Veronica Meadows Ray
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!