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2012 Calendar

2012 Calendar

Our 2012 Calendar

Survivor Stories

Sharon Gayle, January View My Story »

Sharon Gayle

My Name is Sharon Gayle

Hello. I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. My first brush with cancer came in 2008. One night before going to sleep I decided to do a breast self-exam. I had previously been hospitalized for a month and a half due to a bi-polar depression episode and for the first time in 3 years, I missed my scheduled mammogram. To my dismay, I discovered two rather large lumps in my left breast.

“Where did this come from,” I wondered. Despite my bi-polar issues I was never one to procrastinate with health problems. So after a sleepless night, I called one of my best friends the next morning, whose step-sister worked at Sloan Kettering and asked what I should do.

“Call Dr. Van Zee right away,” was my friend’s step-sister’s (and soon to become a part of my support system) response. I tried to get an appointment but they wanted to see films. So I called my primary care physician who saw me that day and scheduled an ultrasound mammography. We were off and running. Within three days I saw the surgeon. She examined me by hand, looked at the films and point blank said, “It is breast cancer.” Taken aback at the bluntness of her proclamation I asked, “How on earth do you know?” She responded, “I have examined thousands of women and at least 50 a week currently, and I know cancer when I feel it.”

I didn’t mention that my primary care physician said pretty much the same thing just in a gentler way.

After much discussion, we decided that due to the size and number of the lumps (only two – but a quarter of my breast!) a mastectomy would be the best choice.  I got through the surgery okay. I wasn’t in as much pain as I thought and although it was traumatic losing a breast, Sloan Kettering did everything they could to make patients feel like a woman afterward, including almost mandatory attendance at a Look Good/Feel Better makeup session just one day after surgery.  I hate to admit it, but tons of free high quality makeup did make me feel better –I don’t know about the looking good part!

Chemo kicked my butt, but luckily, only every three weeks. While I was getting chemo, I had a household to manage and 7 year-old twins, along with making sure I took my bi-polar medicine every day, no matter how much it added to the fatigue and bone pain I felt. One of the nice things I did for myself while I was on chemo was to join an organization called Chemo Angels.  You were given

an “angel” who wrote you a card or sent you little beautiful but inexpensive presents every week or so. I had the “angel” of life!

Every other day during my chemo I got a card, a fancy pen, or a little angel and she encouraged me to e-mail her and let her know not just how chemo was going but the worst of it – she said her purpose was for me not to hold in any “mental poison” (I had enough regular poison to deal with)! She was phenomenal! And of course I relied on my friends who really got me through.  Each one had a countdown of when they would help out. Lots of people went with me to chemo or helped me with the kids. I bless them all and they know who they are.

Fast forward to 2010: I was ready to be declared “Cancer Free” and start a new chapter of my life when wouldn’t you know it, the cancer returned in the breast tissue the surgeon had left to do the breast reconstruction, and in the very same spot! This time the surgeon and my oncologist left no stone unturned. I had a lumpectomy around the breast implant; I had a year of chemo and 35 sessions of radiation. When I look back, I have had every treatment possible to prevent of cancer from returning for a third time.

Radiation was the hardest to get through because it involved travel every day and discomfort toward the end. The second round of chemo left me with permanent nerve pain in my back and legs for which I take pain medication around the clock. Right before my  second discovery of breast cancer, my left arm where I had surgery permanently remained swollen in a condition called lymphedema, and I still battle the onset of depression without  my meds every day.

This year, 2011, my life took another bitter turn when my husband of 20 years was stricken with cardiac arrest.  He is confined to a nursing home with limited sight and mobility.

However, if it hadn’t been for my medical ordeals, I wouldn’t have been able to make the right decisions for him, to fight when necessary or know how and when to focus on keeping my own spirits up.

