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2015 Calendar

2015 Calendar

Survivor Stories

Denise Stephenson, January View My Story »

Denise Stephenson

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2007. I had gone for my routine mammogram check-up in July 2007. After the mammogram, I first saw the medical imaging doctor and learned that the results were abnormal. I next had an appointment with my primary doctor who sent me to see a surgeon. I had to wait for the appointment with the surgeon before he could tell me what was going on. This was all in the middle of having filed for divorce in July 2007.

In August I had a biopsy which was negative indicating I did not have breast cancer. However the surgeon still wanted to remove the lump. My first surgery was in September. They removed the lump and when I went back for a follow up visit, they had discovered that I did have cancer. The surgeon then wanted to do a second surgery so that they could remove the rest of the cancerous tissue. This was also done in September. I was then sent to see a radiologist and after that, an oncologist.

I was part of a cancer study to determine whether I should go through chemotherapy. The study would say yes, absolutely no, not necessary, or a third option, not sure. My category was not sure. I had already told my oncologist that if it’s yes or not sure, I’m getting chemotherapy. My chemotherapy started in January 2008 with four treatments and ended in March 2008.

A lot happened in my life that year. My son became a fire fighter in 2007; I went through a divorce in 2007; and my granddaughter Nyashia was born between my treatments on February 23, 2008.

I totally relied on God through this journey. I thank God for my family – my three sons: Corey, Terrell and Correll; my sisters, Sharon and Binta; my brothers, Joey and Jamie; my church family, Grace and Mercy Ministries, Pastors Andre and Andrea Silvers, Gloria, Phil and the entire church family.

On my job, I am thankful for my colleagues Judy, Shawnte, Anthony, Jay, and all of DSS at 3580 Main Street, Hartford.

My granddaughter, who we call NyNy, was truly a blessing.

Maya Martindale, February View My Story »

Maya Martindale

My name is Maya Martindale and I am a 32-year-old breast cancer survivor.

Two years ago in October 2012, I went to my annual GYN appointment and during the exam, to my surprise, my gynecologist, Dr. Kopel, discovered a lump in my right breast. At that very moment I knew my life would be
changing. Dr. Kopel immediately scheduled me for an imaging test that eventually lead to a biopsy.

Two weeks later I was sitting in the Breast Cancer Center at Smilow Hospital and learned I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Breast Cancer. The cancer had originated in my milk ducts and was hormone (ER) positive.

After meeting with a team of doctors that would be involved in my journey and who collectively would develop a tailored-made plan for me, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to fight. My initial treatment
consisted of eight rounds of chemotherapy that was designed to first shrink my tumor. Then on April 9, 2013, I had a mastectomy with Trans Flap reconstructive surgery. Following that and after giving my body time to recover, I started 13 radiation treatments in July.

Cancer definitely changed my life. My faith was tested but I knew that my circumstance was not my conclusion and my God was not finished with me yet.

With the support from my immediate family, church family, and friends, I can say the journey I initially expected was not my reality and I am forever grateful.

Rev. Dr. Alberta Mendenhall, March View My Story »

Rev. Dr. Alberta Mendenhall

My journey began one day in 2004 when I was teaching a business class at my church. One of my students, who
just happened to host a yearly mobile mammography fair, had to leave early for the fair. After my class, I
took the homework assignment to her at the fair, but discovered there weren’t too many people participating.
So I volunteered to take an “extra” mammogram in support. When the report came, I threw it unopened on
the credenza. I was seriously busy at that time taking care of my elderly father, raising three of my grandchildren, working as Assistant State Treasurer, serving on different boards and going to school full time.

My doctor called me a few days later very concerned. He sent me to an oncologist who explained that there was a mass in my right breast and I needed a biopsy to determine whether or not it was cancerous. I told the doctor I really didn’t have time. My father had just had his sixth stroke, was hospitalized and besides, it was almost Christmas. Thank God the doctor would not be dissuaded.

