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2016 Calendar

2016 Calendar

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Survivor Stories

Diane Goforth Doward, Janurary View My Story »

Diane Goforth Doward

My name is Diane Goforth Doward. I am 58 years old and I live in New Haven, Connecticut. I have been married for 13 years to John Doward. I am the mother of three adult children and one deceased son named George. I have eight beautiful grandchildren.

My story started when I went to see my OBGYN doctor because I was having a problem with a reddish discharge from my left breast. My doctor scheduled me for a mammogram, which showed I had a small lump. Next I was scheduled for further testing and then a biopsy, which tested positive for cancer.

At the advice of my physician, Dr. Anees Chagpar, I underwent a lumpectomy on March 24, 2011 at Temple Medical Center in New Haven. I then went through eight weeks of radiation, five times a week.

I thank God every day that I am cancer free and that I am healthy and alive and living to tell my testimony of God’s goodness and mercy in my life. God has been my strength and without Him in my life I would not have made it.

I want to thank my children, Tomeka, Tyron and Ricky. I love you and thank you for all your support.

To my Kingdom family and Pastor Bishop Frankie and Dr. Kim Carmichael, I love you both and thank you for everything you have done for me.

To my best friend Donna Sewell, thank you for every appointment that you attended with me. I love you.

To my sisters Lois Hammond and Debra Harris, thank you for your prayers and constant encouragement.

To Bessie Wright, cancer volunteer, who always drove me to every appointment, you were a God-sent angel in my life (thank you).

Gerri Anderson, thank you for cooking for me and for all your prayers.

Thanks to Dr. Anees Chagpar, an awesome doctor, and to all the staff of Radiology at the Smilow Cancer Center.

If it hadn’t been for God’s graces, I wouldn’t be able to say, “My name is Diane Goforth Doward and I am a survivor.”

To God Be the Glory! I am standing on God’s word, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Psalms 118:17

Dr. Kim Fletcher, February View My Story »

Dr. Kim Fletcher

I used to arrogantly think I was the healthiest person I knew. I eat right, take my vitamins,
exercise and was never overweight. I was the healthiest person in my crew – until I wasn’t!
I am a gynecologist and I look at ultrasounds every day. So, when I looked over my shoulder during my screening breast ultrasound and noted an odd looking cyst, my heart said there might be a problem. When I said to the
sonographer, “that doesn’t look good,” and her response was: “please don’t talk,” I knew there was a problem. Five minutes later they were doing a biopsy. It wasn’t until a week later, when I forced the pathologist to tell me the results, that I cried.

It is very strange to be a doctor and be sick. You know everything; you know nothing. You’re just as frightened as everyone else, with a twist: you know the statistics, possibilities, risks and options as soon as you hear the diagnosis – no internet search required. What you don’t know is the same as everyone else: what is going to happen to me? I remember the day I was told I had breast cancer like it was yesterday. I was reminded
that 60% of African-American women have a “triple negative” tumor. That means it is more aggressive and usually requires chemotherapy – that dreaded word no one wants to hear.

The days before I would find out if I was one of the 60%, I walked around in a daze. I went into a cheap wig store and bawled. I cried so hard I scared the Korean woman trying to help me. The vanity aspect of losing my hair was only a small part of the tears. For some reason I never focused on dying – that wasn’t
my fear. It was really knowing that the world would look at me and see me as sick. I wanted to be able to continue to do everything that I always do. I never want to be the helpless one. I have lived a blessed life and I didn’t want pity

Fortunately, I would not need chemo. I put the cancer in my pile of “stuff to do,” taking it one day at a time. I was ER positive, so after surgery, I received hormonal therapy. As it turned out, I would not have had time to feel sorry for myself as one month later my father, my rock, died and a month after that my daughter became critically ill and I spent two weeks in the ICU with her. I refused to get overwhelmed. My cancer was not going to define me…

I take pride in is always making lemonade from lemons. My friends call it rationalization but I think we need to learn from the bad and create something good. My cancer made me a better doctor; but not because I know more about the disease. Now I can empathize with my patients and have a better understanding of the emotional roller coaster that comes with a scary diagnosis. I “get it” when you can’t hear what the doctors are saying because you are so afraid. I can only imagine how women (and men) without a medical background feel when doctors start speaking and you don’t understand what they are talking about.