Through it all, I have learned how absolutely profound the connection is between the human spirit and faith. I don’t understand how some people get through cancer without a deep faith in something, but I know people who do. That is not me. Faith is the very core of my existence. I have practiced Nichiren  ShoShu Buddhism for 28 years and my life gets better and better. This experience with cancer has made me examine my life, my attitude and my actions, and made me try to be a better mother, a better friend, a better wife and, most of all a better person. I have come to really understand how precious life is, how important it is to really not sweat the small stuff.  I have learned not to let anything or anybody  push me around. Most of all, I have learned that faith–whatever one’s faith may be – is the trust to get up every day and make it count.  I am learning how to make every day my best day and to be extra thankful for what I’ve got. And when you look at my life through my eyes you don’t see a bunch of troubles; instead you see a bunch of opportunities to make life more interesting, more fun, and more secure than ever.

Bless all the survivors out there and the friends and family who protect them and help them make every day count!

Leila M.E. Drain, February View My Story »

Leila M.E. Drain

I give great honor to GOD who is the head of my life. I am a breast cancer survivor of 21 years; My marriage to Charlie Drain 3rd has been striving for 40 years to this day. I Was Born The First Time on July 27, 1953 To Leila C. and John W. Ellison. I am the 5th child from the youngest of five girls and five boys. I am a proud member of the Mount Hebron Baptist Church in Meriden, Connecticut. under the Pastorship of the Rev. Dr. Willie J. Young and First Lady Judy B. Young. I am also a resident of Meriden. I have been employed at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in Middletown, Connecticut for the past 38 years I was blessed with the fruit of one gorgeous son Charlie Drain IV, who passed on to glory November 18, 1995. GOD also blessed me to be a proud grandmother to one, Charlie Drain V who was one day shy of three months old at the time of his father’s death..

My journey started during an earlier hospital admission into Yale New Haven hospital of my son. I fell to my knees at his bedside to pray. This prayer was more distinguished and lengthy from the others. I was consumed in a different way. Afterward instead of standing to my feet; I nonchalantly laid down with my back to the floor. I stretched my hands above my head and just start performing a self breast examination, and I found what I call a monster inside my breast. After many trips to the rest room, I tried to convince myself it was just a “fibrosis”. This process continued until my son was discharged from the hospital. While the hospital was processing the discharge paperwork for my son, I walked into the practice of Dr. Peter Deckers in Hartford, Connecticut. My intention was to drive to New Haven but I was kept driving to Hartford, with New Haven on my mind.  I walked in without an appointment and asked if I could sit and wait for a cancellation. I waited 28 torturous minutes before a cancellation came through. Dr. Deckers performed a professional breast examination, a mammogram was performed a pre diagnosis was rendered as having breast cancer. I then retrieved my son from Yale. On the way home I did not utter a word to him
or my husband about my illness. A woman’s instinct is to protect her family. I was the one in trouble and yet I needed to protect my family from hurt. I waited for the final confirmation after a biopsy was performed. Only then could I confide to my immediate household that indeed I had breast cancer. At First I did an old fashioned southern cry – I really boo-hooed. I was a weak, in body, mind and spirit. Shortly after I pleaded with GOD, then I became as strong as an ox! That was a good feeling so I kept holding on to GOD. I quickly found out he was all I needed along with my husband and son.

I was born the second time on February 2, 1990. GOD gave me a second chance to live when I underwent a post radical followed by six months of chemotherapy. At this time my siblings had not been told yet. As time progressed I started telling the strongest sibling and worked my way down to the weakest. At first there were some I never wanted to tell but dwelling in the secret place of the most high I will always have peace in the shadow of the almighty. As for the relatives I wanted to tell and never knew how. I extend sincere apologies to them for finding out in this publication. To my dear friend A’cena who experienced a similar tragedy, it is an ongoing healing process for me. I thank you for letting me help you through your journey. It is indeed an honor helping you helps me. On a daily basis I pray for optimum health and mental clarity. Had I not been saturated into GOD, I wouldn’t have recognized the Holy Spirit telling me to lay down on that floor to self examine myself because surely I had tunnel vision to focus on my son’s well being at that time.