I went in for a biopsy on December 14, 2004. My daughter Tamarra accompanied me to the hospital but did not stay. No sooner had she gone than I learned that in fact I was scheduled for a lumpectomy, not a needle biopsy! I began to panic. My daughter tells me that when she got to her car, the Holy Spirit said, “Turn around, your mother needs you right now.” Sure enough I was in there performing. I did not want to go into that operating room!

Tamarra helped to calm me and persuaded me to go ahead. Once on the table, they could not find a vein and
I began to pray while literally screaming on the inside, “Lord they are trying to kill me and I am so frightened.” I heard the old hymn, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee…” and I lost consciousness.

A few weeks later the diagnosis was confirmed as stage 1 breast cancer (in situ), which meant it was still in the ducts and had not yet spread; but I would have to have radiation. I was sent to the Father McGivney Cancer Center at St. Raphael. The words kept ringing in my ears, “You have cancer!” I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t want to accept it.

This was the valley of the shadow of death and it was a fear I dared not speak out loud. I remember pulling up to the building and saying, “Lord, I don’t want to be a part of this club.”

A very friendly man came up and started talking to me, which was the last thing I wanted. But he kept on talking. Then he pointed to a poster of himself and told me that he had survived brain cancer. The doctors had given him three months to live. But 12 years later, here he was volunteering to talk to those newly diagnosed. He promised me that I was in good hands at this cancer center. I underwent six weeks of radiation treatment. They told me that I might begin to feel very tired in a few weeks. In three days time
I felt completely exhausted. And then it began to burn me. (This happens to women with dense breasts.) Soon the skin opened up and now I had one big, raw burn that was oozing pus and I was in constant pain.

Yet, one day when I was feeling really sorry for myself and could not stop crying, a woman came in to the locker room singing a song and happy as she could be, never mind that she only had three strands of hair left on her head or that her arm was mangled from the chemo or that she was dragging an oxygen tank. Needless to say I quit crying.

In 2006, my OB-GYN recommended that although I had previously had a partial hysterectomy, I should have
my remaining ovary removed to protect myself against ovarian cancer. Once you have any type of cancer, you
are at risk for developing other kinds of cancer.

I thank God for the people who were there to support me. My daughter, my neighbor Joan Howell, my colleague Catherine LaMarr, my sister Roz and my mom, who showed up just when I really needed them. Another cancer survivor, Cynthia King took me by the hand and talked to me about taking care of myself. Then she took me to see her homeopathic doctor, Pramilla Vishnavath who correctly diagnosed me with being severely stressed, overworked and overcommitted to everything except what God had told me. After just ten minutes with her, I knew that I had to make some major changes in my life. I like to say that, God can give you favor, even in the midst of cancer. It was this bout with cancer that forced me to reorder my life and make God the priority. First I had to come to terms with the idea that I needed to honor the call God had placed on
my life, second that Dad would need to be in a nursing home. Then I resigned from the boards I was serving
on, left the Treasurer’s office, sold my house and went to New York to begin serving in ministry full time.
Life is good.

Life is good. God is good. Ten years later I remain cancer free. I like to say that,
“God can give you favor, even in the midst of cancer.”

Maryland Grier, April View My Story »

Maryland Grier

The year was 1986. I was in my 20s, living in Washington, D.C. and diagnosed with breast cancer.

One day, while showering, I felt a small lump on my left breast, but didn’t think much of it. I mentioned the lump to my doctor during my next visit. He said, “you’re too young,
I’m sure it’s nothing – let’s just watch it for a few months.” I didn’t really think much of his response because at that time there was not much in the news about breast cancer…and definitely not a topic of discussion in my family. Three months later, after a biopsy and surgery to remove the lump,I learned that the lump had grown and spread to 10 of my lymph nodes. I would need a radical mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy, a tissue expander, another surgery to insert the implant and a wig.