About once a month I am the person who tells a woman she has breast cancer. It will never get easier but at least I know what it is like to be on the other side. Perhaps that was God’s plan for me all along.

Virginia “Ginny” Hodges, March View My Story »

Virginia “Ginny” Hodges

My name is Virginia Hodges. Everyone calls me “Ginny.” I am a retired corrections officer
for the state of Connecticut. I am the mother of one adult daughter, Ms Angela R. Dease, whom I call “Angie.”

In April 2013, after a routine mammogram at Yale New Haven Saint Raphael Campus, I was called back to repeat my mammogram. I was told that a spot had been found on my left breast. A week later I had a biopsy. My
doctor, Dr. MaryBeth Gillette confirmed that I had breast cancer. I was very depressed
and overwhelmed with fear. Dr. Gillette immediately scheduled an appointment for me at Smilow Cancer Hospital where I met with Dr. Donald Lannin, who confirmed that I had stage one breast cancer in my left breast.

On April 23, 2013, Dr. Lannin performed my surgery, which was a partial mastectomy, and also removed three of my lymph nodes. I received 33 treatments of radiation. Sometimes the treatments made me feel ill.
Halfway through treatment I wanted to give up; but because of the encouragement I received from Dr. Susan A. Higgins and her staff, my daughter Angie, and my friend Mrs. Rebecca Hamilton, I was able to continue
treatment. To them I say, “Thank you.”

A special thank you to a little boy named William who was about age seven and also in treatment. I watched this little boy go through both radiation and chemotherapy. William always had a smile and a hug for
me. On William’s last day of treatment we all celebrated with him. I gave William a Guardian Angel pin to wear on his shoulder and thanked him for all the smiles and hugs he gave me. William was my guardian angel. He was my hero. William, I will never forget you. Thank you Doctors MaryBeth Gillette, Donald Lannin, and Gina Chung. I also thank the staff at Smilow Cancer Hospital and all those who kept me in their prayers.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth. “ Psalm 121: 1-2

Thank you and God Bless.
Virginia A. Hodges

Jennifer Morgan, April View My Story »

Jennifer Morgan

I had my annual mammogram in 1998 and the radiologist told me he had to refer me to a surgeon as my mammogram was not clear. I was very upset. I went to the appointment and the doctor told me to come back in six months to see if anything was different. This continued every six months until April 2000.

I never work on my birthday. That April day I was taking my shower and noticed a lump. I immediately called my surgeon, who told me to come in at 2 p.m. My body went limp. The wait seemed forever. Finally we entered his office. We talked and he said, “I am going to do a needle biopsy on the lump.” He would have the results within 24 hours. I was in a lot of pain after the biopsy. The doctor called me the next day and explained that the results were negative. I felt happy and expected the lump would go away. It didn’t. I became more impatient and nervous as the months went by. Finally I called the office and explained my concerns to his assistant. She told me he was on vacation and made an appointment for me to come in on July 26, 2000.

My appointment was in the afternoon, so I went to work that morning. I could not focus; all I could think
about was my appointment and that I was not going to leave the doctor’s office without an answer.

As I entered my surgeon’s office I saw my mammogram films on the screen. I looked puzzled.
He stated that I should sit down. I lost it and began crying. He held my hand and said, “I am going to have
to do another biopsy of the lump,” and he started to make the appointment for the procedure. “No,” I said.
“I am always tired and I am sleeping more than 12 hours each day. I have no energy and that is not normal
for me, so I need to have it done today.” He called the hospital and made the arrangements. This time, the
biopsy was going to be done by numbing the area and removing the tissues needed to get the results.

On July 29, 2000, my surgeon’s office called, explaining that I should come to the office and bring
someone with me. I knew then it was positive. I left work but did not bring anyone because I was sure that
my prayer would be answered that I could handle the outcome, whatever it was.