Where ever I am, GOD is also there.

I thank God in the name of Jesus. I thank my husband Charlie. I’m thankful for the help from my son while he existed on this earth. I thank my surgeon Dr. Peter Deckers and Oncologist Dr. Patricia Defusco. I thank the staff at the Nancy and Harry Gray cancer center in Hartford, Connecticut for taking part in allowing me to have more days on this
earth by giving me love, and the most ultimate care.

I urge all women to do your self breast examinations. Men get your physicals you can also contract breast cancer. I am living proof that early detection will save your life.  Have PEACE, BE STILL and Listen to those small voices, they come from a higher power; it is very significant for your existence.  The Lord is my sheppard I shall not want I Walk in the unmerited favor and comfort of the Holy Spirit. I have the victory. My battles belong to the Lord. I am the manifestation of God’s will, being on this earth. Thou anointed my head with oil; Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Amen.

“HE WHO DWELLS IN THE SHELTER OF THE MOST HIGH
WILL REST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY”

Psalms 91:1

Marie A. Harris, March View My Story »

Marie A. Harris

I was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1985, after taking a bath, I
started to do my usual breast exam and noticed an unusual lump in my left breast.
The next day I called the doctor and came in for a breast exam and mammogram.
The mammogram showed that there was something abnormal in my breast. I then
had a biopsy done and it showed cancer. At that moment I started to get scared and
the first thing that came to mind was death because of my family history. My greatgrandmother
and my grandmother died from cancers – esophageal and pancreatic
respectfully. Plus, my mother had breast cancer.
Because of my cancer’s growth, I had to have an immediate mastectomy. During this
mastectomy process they removed my left breast and lymph nodes from my left
arm. I did not have radiation or chemotherapy but I did need physical therapy for my
left arm.
In 1995, after several benign biopsies, I had my right breast removed to prevent a
repeat of breast cancer on the right side. After talking with my surgeon, I decided to
have reconstruction surgery. This consisted of removing muscles, skin and tissue from
my abdomen and placing it on my chest wall.
With God’s grace and prayers from family and friends, I have fought breast cancer. I
am proud to say I am a Survivor and member of the Sisters’ Journey organization.

“TWENTY-FIVE YEARS CANCER FREE!”

Vira Epps Brooks, April View My Story »

Vira Epps Brooks

I have a “Good Report!”
I am Vira Epps Brooks, adopted daughter of Mr. George and Mrs. Mary Epps who gave me
all I needed and some of what I wanted. I am also a mother and a grandmother. I am a
member of Grace Apostolic World Wide Ministries led by Pastor William D. and First Lady
Deborah Barlowe.
When I was first diagnosed, I went to my pastor and asked what would God have me do?
After prayer and meditation, he told me: “If I lift the pillow, Daddy God has the chair (If I do
my part, God would have already taken care of the situation). I am celebrating 17 years as a
three-time breast cancer survivor.
My first diagnosis occurred on June 4, 1994. Through early detection, a tiny, very early-stage
tumor, which surfaced as a pimple, was discovered. I immediately began to research my
options. I chose surgery (lumpectomy), radiation and chemo. During this time in my life, I
was raising three outstanding young men: James II, my oldest son; and the twins, Justin and
Jason. I promised them I would be at their graduations. We made it! Not only was I alive to
attend their graduations, I also was at my oldest son’s wedding. I have held my
granddaughter, Journey, and I have watched many sunrises and sunsets.
My second diagnosis was April 28, 2010. A second cancer was revealed behind my nipple
during an annual mammogram. This was a new cancer which the surgeon removed. It was
not a relapse of the first cancer. After discussing options with my doctor I decided to have
a bi-lateral mastectomy. It was then – July 14, 2010 – that the third breast cancer was
revealed in my right breast.
I am a sincere believer in “Divine Healing” – whether that healing comes directly from
“Heaven” or via “Heaven-sent doctors.” I have been blessed to have had my same medical
team for 17 years. I am very humbled and honored that I have been given multiple
chances – multiple chances to share with my sisters. This is a “Sisters Journey.” We walk
hand-in-hand. Whether via a hug; an encouraging word; a “hey girl, have you checked your
breasts today? You really are someone very special and much needed.”
Each day there is a “Kingdom assignment.” It’s my desire to fulfill that assignment with good
success. Thanks be to My Daddy God. Thanks to all my Sisters who are helping me along on
this journey.