Going through this was a surreal experience. I recall the time in between the biopsy and surgery having to learn a lot about the disease in a short period of time and having to make lots of decisions very fast. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t know much about cancer. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina in a very close-knit Christian family that spent a lot of time with family and in church. No one in my family had ever discussed cancer – only sugar (diabetes). It was later in life that I learned that my father, a non-smoker, died from throat cancer when he was just 34 and I, only 13. My mother was left to raise six children and never discussed how my father died. Cancer was not a word mentioned much in the 70s. Nor, had anyone in my family ever discussed breast cancer. It left me feeling very alone and out of sorts.

I sought a second opinion to be sure that I was diagnosed accurately; and also because I just was not comfortable with the first surgeon’s bedside manner and interpersonal communication skills. A friend told me about a well-known surgeon who had been featured in a television special by his patient, a journalist also suffering from breast cancer.

During the time between the biopsy and my first surgery, I consulted family, friends, and church family, asking for prayer. I had a very strong support network of co-workers, a ‘buddy’ assigned to me by the American Cancer Society who had experienced the same thing at a very young age, and a support group of much older women. I recall being the youngest person at my first support group meeting – which triggered anger. I was thinking: “why me, and how can it be that I am here with these women in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s?” Yes, I had days where I felt sorry for myself, cried alone at home and prayed.

But after awhile, I changed my mindset and was determined to beat this and live a healthy, long life. I was determined to remain as positive, independent and physically strong as I could possibly be. I would even walk almost 20 blocks in 100 degree heat in the stuffy Washington, D.C. summer to chemotherapy treatment – all to prove to myself that I was still strong and could handle it. Sometimes I would try to walk home, but it was too much; my body was weak and I would have to hail a taxi to get home and fall into bed.

This happened to me at a time in my life when I was a young, vibrant woman with big dreams of a career in business and an exciting social life. To be honest, I was also extremely vain about my appearance and my long, thick, flowing hair. To prepare me for my hair loss, my oncologist introduced me to an older African-American woman whose hair had started to grow back after chemotherapy. She and the doctor encouraged me to purchase a wig. Bubble over head: “there is no way I’m wearing a wig,” especially in my 20s, though I would consider it now… with all this gray that I’m now covering up. I was stubborn, had strong faith, a sense of independence and a positive attitude and believed strongly I would not lose my hair. Yes, my hair became very thin, but I never purchased a wig. After the final surgery to insert the implant, and subsequent good report, my doctor said my positive attitude was the reason I had such a great recovery. Still, there was one more surprise. During a visit to the same doctor who said that the lump was probably nothing, I mentioned that my period never came back. “That’s one of the results of chemotherapy,” he said, adding “you should be glad to be alive.” Stunned, I sat on the table with no response. I never went back to this doctor.

I resumed my normal life and did not talk about breast cancer for many years. I was told by my family that I should keep my ‘business’ to myself and to always walk with my head held high. I’m now living and working in Hartford, Connecticut and have found new doctors to follow me for a 5-year period.

It had been almost five years, and still I didn’t talk about my breast cancer experience with anyone. I then met a wonderful woman at church who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She shared her story. Still somewhat uncomfortable, I finally shared my experience with her and together we decided to do something to raise awareness about breast cancer among African-American women. Breast cancer can make a woman feel very uncomfortable and unattractive about her body. So, we decided to produce an awareness campaign and a fashion show title: “Woman, Hold Your Head Up!” We invited a panel of doctors to discuss breast cancer in the African-American community. I was even brave enough to model. We did this for a few years. I also joined other women to raise breast cancer awareness and served as a “buddy” to newly diagnosed patients in the Hartford area and also participated in breast cancer walks and other events.

I am still so very blessed. It has been 28 years and I am a survivor, married for the first time in 2014 to a wonderful, sensitive and caring man. I am fortunate to work for the Connecticut Health Foundation whose mission is to advance health equity for people of color by eliminating health disparities. It is humbling and an honor to share this platform with 11 other beautiful, strong survivors.