The result was positive. I met with my oncologist and radiologist the same time that I was told the awful news that I had breast cancer at age 47. No one in my family had cancer on either my maternal or paternal side.

I had a lumpectomy on August 6, 2000. My surgeon included the sentinel node where mercury was injected
into my breast two hours before to show which nodes were possibly cancerous because of drainage from the
tumor. The tissues were removed and one node came back cancerous. On August 22, 2000, I had the node
dissection surgery and all the other nodes under my right arm were removed which came back negative.

The support outside of my family was from B’CAUSE (Breast Cancer Awareness Uniting Sisters Everywhere), which is an African-American breast cancer support group. Since those members had been through cancer they were able to prepare me for both chemotherapy and radiation. I had eight rounds of chemo and seven weeks of radiation.

I had so many questions. I asked God, “Why me?” Through all my struggles God has been my strongest support. Psalm 91 was my guide and refuge when I was in my deepest and darkest times.

Having cancer has made me stronger and I understand that ‘knowledge is power,’ because it is better to know
what you have so that you can seek treatment. So always get your annual physical, your mammogram, and continue your self-breast exams. It is imperative to know your own body.

I know that God is in control and I am truly blessed; and I know God has spared my life. I thank Him each
day. So with this new chapter that I have been given, I try to pass it forward and to encourage other women.
Having cancer is not a death sentence, it is a journey; through the fear and the pain, there is hope, so cherish these precious moments.

Minister Rosa White, May View My Story »

Minister Rosa White

My name is Rosa White. I was born on September 27, 1937 in Tallahassee, Florida to the late
Abraham and Louise Moore. I have lived in New Haven, Connecticut for over 60 years. I am
the wife of Mr. Benny White and the mother of eight children, 26 grandchildren, 25 greatgrandchildren
and one great-great grandchild.

I discovered that I had breast cancer in the early 1980s through a mammogram. The cancer was
discovered in one breast on my left side.

I had laser surgery in 1984. The cancer was removed and I had a speedy recovery. I did not need
radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
After a six-week checkup, there were no traces of Cancer. To God Be the Glory!

I am now Cancer free. I still go every year for a mammogram and encourage all women to check
themselves by doing a self-breast exam and by having a yearly mammogram.
Early detection is very important in the fight against breast cancer. It saves lives.

Jennifer F. Johnson, June View My Story »

Jennifer F. Johnson

My name is Jennifer F. Johnson, born June 26 under the zodiac sign of “Cancer”, which represents strength and courage.

My journey with breast cancer started in March 2011. My life came to a screeching halt, and suddenly I was forced to prioritize my life to accommodate for major changes ahead. I felt betrayed by my body and powerless! All I wanted was the cancer out! Cancer is a life-changing occurrence. The emotional and psychological scarring is almost as bad as the physical scarring.

I chose to be private during my diagnosis – only talking to my immediate family, immediate supervisor and a small circle of close friends who all were very supportive and prayerful. The most difficult part was telling my parents. I had more life to live with my family. After learning of my diagnosis, their concern quickly shifted and they became over-protective. I was the first in my family to experience breast cancer. Before treatment began, I found myself questioning “why me?” and “what did I do to deserve this?” I felt like giving up, but I prayed the prayer of faith.

I started taking a daily chemotherapy medication pill regimen (Xeloda) just to function and continue working. I was told I needed four chemo treatments, radiation and two years of hormonal treatment. I wasn’t very receptive to those suggestions but I had to come to terms with the hand God dealt me.

The doctors said that most patients’ biggest concern is hair loss. Mine was my quality of life. I wanted to continue to be as active as I always was. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to take care of me and I wanted to continue to live life as I always had.

The doctors were very optimistic that I’d be able to do all of what I was used to doing. Unfortunately, they were wrong! I experienced vomiting, nausea, fatigue, headaches, achiness and other possible side effects associated with chemo and radiation. Fourteen days after my first treatment, I began to lose my hair. Tears began to run down my face and reality then set in. It was incredibly dramatic and heartbreaking watching as my hair fell out every time I combed it. I had thick shoulder-length hair prior to starting chemo. and by the time chemo was complete, I was practically bald. Thank goodness for wigs and weaves!

