chapter (national African
American breast cancer survivor organization) without any expectation that I would ever join them as a survivor member.

In December 2003 I had my mastectomy and immediate breast reconstructive surgery with my devoted husband and family at my side. Recovery was painful and long, yet I was back on my feet in about six months. Fortunately, I did not need chemotherapy or radiation and I was cancer-free! I did not then nor do I now consider myself in remission. I am healed!

Breast cancer crystallized a divine purpose for my life. Therefore, I didn’t hesitate returning to the frontlines using my experience to educate African American women and underserved communities about the impact of this dreadful disease. I work closely with the American Cancer Society (ACS) Speaker Bureau, serve as a national spokesperson for the Sister Study, and recently became a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA).

Today God has relocated me to Hollywood, California and blessed me with a successful speaking business, Lily International, Inc. (named after my mother) where I have the most awesome “living my dream” opportunities to speak and sing life and inspiration to audiences at women’s conferences, church services, corporate events, and community affairs. Known as the “Little Lady With The Big Voice,” I am doubly blessed with the versatility to reach people from the upper levels of corporate management to the homes of the underserved. I uniquely blend music and inspirational songs into every message, entertain with humor and dance, and involve my audiences as I passionately deliver the client’s message on key! My keynote topics are Breast Cancer, Health & Wellness, Women’s Motivation and Empowerment.

 

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