April is National Minority Health Month. Please take the time to share your story and raise awareness about breast cancer – not only in October, but also throughout the year. You never know whose life you will save.

Mattie Little, May View My Story »

Mattie Little

My name is Mattie L. Little. I was born in Marietta, North Carolina on December 8,
1926. I am 87 years old and a five-year breast cancer survivor.

While taking a shower in December 2008, I noticed something different about my
left breast. I thought I could feel a lump and it appeared bruised on the outside. I had
recently had a mammogram, which was normal, but I immediately went to see my
doctor. After he examined me and also felt something, he sent me to get a biopsy,
which was positive for cancer. I was 82 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer in
my left breast. Although there was no evidence of cancer in my right breast, I elected
to have a double mastectomy.

In April 2009, I underwent the bilateral mastectomy surgery, which was successful. I
never experienced any pain and only took an oral medication, Femara (letrozole), for
five years. I completed this treatment in May 2014.

The Lord is really blessing me and I thank Him each and every day, for He is the one
who comforts and takes care of me. I have two children, three grandchildren and
three great grandchildren. I also adopted and raised two boys at the ages of 5 and 7
who are now 20 and 22.

My family has been my unwavering support during this five-year journey. I am so
grateful and thankful for them and my friends.

My faith in Jesus Christ has sustained me throughout this experience. I am a member
of Bethel A.M.E. church in New Haven, where I serve bimonthly on the Steward
Board.

I truly enjoy using the gifts God has given me for sharing the good news about Him
and His Kingdom. The Lord has provided me with strength and I thank Him for the
grace, mercy and peace He has bestowed upon my life.

Marilyn Huggins Reece, June View My Story »

Marilyn Huggins Reece

I am not going to start my story with how I found the lump but with my experience feeling the presence of
God with me daily.

When the doctor told me the biopsy report was positive for cancer, I sat and looked at him waiting for the next
statement. After a few moments he said, “Most women scream and cry now.” My answer was, “God is with me.”

But before I go further, I think I will go back to the night before my doctor’s appointment to hear the results so you can understand my state of mind. That night I was praying and crying to God to be with me on this journey. It was after midnight, but I asked my husband to get out of bed and pray with me, which he did. So you can see why I was so calm, but still feeling strange or different, maybe even, as they say, “one step out.” My primary doctor had already received the news so I called my family in Connecticut for information regarding cancer surgeons.

My experience with the surgeon, radiation oncologist, and those working at Smilow Cancer Center and the Saint
Raphael Campus (now a part of Yale-New Haven Hospital) was beautiful. Everyone was friendly and supportive.

I had a lumpectomy followed by five weeks of radiation, which began with a young lady picking me up for
my appointment. We had a great time talking and connecting in a special way. I then went to meet the
radiation technicians, a group of wonderful, caring men and women. After the third visit it was a little boring for me, so when they called me to come to the radiation room, which was done over the sound system, I said I would be down as soon as I finished the story I was reading. I smiled at the woman sitting in the room with me and she said they are coming. I got up and said, “Here I am, let’s go.”

The young lady said to the others we have someone who likes to play jokes. So from then on we had a great
patient/technician relationship for the following weeks. Of course I was asked to play a prank on a new young doctor. I did apologize to him letting him know, “They made me do it!” and it was alright for him to look at my records.

When I had the last radiation treatment we all hugged and said goodbye. Before I left, a young woman came
up to me and said William (not his real name) had never hugged anyone, but he hugged you. There were times
when I talked with other women and was pleased to have them at least smile or laugh with me.

I wrote a thank you letter to the head of that department, but before I gave it to her I apologized somewhat for saying it was a beautiful experience, hoping she would understand my use of the words and not think I was a little head sick. She was happy for the thank you note.