I finally had lumpectomy surgery on both my left and right breast and had nodes removed. This journey with the diagnosis of cancer has truly been a testament to my faith in God. Today, I live to say that I trust Him even more now than I did before and I know He is a healer. He healed my body. It is a life altering process to be diagnosed, but God has promised me life and I believe Him.

Since my illness, I accept every opportunity to learn whatever I can about breast cancer – the causes, possible prevention, and how to help others going through this illness as I did. I have learned that it is very important to talk to your family and friends for support and not shut down. No one should go through this illness alone. I was determined to stay positive and live my life while battling cancer.

I remain determined to stay positive and live every day of my life to the fullest. I am grateful for the lessons that cancer has taught me.

“For all things I have strength by virtue of Him who imparts power in me:” Philippians 4:13.

Discipline is one of the basic dynamics in life needed to acquire and accomplish a better quality of life. Discipline coupled with three other dynamic elements were the keys that got me through my bout with this disease.

Number 1 was my faith in God who was the chief medical physician over an assorted team of doctors and surgeons. Number 2 was the discipline and willingness that was exemplified by my family, friends and coworkers, which reinforced Number 3, my strength and desire to continue to fight a good fight and never give up. That fight will forever burn in my spirit. These are the basic dynamics that served as my guide through the bout with cancer. I am a Survivor. I will never give up!

Yasmin Amico, July View My Story »

Yasmin Amico

My name is Yasmin Amico – “Sweet Scented Flower Friend.” Like the Jasmine flower for which I was named I am very connected to my natural
surroundings. A healthy physical and spiritual lifestyle is important to me.

A native of the UK, I now live in Connecticut. My hybrid existence as a Briton in America leads to an interesting life and fuels interesting conversations.

In January 2007, my humor turned to a quiet sorrow with the diagnosis of breast cancer that was quite aggressive. Nearing the end of 2006 and into 2007,my German Shepherd pet “Dino” seemed upset. He was sniffing and whining and kept trying to touch my left breast. Soon thereafter I felt stabbing chest pains. My left breast was very warm and had a purple rash. I went to the Southbury Breast Center and was diagnosed with
“Rosy Breast.” I then had an ultrasound and biopsy that resulted in the diagnosis of breast cancer to the breast bone. I have lost count of the number of procedures and operations I have had, including lymph node removal, radiation, a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I lost
count of the days, weeks, months, and years as I survived in a fog of silence. Everyone wanted me to be chatty and happy. No one wanted to really hear that I was hurting inside. I said goodbye to my husband and my marriage and embarked on a new chapter called: “How To Survive Cancer and Keep My Sanity.”

After fighting breast cancer, in April 2010, while pursuing my doctoral residency, I began experiencing gnawing, nauseating cramps and pain in my abdomen. I continued to work and support myself. I did not confide in anyone. I did not feel that the people around me really wanted to hear about another illness. I emotionally retreated. I would fight this thing. I would get better. I would surround myself with people
who were positive and didn’t constantly criticize my every action.

Rumor had it I was dying and on several occasions I was. In 2010 I had emergency surgery to remove a massive tumor from my stomach. I had to delay my doctoral program and took a leave of absence from my professorship at Post University. The leading surgeon told me the tumor “was
a monster.” He wanted to know how I was able to go to work with such a large tumor pressing on my organs and ready to rupture! I wondered myself.

Later in 2010, surgeons saw a small pulmonary nodule sitting at the base of my left lung. It is slow growing and now 0.5 cm. I am under the care of a team of doctors. I get checkups each year. It sits in a difficult spot and causes shortness of breath. One doctor told me: “You can
have a heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm at any moment. Take it easy!” Inhale. I did for a while then I got bored and resumed my normal life. Exhale!

I am happy with my life. My daughter has grown into a beautiful, brilliant, devoted adult. I feel blessed.

