Barbara White Clemons
a survivor for 25 years. I hope my story will be an encouragement for someone.
The day of my diagnosis will always be a vivid memory for me. I worked the second shift and had my doctor’s appointment before my shift began. Thinking I was going for a regular visit, I was surprised when I was told that my left breast did not look good. My doctor made an appointment with a surgeon who confirmed after a biopsy that I had cancer in my left breast. I left the office that day with only negative thoughts. I went to work without sharing my news with anyone, not even my family. I thought back to one day when I was showering and my left breast was a fiery red. This had happened a few times but I never thought anything of it because it never lasted, and I had never experienced any pain. It was at this point that I realized that everyone should always pay attention to the signs that their body exhibits.
Praying for healing mercies, I accepted my illness, saying, “Why not me?” I then only told my immediate family. I was not ashamed of my illness. I only wanted to be treated with the same attitude as I had always received. I wanted to continue living life as I had done in the past. This attitude cleared my mind of the diagnosis of cancer, and I knew that I would be fine! Accepting this also meant that I must follow all of the do’s and don’ts that were given to me by my doctors. Even though some things might be hard, nothing would be worse than not living.
After completing the tests, it was confirmed that I had Stage 2 breast cancer. By this time, I was able to accept the news and keep positive
thoughts. My adult children would only ask how the visits were. Their attitudes of not dwelling on the negative supported my positive thoughts. My daughter went with me to the doctor visits and carefully researched breast cancer so that we were well informed of the information that was provided to us. I was given the choice of lumpectomy or mastectomy. I chose the lumpectomy and that went well for me.
After the surgery, I received chemotherapy and only experienced a few side effects. I was never sick. Making my appointments on Thursday allowed me to be fine on Sunday and attend church. During my chemotherapy sessions, there were people there who I became friendly with, and we kept each other in good spirits mostly by making jokes about our hair loss. The doctor had explained I would lose my hair as well as other side effects of the chemotherapy. On my next visit, he was surprised that I still had hair.
Well, there was a New Year’s Eve dance that I was going to with my friend. My daughter was doing my hair and it was then that it started to come out in clumps. Laughing through this hair-do, we grabbed some hair spray and placed the hair in the spaces and sprayed it stiffly back in place. My daughter told me not to touch my hair. I made it through the evening by being careful not to touch it. Since I always
wore hats, it was a perfect cover up and no one knew I had lost my hair. My place of work was closing and there was no longer a dress code, so I wore caps to cover my hair loss. Be thankful, your hair will come back.
Going through radiation also caused loss of body hair. Thank goodness for eyebrow pencils, mascara and other makeup. The heat from the radiation also caused scaring and left dye on my bras. The ointment given to me completely cleared the scaring and my body hair returned lightly. A good wash of the bras took the dye out. I felt good as new!
Since 1997, medical science has improved and procedures are different. I still discipline myself to follow my doctor’s orders by having my annual mammogram, eating healthy, examining my breasts and exercising by walking. Keep your faith and happily live each day knowing that you will be fine. Know that you are a survivor and can help someone else!