I know God was with me during this time, working in me His purpose for this journey He had for me to travel.

I am still traveling that road. I am a member of Bosom Pals in Barbados, a group of women who meet once a
month, all of whom have breast cancer in various stages working and supporting each other and just being there.

Matthew 17:20
“I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Shakeera Frazer, July View My Story »

Shakeera Frazer

In July 2012, at age 29, I felt a small lump in my right breast while taking a shower. I am a slight hypochondriac so I immediately made a doctor’s appointment for the next week to see my gynecologist. She checked the lump and referred me to a radiologist who did an exam and informed me that: “It’s nothing, you’re too young to have cancer or to be alarmed, but if it continues to grow, come back in three months.” I was relieved but still not satisfied with the results but followed the doctor’s instructions anyway.

Several months later, in February 2013, I went back to the doctor and this time the lump had doubled in
size and now they insisted I get a biopsy, which I did. I got the results on February 19, 2013. It was indeed Stage 3 breast cancer and life threatening – to be exact, invasive ductal carcinoma, HER 2+, which is a very aggressive form of cancer. Yes, cancer! I was only 29, very healthy with no history of cancer in my family. I cried immediately. I was in shock and didn’t know what to do. But all of that lasted exactly one day.

The next day I stopped being sorry for myself. I got back to my usual positive, upbeat self and started to plan how to rid myself of the cancer so I could get on with my life! I instantly changed my diet to an all-organic, macrobiotic-like diet, and got rid of all toxins in my home (deodorant, toothpaste, dish detergent, soap laundry detergent, household cleaners). Two weeks later I began chemotherapy. After my first session the tumor size decreased over 50% (my oncologist was amazed)! By my second session, I couldn’t feel the lump at all!! I completed six months of chemo and had a double mastectomy on September 20, 2013. I then completed six weeks of radiation and, after sufficient healing, completed the final
phase of reconstruction during the summer of 2014.

I have been through a million emotions but I’ve always stayed positive, kept my faith in God, and continued to feel good and look fabulous! I refused to let cancer take control of me and let myself go. Never! I used to ask: “God why me?” But now I realize “Why not me?”

I have been chosen to tell a story and help inspire others. I am so grateful to be here and to be alive.

God makes no mistakes and I believe everything happens for a reason. I have met so many wonderful and inspiring women on this journey that I know will be lifelong friends. My oncologist calls me the “angel”
of the office and always asks me “are you always this happy?” And I say, “Yes this is me, always!” She always insists I talk to others in the office and give them advice and tips and tells me this is “my calling”.

I have been blessed to speak with other women who have been diagnosed and encourage them along this
sometimes-tiring process. It’s very humbling and I don’t think anyone wants cancer, but I can say it has made me appreciate my life, my family and friends and realize I can’t take anything for granted! Recently I received my latest results and I am CANCER FREE and so BLESSED! Yes, cancer free!! My oncologist nearly
cried and said this was the greatest news – so quickly!

So to anyone that ever feels discouraged or down because of this diagnosis, you are entitled to feel that way – briefly. But then, “Get over it!” You have to fight, be strong and continue to be positive (and fabulous)! Use me as an example. I used to be scared to talk about it and let people know I had cancer because I didn’t want people to pity or feel sorry for me. But now I’m proud to say, “Yes, I
had breast cancer and I beat it!” I want to be able to help and inspire others and let them know how to positively get through this journey because it is long and hard and physically and emotionally draining at times, but it can be done! You may be in a situation that seems horrible and not understand why it is happening, but please believe there is a reason, there’s always a silver lining!

Early detection, faith, diet and positivity is the key – and don’t forget to look good while doing it! If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you make others feel good!

I never knew how strong I could be and would never have imagined I would go through
this, but I did! I amaze myself sometimes!!

Thank you for letting me share my story!!