My life is simple and quiet. Most people wouldn’t think so since I am often chatty, flamboyant, and vivacious when in company. I enjoy meeting people and having intellectual conversations. I also enjoy my Renaissance moments and solitude.

Mostly I like to walk, ride my bike, go to the beach, sing, knit, crotchet, read, paint, play the piano, fuss with my numerous plants, visit museums and historical places, read and write poetry, and listen to music. I love listening to Nina Simone, Smokey, the Neville Brothers, and Lionel. I love reading Maya Angelou and Alexander Pushkin’s poetry as well as Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Lorraine Hansberry, and August
Wilson. Lynn Nottage’s plays leave me breathless. Above all, I love working with children, youth, and adult students to foster a love of literacy. I write plays and I am writing a book which is almost ready for publication.

Curling up in a ratty, tatty chair with a juicy romance book? Heaven!

I founded Creative Arts For Life, ¡Write On! I conducted Workshops, and earned three degrees while battling the Big C. I am currently back to working on my doctorate. Whew!

I am a flower that never fades.

Cancer may come calling again. She might claim me, but I am a child of God who has a joie de vivre, love of liberty, and zest for life. I don’t study dying. I am full of élan. Jehovah wraps me in His warm embrace like a blanket with a kiss. Jehovah es mi roca!

Before my departure I want to see my daughter happily settled, married with children. I want to see and hold my grands and thank God for all my blessings. I want to see England before I close my eyes. I want a lot, don’t I?

Thank you God. And thank you all for listening, reading, writing, phoning, visiting, helping me find my inner peace. My name is Yasmin. I am alive. “All is well with my soul.”

I pray: “God, let me win, and if I do not win, let me be brave in the attempt’ (Special Olympics Motto). Since December 2010, I have felt good. This December I will celebrate five years of feeling well!

I say: “Cancer can maim. Cancer disables. Nothing disables the soul.”

Cancer is a battle we all want to win. I have met a lot of brave warriors along the way. I share my story to offer hope in times of despair. I share to deal with illness in a positive way and move on with my life. I have few regrets. Many friends and well-wishers have faded away,
but new, steadfast souls have replaced them. Life is beautiful!

Deborah Rayon, August View My Story »

Deborah Rayon

Hi. My name is Deborah Rayon and I discovered a lump on my right breast. It was a morning in October 2004 prior to going to work at the Department of Social Services. While at work that day I was talking to my coworker and asked her to come to the ladies room with me where I asked her to look at my breast and tell me what she thought it was. When she looked at the lump she replied, “I’m not sure, but you should have it checked out.” I went back to my desk and called my doctor who gave me an appointment a month away. I tried to get one sooner and I explained to her about my lump, but she still would not give me an earlier appointment. I was really upset. I talked to my supervisor who was also a breast cancer survivor. My supervisor then got on the phone and called my doctor, who scheduled my appointment in one week. (Thank you, God.)

So I went to my appointment the next week. After the doctor looked at my breast, she sent me to have an ultrasound that same week. I then had to have a biopsy done. This time my husband went with me to the appointment. The doctor told me he had to take a piece of the skin from my right breast. He numbed me and told me that I was not going to feel it that much. My husband held my hand and said, “You will be fine.” I don’t know if the doctor failed to numb me enough or not, but when he put that needle in me I screamed so loud. That was the most painful thing I had ever felt! I thank God my husband was there for me then. The doctor said I would hear from him in two weeks. I was nervous the whole time.

I went home and found the strength to tell my family, including my mother, my daughter, my aunt Sue and her family. They all supported me and kept me strong. They then let the rest of my family know. In two weeks I got the results and learned that I had cancer in my right breast. After that I was scheduled for surgery in January. After my surgery I took off work six months for chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The whole time my husband and my family were there for me. I thank God for their support. I returned to work in June 2005. I was cancer free! To God Be the Glory! I am now 10 years cancer free.