Rhonda Leonard, May View My Story »

Rhonda Leonard

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2000. The shock that immediately
engulfed my body numbed my thoughts. The doctor’s prognosis was met with
denial and rejection. “A second opinion”, I thought to myself… “yeah, that’s what I’ll
do, I’ll get a second opinion. There has to be a mistake!”
The second opinion showed a positive indicator as well.
BREAST CANCER! I had often heard of it. I had even read about it on occasion, but
to have it actually be my fate was totally different. I was devastated! “What will I
do? How do I tell my fiancee, and my family?” These were some of the questions
that crowded my mind. I could hardly say the words myself. How could I ever bring
myself to tell the people that I loved the most that I had a life threatening disease?
As a spiritual person, prayer and a personal relationship with God has brought me
through many struggles. I know that I would not have made it through otherwise. So
after the tears, and the feelings of pain and sorrow, I remembered that relationship,
and took comfort in it.
It is amazing how life’s adversities can cloud your mind and cause you to doubt your
relationship with God. Through continual prayer and study, I have gained knowledge
and understanding of God’s awesome power, and I know now that!

“NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL PROSPER!”
Isaiah 54:17

Vanessa Ray, June View My Story »

Vanessa Ray

Know Your History!
My name is Vanessa Smith Ray and I am a Survivor. My second birthday is June 2, 2010, the day I was
cleared of breast cancer!

In October, I went for my regular mammogram; I knew that this was my yearly examination. However, I
received a second notice in the mail to make an appointment to have a repeat mammogram. Well, I have
always been cyst prone, so I was not worried. The radiologist spoke to me and told me that I should
come back in six months. She did not see anything. I was really concerned. I thought about it for several
days. I decided to ask for a surgeon to obtain a second opinion. I called my sister, Robin, and asked if she
knew a good surgeon. She referred me to Dr. Sitya at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Several
days later, after I made my appointment to see Dr. Sitya, I received a telephone call from my ob/gyn
office and the secretary asked if I wanted to see a surgeon for a second review. I explained that I had
made my appointment.

My appointment was in December 2009. When I saw Dr. Sitya, he asked me about my family history of
cancer. Did anyone in my family have breast cancer? No breast cancer, but my mother had colon cancer
and my grandmother had either uterine or ovarian cancer. I could not remember which. Based on my
history, he scheduled me for a biopsy. I was numb, because I could not imagine having breast cancer.
My breast biopsy was scheduled for January 5, 2010. I had the biopsy and my doctor told me there was no
lump, but that we would have to wait for the pathologist’s report. The nurses told me to call back on
Friday, January 8, 2010. I said okay! I would call before I left to go to New York for the weekend. I called
and they said Dr. Sitya wants to speak to me. I left my cell telephone number, but we kept missing each
other. On Monday, January 11 at 7:00 pm Dr. Sitya finally reached me and told me that I had breast cancer.
I could not believe that I had breast cancer, as I did my monthly examinations faithfully and had not felt
anything. I had carcinoma in situ on the right side. Only because I was at work, did I not scream, holler, or
cry. I was numb. Very Numb!!! My sorority sister was standing by me when I found out. When I finally
reached my home that night, I called my sisters, brothers, family members and my sorority sisters. I
wanted everyone to know, because I believe in prayer. Through prayer, healing is possible. Dr. Sitya said
that I would live a long life and I believe him.