Lona Collins, August View My Story »

Lona Collins

My name is Lona Elizabeth Collins. I was born and raised in New Rochelle, New York in Westchester
County. I graduated from New Rochelle High School and Grasslands School of Practical Nursing in Valhalla, New York. I retired from Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, New York. Working in the medical field for most of my life has given me much joy and satisfaction.

My journey started one very hot day in 1979. I was 43 years old at the time. When I got out of the shower, I
felt a lump under my right breast. At first, I thought it was probably a blackhead. I asked a nurse and dear
friend to check to see if she could feel the lump. She strongly encouraged me to go to Health Services at my
place of employment to have the lump checked.

Health Services prompted me to see my OB/GYN, Dr. Paul Packer. Dr. Packer urged me to see my surgeon,
Dr. William Mahoney. Dr. Mahoney said, “Let’s give this lump 28 days. I want to see you after the 28 days
have passed.” The reason for this is that sometimes, post menstruation, a lump could disappear.

When I returned to see Dr. Mahoney, he said, “Well, the lump is still here.” It was the size of a split
pea, very smooth, and the lump moved about easily. There was no pain or tenderness. Dr. Mahoney
immediately booked my surgery for a right breast mastectomy. Post Surgery, I found out that my lump
was malignant but my lymph nodes were negative. I did not have to undergo treatments for my cancer;
however, I did have to follow up with my medical doctor, surgeon, and oncologist for blood work and regular
checkups for many years.

Before I found the lump, I consistently kept up with my breast self-examinations and the recommended
screenings for good health. I routinely had mammograms, pap smears, and any blood work recommended by
my physicians. Early detection is so very important, especially when there is a family history of cancer. My
grandmother and my oldest sister had uterine cancer. Both are now deceased.

After finding the lump, I did have fear; but with faith in God, a loving family, extremely skillful physicians, and genuine friends, I was able to weather the storm.

While recovering from my own surgery, I was given the privilege to give back to cancer patients from my hospital bed. A social worker in the hospital requested that I speak with and encourage some of the patients going through breast cancer while I was still in the hospital. I gave one-on-one support to patients with positive encouragement and conversations. I shared my own experiences and fears with them. I feel confident that our uplifting discussions helped them immensely.

Prior to moving to Connecticut, I researched surgeons and located Dr. Kaye Zuckerman. Dr. Zuckerman is so very caring, and is at the top of her class in intelligence, knowledge, and practice.

My dear sisters, please remember, we must always take an active role in our health by taking advantage of all preventive measures that are available to us to prolong our lives. Self-breast exams are so
very important!

On a very positive note, I am so thankful to God, my family, my friends, and my wonderful, caring,
physicians for all the support they have given to me over the years. Because of all of them,
I am a happy and thankful 35-year survivor!

Veronica Meadows Ray, September View My Story »

Veronica Meadows Ray

It was 3:00 a.m., March 21, 2007, and the room was dark as I slept next to my husband. As I dreamt of beautiful days to come, reality kept trying to interrupt. I tried to keep reality at bay as long as I could, I tried to concentrate on experiencing the warmth of the happiness the dream had brought but the pain of reality was punching through. Hmmm… What is that trying to awaken me? My breast is so sore. I wake up, Wake Up, WAKE UP!!! — my hand still massaging the soreness, the circle of pain, the lump.

Oh God, had two years passed since my last exam, five years since my mom’s diagnosis, three years since
my aunt’s and two years since my cousin’s? How could I have done this to myself? Please, Oh mighty God
of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, SAVE ME!! Give my husband strength. We took a vow of in sickness and
in health but I thought it meant that when we got old we would take care of each other. I didn’t know that it
meant now, at age 47, that we may lose each other to that crazy cancer that had taken my cousin at age 22.