I’m a member of Pitts Chapel Unified Free Will Baptist Church. Bishop Elijah Davis is
my Pastor. I serve my God faithfully. He has been good to my family and I throughout all the years of my life. My mother, Mattie Little, was also a breast cancer survivor and was featured in May of the 2015 Calendar. On July 11, 2015 she transitioned to life ever after, losing her battle to another cancer. She would have been 89 on December 9, 2015. That’s how good God is. I could never thank God enough.
I will always praise my God. Thank you, Lord!

Marta Vega, September View My Story »

Marta Vega

My name is Marta Vega. I am the mother of three: Natasha (26), Johanyx (11) and Gian
(9). My journey began in November of 2013 when I went in for my annual mammogram
checkup (I had skipped it in 2012). I didn’t feel a lump, but one was spotted in my test.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2013. I felt that I needed to get
a second opinion to determine my options. The test results were the same and the doctor
recommended chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. At that time, I was stunned and in
denial. I felt my life was over. I thought of my two younger children and what I would do
now. I decided to go ahead with my treatment.

On March 14, 2014, I began chemotherapy. At that time, I tried not to be depressed because that was not going to help. The most difficult part of the treatment was the chemotherapy. I had to deal with the side effects – body aches, nausea, swollen feet, fatigue, dark skin tone and diarrhea. I was able to manage these effects with prescriptions and over-thecounter medicines.

When my hair started to fall out, I decided to shave it all off because I wanted to take
control of the cancer, not let the cancer control me. This made me feel better.

During the chemotherapy treatment at the office of Dr. Andrea Silber, I met her
wonderful staff and other patients who helped me a lot. I needed to keep a positive attitude to help with the process and to keep my chin up to fight this cancer.

There were times I felt I was not getting enough support. However, as time passed, I
realized that there were family, friends and coworkers that did care and were very helpful throughout my journey.

On September 16, 2014, I had lumpectomy surgery. It went well. The pathology
results came back with no cancer cells. The chemotherapy really worked! It was then that I felt I got my life back.

I completed radiation therapy in December 2014. Currently, everything is going well.

The key words throughout this journey have been:

“Faith and a Positive Attitude.” Thanks to the Lord.

I want to thank everyone who supported me: family, friends, and coworkers; Yale Smilow
Hospital and the St. Raphael’s Campus and their staff; Dr. Andrea Silber and Dr. Barbara Ward.

Judy Youins, October View My Story »

Judy Youins

My name is Judy Youins. I am the mother of two, Aisha and Maurice. I am also a grandmother of two, Maurice (Mo) and Ashley. This is my journey with breast cancer. At age 56, I was about to walk into the unknown. I would find out how strong my faith was.

On February 19, 2010, I went for my routine mammogram. This time would be different.
By February 24, 2010, I received a letter stating that the results of my exam indicated
the need for an additional evaluation. My mind did not process the information well. I
made an appointment only to cancel. I wasn’t afraid. There were just too many things going on at the same time, making it hard for me to focus on this newest challenge on my journey in my life.

I received two more letters (one was certified) plus a couple of calls. Another appointment was made for April 16, 2010. The results were the same, and given to my GYN, Dr. Effie Chang. She asked me to make an appointment to see Dr. Denise Barajas, a
breast surgeon. I did. May 13, 2010, would be my first of many visits. On that visit I was told by Dr. Barajas that I was in stage zero. She scheduled an appointment

The biopsy was done on May 26, 2010. On my next visit, Dr. Barajas told me I was in stage one. She now wanted to do a lumpectomy, 2010. It was at my next appointment that
she recommended a full mastectomy, which I did not have at that time. I was scheduled
for an MRI on July 12, 2010. I would have another lumpectomy on July 28, 2010 as well
two lymph nodes removed to check on the possibility of the cancer spreading. The results were negative. Praise God!

It was around this time that things would start to get very challenging. More information was given than I could digest. I started to feel overwhelmed and that’s when God stepped in. God knew when I would need him the most and this was it. What an awesome God!