I had numerous appointments and everyone in my family supported me. I decided to wait until March to have my surgery. I was to have the cells removed and radiation.  I was not going to have reconstruction, because I did not need it. But after two surgeries, I was asked if I would have a mastectomy. I agreed, because my cells were coming up not cleared. June 2, 2010, I had my mastectomy. I was cleared. Because I was cleared, I did not have to have chemo or radiation. Dr. Kumar tried reconstruction, but it failed. After having three surgeries, I decided to wait until I healed and I had time to think about it. My sorority sister had waited 10 years before she had her reconstruction.

I am so blessed because my breast cancer was found at stage zero. I tell everyone that they should know their family health history!

Lucy Rosser, July View My Story »

Lucy Rosser

At age 41, I was a wife and super mom.  I had a very demanding career as a manager with a
major insurance company. Then, one day, I went for my yearly mammogram and a lump was detected. A needle biopsy showed I had early stage breast cancer.  I had no family history of breast cancer.  I was initially in shock after being told I had cancer. I remember crying at the doctor’s office. I returned to work that day and I remember sitting in a meeting after I received the diagnosis thinking, “I have cancer and what was being said in the meeting just was not important because – I HAVE CANCER”!

At the time of my diagnosis, my husband and I had reservations for a week’s vacation in Mexico.  I was encouraged by my manager at work to go ahead and go on vacation. So we went and enjoyed the trip. But… the fun was lessened, knowing I would return home and shortly have surgery.

I was given a choice of a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Based on my discussion with the surgeon and being shown the cancer cells went to the end of the biopsy sample, I chose the mastectomy. My right breast was removed; the left breast was reduced in the same operation. I was a DD cup and the surgeon only wanted to reconstruct to a size C cup. The right breast was reconstructed through a TRAM surgery where a flap of skin from my stomach was moved
under my rib cage to create my new right breast. This was a 10-hour plus surgery in which one surgeon removed the breast and a plastic surgeon did the reconstruction. I remembered being happy I came to the surgery with two breasts and left the surgery with two smaller, perky looking breasts, unaffected by gravity. I had a flat stomach due to the tummy tuck that was required as a part of the TRAM surgery. The two positives: first I was alive; second I had
great looking new breasts. I feel that psychologically it was better for me that I went into the surgery with two and came back with two.

Several months of chemotherapy followed. My husband was very supportive and took off work on the days of my chemo treatments. We always went to lunch afterwards to make the day special, before returning home to rest.  I asked God to heal me because I had a 2-yearold to raise.

Fast forward 16 years. My husband of 36 years is my best friend and supporter. My 2-year-old is now a freshman in college.  I took an early retirement two years ago from the very stressful job. I recently have changed my eating patterns and lost 36 pounds. I have come to realize how everything we eat affects us positively or negatively. I thank God every day for life. I stay very busy every day.  I assist family and friends regularly with transportation to doctor appointments and I grocery shop for a senior citizen.

Life is good!
I encourage all women to get a yearly breast exam and mammogram.

Gwen Brathwaite, August View My Story »

Gwen Brathwaite

My name is Gwendolyn Chambers Brathwaite. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I
currently live in Brooklyn, New York with my husband Wilbert. We have two children, a son
and a daughter – Stephen who is 36 and Carla who is 30.

My journey started In April 2006. I went for my annual mammogram check-up and learned
that I had breast cancer. The radiologist at Manhattan Diagnostic Center showed me a white area on the film and said with my family history it was most likely breast cancer.  My Mother had been a 13-year breast cancer survivor. She developed colon cancer which subsequently took her life. I have both an aunt and a cousin with breast cancer and a
brother with prostrate cancer. Two of my mother’s first cousins had lung cancer.  The following week I returned to the Diagnostic Center for a biopsy which confirmed that I had breast cancer. I was sent to a surgeon to be operated on.  The surgeon told my husband and me that the cancer cells were aggressive and move fast.  My journey started from that time until now.