That was the first of 14 days I prayed daily for the answers. The only response I received and the only one
that mattered was the faith that God was going to have His way and His glory before it was over. For only His
grace and mercy could guide me and my family through the journey ahead. The power of the Lord would
awaken in all of us, bring us all together and resurrect the power of His love needed for so many different
reasons. So let the healing begin before the doctors begin chemotherapy, before the surgery and before the
radiation. To God Be the Glory!

The next giant step was genetic testing. After all, look at all the women in my family that shared the same
diagnosis. Well that was about the biggest laugh. I didn’t think that any test was going to prove to me that
breast cancer ran in my family. Obviously it did. We all came from the same bloodline, but we all had different lifestyles, environments and types of breast cancer. Okay, give me the test. The results were negative. I had NO genetic predisposition to breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

The unanticipated outcomes inspired the transformative answer to the next question. How could I test negative
for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2? I’m no cancer researcher but obviously there must be other undiscovered breast cancer
genes. Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s disparity director Dr. Deborah O. Erwin agreed with my assessment.
Dr. Erwin wrote a grant based on my family’s breast cancer history and secured $500,000 from the Susan B.
Komen Foundation to conduct a new breast gene study for African American families with multiple cases. The
University of Buffalo’s epidemiologist Dr. Heather Ochs-Balcom, Dr. Erwin, and the director of the National
Witness Project Detric Johnson and I set out across the United States to recruit for Jewels In Our Genes: An
African-American Breast Cancer Family Study to find other families like mine. The study spanned over three
years, and the results are now being analyzed.

I learned what was next for me while recruiting for the project. I found the courage to share my family story
with thousands of people and health professionals. It was difficult to imagine that my truth could bring hope and courage to others. Hope to not only survive, but to thrive in the midst of what can appear to be so dark and lonely. It was difficult to imagine that medical professionals would support the theory that plagued my heart and would result in such a tremendous study that could impact breast cancer
research worldwide.

To God Be the Glory!

Angela Mann, October View My Story »

Angela Mann

Imagine being 56 years old and having the walls fall
down on you.
My name is Angela Mann. I was born in Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. I am married to Titus Sr. and we raised three children, Teri, Sue and Titus Jr., as well as four grandchildren, Monica, Kayla, Dejon and Christopher; and two great grandchildren. I lived life to the fullest and I thought I took care of myself by eating right and living by God’s great design.

In December 2011, my life turned into its own 50 Shades of Devastation. I went for my regular mammogram and sonogram, which I faithfully did annually. To my surprise, for the first time in the last 20 years of being tested, my results were different. I got a letter saying I needed to return immediately because of an abnormal reading. It was such a shock that I didn’t think I was going to make it. Hearing the words, “I’m sorry you have breast cancer,” still rings in my head till this day.

The uncertainty of tomorrow and things to come became overwhelming. After all, I was the one that
kept all of my appointments. So why me (self pity)? In my head, I planned my funeral and who would and
would not attend. Finally, I stopped and asked myself one important question: “Why not you, Angela?”

I decided to make this test my Testimony. Six months before my diagnosis, I had lost my sister Meka to
brain cancer, which was never detected until it was in its final stage. I couldn’t believe my family had to go through this again. My sister’s death was still so fresh in everyone’s mind; now I have to break this news. So, my 50 Shades of Angela began with a vengeance.

On February 3, 2012, I underwent a lumpectomy. Two weeks later they started me on radiation therapy
for 32 weeks. Throughout it all my husband and daughter (Teri) were my rock. I am so grateful to them because there were times I wanted to give up, but they wouldn’t let me. Teri made sure she was there for every appointment. She also made sure I walked and remained my regular active self and not sit in self pity. You need that support to help pull you through your darkest hour. I learned how to be a survivor and not a patient.

My other great support systems consisted of my great friends & family, Toshua C., Gwen B., Donna G.,
Theresa M., Rodney M., and so many more, who were there for me every step of the way and I am eternally
grateful.

It is with pride I can say my “Test” has become my
“Testimony.” On February 13, 2013, I received the
best news ever. One word, “Remission.”