My earthly support would begin now. My brother Keith, who is a pediatrician, would be
my interpreter. My sister Shari, who is an RN, would be my second pair of ears on my doctor appointments. Dr. Barajas recommended that I schedule appointments to see Dr. Andrea Silber and Dr. Joyce Chung. I did. Each one explained their specialty and gave their recommendations based on the reports they received from the results of my procedures. Questions were asked and answered. It was decided that neither chemotherapy nor radiation were for me.

After all the procedures, the surgeries, the questions and answers, after all was said and done, with prayers traveling throughout my Journey, on September 23, 2010 I decided
to have a full mastectomy on my left breast. The surgery was performed on October 1,
2010. I asked God to stay close. He did, which was always His plan. When I woke up,
I thanked God.

I thank my family and friends who were there from the beginning, as well as my church
family who prayed for me and with me. We all have a journey to walk, but it doesn’t have to be alone. There’s no journey too big or too small that God won’t walk with you.

Glory Be To God!

Juanita Darnell Evans, November View My Story »

Juanita Darnell Evans

My name is Juanita Darnel Evans. I am 51 years old. At age 46 I was diagnosed with stage 1 (DCIS)breast cancer. I have a very strong faith in God and
my love for HIM is what guided me through one of the most challenging times in my life. I also love to sing and worship God. Singing with my family and
friends kept me anchored during this journey. I would pick a song each day and sing to lift my spirits to get through this time.

At a young age I began traveling in ministry proclaiming the Word of God. I also went on several missionary trips singing with Freda Battle and the Temple Worshipers.

September 12, 2008, marked the first day of my now almost six-year journey through many doctor appointments, a biopsy, ultra sound and decisionmaking
with regard to surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy), when or if I would have the surgery, and the need for radiation, chemo or both! My life became a roller coaster of emotions.

I focused on the females in my family (my mother, godmother, sisters, my adorable nieces!) I had to make it for me as well as for them! Thank you for your undying love and support. I made it because of God and you.

My daily confessions were, “I shall not die but live to declare the works of the Lord,” Psalms 118:17 and “This affliction shall not visit me a second time,” Nahum 1:9.

Personally, I needed a healing miracle from God so that I would not have to go through the surgery.

For the days to come I would spend each moment talking to God in prayer and listening for HIS direction and guidance on how I would NOT need surgery, but that He would give me the miracle I desired to have. As time went on the Father began to assure me that I would be healed and He would give me that miracle.

Not long after, I began to experience peace about undergoing the surgery. I set up an appointment with Dr. Barbara Smith, head of Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Smith was one of the most peaceful, poised and elegant women doctors I have ever met. I instantly felt the peace that I asked God to provide. When Dr. Smith walked into the room and called my name, “Juanita,”
in her still quiet voice, the peace I needed rested on my life (I will never forget that moment). It confirmed in my heart that I would go through with the surgery and trust God for my life and healing.

On December 2, 2008, in a whirlwind of emotions (scared, nervous and loving God) I closed my eyes, prayed to God and went through with the surgery. I awoke to my family gathered around my bed as I sang, “We exalt you!”

Subsequent to my surgery, there were more follow-up appointments that would lead me into the next phase of this process. In June 2009, I began radiation everyday, Monday through Friday, for seven weeks.

During this time, I often found myself being very quiet and reflective in thanksgiving for this process.

One important stage that we fail to speak much about is what we experience emotionally and mentally. I have to speak to this because, as I went through this process, I recall some of the emotions I dealt with as well as the thoughts that flooded my mind. What will I look like to the world? Will my breast look different to the world? So many times we internalize our feelings as we go through this journey, thinking no one will understand (and they probably don’t and won’t).

About two years post-surgery and treatment, I visited my doctor who informed me that I had begun the healing process (emotionally and mentally) a bit late. I attribute this to internalizing my feelings.

What propelled me into my emotional healing was something my pastor said one Sunday morning: “Go ahead and grieve now so that when God is ready to bless you, you will be ready to receive what HE has for you.”

I urge you to heal emotionally as well as physically. God wants us WHOLE IN EVERY AREA of our lives. “…I wish above all things that thou would prosper and be in health as thy soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2. I do not consider myself a breast cancer survivor, but rather a breast cancer MIRACLE!