On May 31, 2006 I was operated on and had a lumpectomy. On June 5, 2006, I started chemotherapy which continued for 52 weeks. Then in December, 2006 I started eight weeks of radiation. I was also put on Arimidex which caused me to have excruciating pain.  So my oncologist stopped the Arimidex and put me on Tamoxifen, which I still take.

I continued to work throughout the entire time of my treatments. I continue to see my
surgeon regularly and have follow-up mammograms every six months. It’s only through God’s grace and mercy that I was able to function. My husband went with me every Friday for my treatments.  That support was a blessing. I can never give God enough praise for what he has brought me through.

I’m still on my journey but God is good all the time!

Sharon Grier Kellman, September View My Story »

Sharon Grier Kellman

I am 40 years of age, a resident of New Haven, Connecticut. I have been married almost 10 years and have five children. When my son had his first birthday, I discovered a lump in my right breast. I just assumed maybe it’s a milk sack and will go away. It didn’t. I was out shopping one morning with my daughter and baby and we walked into a Goodwill store. Sitting at a table were women with brochures. One of them approached us and began to explain about early detection. She gave us some brochures and I shared with her what was going on with me. She took my number and urged me to make an appointment. She would call and leave messages to see if I had followed through. She even offered to go to the appointment with me. I ignored the calls and just put it in the back of my mind.

Another year went by. The lump was bigger now; it’s hurting; I can’t sleep at night; I was taking overthe-
counter medicine for the pain, just wanting morning to come soon. Waking my husband at the time, my daughter, my mom – just wanting them to touch and rub it so it will go away. October came – breast-awareness month and also my birthday. I promised my children if the Lord allows me to see my birthday on October 3rd, I will make an appointment. Prior to that I shared with my pastor what was going on. Dr. Eunice Tucker is an awesome woman in the Lord. She told me to see a doctor.

When the day of the exam came, I my cousin Lisa accompanied me. As I waited for her to pick me up,
I looked at myself in the mirror and the Lord spoke to me clearly and told me I have cancer. I accepted that because He will not put more on us than we can bear. As my cousin drove, I told her it felt like I was going to a funeral. We reached the doctors. I was examined and then put into a room with Dr. Barajas (my breast doctor), an assistant, a navigator and my cousin.

Then came the news: “YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER”. I gently pushed the box of tissue back to the middle of the table. I asked: “What about my children. Are there resources available for them, etc.” I truly don’t believe the news hit me yet. I was told I would do six months each of chemo and radiation; also, depending on the treatment, I would have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. As I walked out of the doctor’s office, I began to cry. The news traveled throughout my family and they came to visit one by one that night.  

I took multiple tests before chemo. A port was inserted in my upper left chest in November. All of a sudden the person that I and my children needed the most walked out of our lives before my
chemo treatment started. That was something else to deal with. I prayed to God and asked Him whomever He wants to be here, they will be. And whoever that’s not, that’s the way it’s supposed to
be and I had peace with it. I started my chemo treatment two days before Christmas. What a Christmas gift! Taxol was my medicine. Thank God for technology. It has come a long way. Not one day did I get sick.

I still lived a normal regular life. I basically ate my way through chemo. Before you know it, it was over – it went by so fast. I went once every three weeks.  Next step, surgery. I had a radical mastectomy on my right breast – 12 lymph nodes removed. When I woke up from surgery my entire breast was gone. Believe it or not I was fine with it. I wanted both removed because I didn’t wish to go through that again, but my doctor didn’t recommend that. I wore a prostatic bra for about 4-5 months. Two months later my port was removed and there were complications, but I lived through that. Next step, I was introduced to Dr. Chung, my radiation doctor. I did six weeks of that. Everything went well. It actually takes longer undressing than the actual appointment. Next step, on to my plastic surgeon, Dr. Riley, for reconstruction of my breast. Finally on my way; my breast was reconstructed using my own skin. That went well.  