Yeeesss!

Thank you God! We had prayed together and our prayers were answered. Till this day I am still in
remission.

I give thanks to my Lord and Savior for making this worth the journey!

Linda Stansbury, November View My Story »

Linda Stansbury

There are moments in our life that are deemed unforgettable; it was May 24, 2005 for me. I was taking a shower and felt a very hard lump, shaped like a marble, on top of my breast. I couldn’t image what it could be. I’d had a clear mammogram about five months ago. However, after consulting with a surgeon, his recommendation was to remove and biopsy the hard lump with a lumpectomy. I agreed and on June 6, 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and unclear margins. I was not given a biopsy before the surgery.

“Life is just not fair,” I thought. I had never been sick in my adult life, not even a severe cold. I was in the middle of planning my wedding, which was supposed to be an exciting and joyous occasion; yet now the only thing I could think about was breast cancer and will I live or will I die. The life I had planned was now being shattered. I knew nothing about breast cancer. The remote conversations I had engaged in were generally limited and daunting.

A close friend who was familiar with health care suggested that I proceed with a second opinion at a breast
cancer facility. I am so glad I followed his advice. The cancer center provided me with the knowledge I needed
to move forward in this unfamiliar territory. My choice of treatment was a modified radical mastectomy, with
delayed DIEP Flap reconstruction and chemotherapy.

I later participated in a five-year clinical trial for nodenegative breast cancer; then proceeded with genetic testing for the sake of my children (The genetic test was negative.) During my appointment in April 2007, I was diagnosed again with breast cancer, this time in the left breast and the tumor was found close to my armpit.

My family, church, The American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program and my future husband were very supportive. I was truly surrounded by their love. Yet at times I knew they really didn’t understand the emotional turmoil that was going on inside of me. These feelings took me to a place of loneliness and isolation, so I turned to “Journaling” which gave me comfort in knowing my inner feelings would not be judged or compared to others. Journaling gave me the opportunity to see the small everyday victories. I began to realize my cancer diagnosis was not about fault, or default. It was about learning how to use moments of fear as opportunities to grow, to be patient, to love deeply and to give more unconditionally.

Today I work as a Breast Cancer Advocate in Baltimore, Maryland. I am a volunteer and trainer with the
American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program. I am also the author of My Pink Journey in Black & White and over 35% of the proceeds will be donated to helping women under the age of 35 with breast cancer. (Amazon.com/author/lindastansbury)

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; But of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Vernelle Davis, December View My Story »

Vernelle Davis

In the early nineties my biological sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. That announcement hit me very hard!

I knew there was a history of breast cancer in both my immediate and my extended family. Some had even
died from the disease. Right then and there I had to take charge of my body. Prior to this I had never given
it much thought. I had never had a mammogram but I scheduled one at Yale-New Haven Hospital while I was
on a detail in New Haven. A few days later I received the results and it was good news.

I continued to examine my breasts and have a screening done every year in Hartford.

On my fourth examination the technician informed me not to get dressed; the doctor would like to discuss
the results of the screening. I began to question the technician relentlessly… “Why and what does he want
to see me about?” She tried to calm me down by saying it might not be anything serious. On my way to see the doctor, I was praying very hard and asking God to help me get through whatever the result of the exam had shown.

The results of my 1994 mammogram showed a tumor and on February 2, 1994, I had a biopsy and the result was positive, the tumor was malignant. I received two opinions and the recommendations were the same so I took their advice and decided to have a radical mastectomy.

A few days later I met with the surgeon who was going to perform the operation. At this point I didn’t know
which way to turn so I prayed to God to help me get through whatever I had to face. In other words I left
everything in God’s hands.

I underwent six months of chemotherapy; and on several occasions the surgeon came to see me while I was having the chemo.

I have been in remission for 20 years now and I thank God every day for allowing me to see yet another
day. Without those annual mammogram screenings I might not be here today.

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