This journey takes strength and tenacity but you can do it. Don’t let go. There is life after breast cancer.

Early detection is life expansion

Toni Alexis Walker, December View My Story »

Toni  Alexis Walker

My name is Toni Alexis Walker, single mother of three beautiful children. I am a breast cancer survivor!!

On August 13, 2012, I received a call from my OB/GYN, Dr. Mussenden. She stated that when she entered her office that morning her computer was on (which was strange because she wasn’t in the office the previous day) and my file was open. Highlighted in yellow was a mammogram. Dr. Mussenden asked me if I went for my mammogram that was scheduled back in January of 2012. I answered, “No” because I’ve been busy. Dr. Mussenden said, “Well you’re going today at 1 p.m. at Washington Radiology.” I sucked my teeth because Mondays are always busy at my job and I really didn’t have time to go to a doctor’s appointment.

I went to my 1p.m. appointment and my life has not been the same since. When they did the mammogram it was extra painful, but I was told that’s normal. Afterwards I put my clothes on to leave. (I was in a rush to get back to work.) The nurse stopped me at the door and told me to wait. She stated that the doctor needed to do a 3D mammogram because she sees something. I really didn’t think it was anything because the previous year the same thing happened and they said it was dense tissue.

The 3D mammogram was done and the doctor still wasn’t satisfied. So she ordered an ultrasound. After the ultrasound the doctor spoke with me to let me know she was scheduling a biopsy for the next day, August 14, 2012. Now I’m getting upset because I had meetings on the 14th at work.

The doctor then told me that she thinks I have breast cancer. At that moment I just froze and said, “Stop lying!” She repeated herself.

August 13, 2012 was my last day of work. I didn’t return until March 10, 2014. On August 17, 2012, I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer. I was devastated. I cried so much. All I kept thinking was I want to see my children grow up, graduate from college, and have families of their own. I want to LIVE. I kept asking, “Why me?” I kept wondering, if I die, who would take care of my Autistic daughter who was then nine years old. I was angry, very angry at one point. I didn’t want to pray or go to church.

On August 20, 2012, I met with my cancer team from Johns Hopkins (surgeon, oncologist, plastic surgeon and radiologist). I would need to have a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. At the time I met with my team they told me I would have my breasts removed and tissue expanders put in to prepare me for implants a year later. They also told me I would only have to go through four chemo treatments and four weeks of radiation.

On September 21, 2012, I had my double mastectomy surgery, which took 11 1/2 hrs. I remember waking up but not being able to open my eyes. I could hear Dr. Pam Wright telling my mother that when she opened me up she saw that the cancer was spreading; it had hit seven of my lymph nodes so she ended up taking 13 of them from my right arm. Dr. Wright also told my mother that I was in the beginning stage of 4 IDC Breast Cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma). So this now changed the game with chemotherapy and radiation.

On October 5, 2012, I had surgery to put my port in for chemotherapy, which I started on October 15, 2012. I went twice a week for five months. March 18, 2013 was my last chemo session. Chemo was rough. I quit three different times because I just wanted the sickness to stop.

I started radiation on April 15, 2013. I think radiation was worse than the chemotherapy. The burning of my skin was tormenting. I finished radiation on June 3, 2013. During radiation I still didn’t feeling well. Besides the tissue expanders hurting like hell, I was seeing blood in my urine.

I went back to my oncologist on June 24, 2013. She sent me for a PET scan and discovered that I had cancer on my uterus. On July 3, 2013, I had both a hysterectomy and an appendectomy. I went for tests on July 22, 2013, and a follow up visit on July 26, 2013, and was told that I was CANCER FREE!

I now take Letrozole everyday for the next five years. My one-year anniversary of receiving my “twins” Coco & Chanel (my new breasts) was April 15, 2015.

Going through this has definitely increased my Faith. God is a Healer!! God promised to never leave me nor forsake me. I told God that I wanted to Live and I was going to fight and beat cancer.

God had and continues to have my back. I am so grateful!!

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