Where am I today? Well I am living a victorious life, enjoying my children, family and true friends. I have a totally different outlook on life. I urge women to know your body; don’t ignore the signs like
I did. It is better to be safe than sorry. The outcomes will be better. Get checked, follow up on appointments. You are your own advocate for your body.

In closing I am grateful that my children will never experience this thanks to the BRCA test. Thank you Niecy for doing my girls hair when I didn’t feel like it. Thank you Regina and BaBa Berry, the best godparents in the world. To my good friend Denise that I love so dearly. To my mom for cooking when I didn’t feel like it. Thank you to Cashmire, a great encourager, also to the family that adopted my family for Christmas. My awesome church family at Christian Union Outreach Freewill Ministries, Mother Boykins, my lay person, and all those that prayed for me through my Journey. Continue to pray and always know

“The battle doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the Lord”.

Tara McNeal, October View My Story »

Tara McNeal

My Name is Tara McNeal
At age 34 my life took a major turn when I discovered a lump in my breast. On July 7, 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was told that the size of my cancer mass was 3 cm, and that I had to undergo a lumpectomy in order to have it removed. Since my cancer wasquickly aggressing, I immediately began a series of different treatments.
From August 8, 2006 to November 28, 2006, I went through chemotherapy and had 36 radiation treatments daily.   Eventually, my cancer entered into remission and, as of August 9, 2011, I reached my five-year clearing mark of being cancer free.

Being diagnosed with cancer was a very long and difficult process for me – from the treatments to attending various support groups.  However, having this illness has made me a better human being. I have learned to be more humble and to view life from a different perspective.  

Now, I find myself more heavenly involved in church and thanking God every chance I get that he has allowed me to see another day.  Never again will I take anything for granted, and I will continue to live each day as best as I can.

MY NAME IS TARA YVETTE MCNEAL,
AND I AM A SURVIVOR!

Whitney Johnson, November View My Story »

Whitney Johnson

In the year of 1999, I visited my OB/GYN doctor to discuss some nipple discharge I had been having for a couple of months. She scheduled me for an appointment at Yale for a mammogram.  Becauseof my age (31 years old), the medical staff felt there could be no issue. The doctor first did an ultrasound of the right breast and did not find any mass; however, when they placed my breast on the mammography unit, a tumor hidden in one of the milk ducts exploded!!! At that point I was referred to a breast surgeon for a biopsy. She discovered that I had a Benign
Papilloma. Again, due to my age, she felt that it couldn’t be cancerous and thus, removed only a portion. However, nine months later, I again experienced leakage in the right breast and had a second surgery. It was then that I learned that the area in question had not been completely removed during the first surgery. During that second surgery the Benign Papilloma had spread to every milk duct in my right breast.

I returned several times for follow-up mammograms. Each time an abnormality was seen, I had a biopsy that was benign. Finally, I was referred to the cancer center at Saint Raphael’s Hospital because my breast tumor had become very aggressive to the point that after a total of seven biopsy surgeries, the tumor had now fully grown within 30 days of my last surgery!!!

I also endured the stress of finding a breast surgeon willing to take my case because of the admitted liability of the first breast surgeon having left a portion of the benign tumor. Now it is the year of approximately 2004 and I have advanced to pre-cancerous cells (atypical hyperplasia, calcium deposits, microcalcifications, etc.) and I was also informed that I would no longer be able to have any more children due to all my medical issues.

However, To God Be The Glory!!!! Not only did God provide a group of surgeons willing to take my case, but also I learned that I was five months pregnant with a little girl (Sanai) who was born on September 6, 2005, perfectly healthy. That was not what the doctors expected!!! Due to the pregnancy, the baby stunted the tumor’s growth and I was able to receive a bilateral mastectomy with full reconstruction (TRAM). I now had no signs of cancer and no need of treatment!!!! In addition, I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Forensic Science from the University of New Haven.

All I can say is that God is truly a living God and If I could give any advice it would be this passage:

“LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING BUT IN ALL WAYS
ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AND HE WILL DIRECT YOUR PATH”

Proverbs 3:5

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