Hi, my name is Valerie L. Simmons. I live in Westchester County, Yonkers, New York. I am a retiree from the Westchester County Department of Social Service for the State of New York.
As we all know, years ago women of color did not go for annual gynecological, mammogram, or colonoscopy exams, so I was not aware of any history of cancer inmy family. However, later in life, I heard of unsubstantiated ovarian, colon and pancreatic cancers that may have had taken precious family lives.
However, and unfortunately, I did become aware that I lost my younger sister to pancreatic cancer eight years ago, and also that I had an aunt who succumbed toovarian cancer approximately 50 years ago. I am not sure if there is a relationship to my diagnosis or not. Prior to this experience, I was in good health. I had no health issues.
As I grew older, these exams became more available to us. At the age of 64, I felt a lump under my left breast. As it was time for my annual mammogram, I brought it to the attention of my gynecologist. My gynecologist felt it was a benign cyst.
However, I insisted that I get an ultrasound as well as a mammogram. As a result, the tumor was located, and it was malignant. Within three weeks I had surgery, a lumpectomy, on February 10, 2014.
My treatment consisted of five months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation for the lumpectomy and removal of 10-12 lymph nodes. My best friend went to radiation with me every day. I was not sure if the lymph nodes were malignant or not. The doctor stated I had triple negative breast cancer which tends to be aggressive. The effect of the treatments caused me to lose my hair.
In July 2022, I noticed my left arm was larger than my right. I went to my oncologist who sent me for a CT scan, therapy once a week for lymphedema, which developed because of the surgery for breast cancer.
In addition to my medical team, my six children and seven grandchildren have been by my side the whole time – faithfully attending my appointments with me. They have given me the support and courage that I needed to sustain this journey I have traveled these past years. With God’s grace and seeing my surgeons and medical doctors every six months, I am now a survivor going on 10 years.