June 2017 remains indelible in my memory, but I have gotten over the days of “why me” and have accepted my journey. My name is Ingrid Arokium-Stephen. I am 69 years old, married, but my husband lives in a nursing home. This is my story:
During a routine breast exam a suspicious mass was seen, so I was asked to go for an ultrasound – déjà vu. I was not concerned because I had heard that diagnosis several times before. I did the ultrasound, but then came the order to have a biopsy, which was new!!! Bi who? Bi what? At my own pace, I had the biopsy done and was told the results would be sent to my doctor.
My country of birth is British Guiana, South America, now known as Guyana. I migrated to the U.S. in 1994 and am now settled in New Haven, Connecticut. Growing up I always heard cancer has to be in your family. There is no history in my family so I was confident that all was well with me. One day after getting home from work, I received a message that my doctor wanted to see me. My antennae went up. Why does he want to see me? Why couldn’t the message be: “your results were negative.” I felt uneasy.
I still recall vividly my doctor looking me in the eye and words coming from his mouth, but all I heard was “yes” and a range of emotions took hold of me – fear, anger, foreboding. I wanted to die. I started to cry uncontrollably. My doctor tried to calm me but my tears flowed. He told me I could remain in the room until I felt better. The nurses checked on me from time to time. Finally I regained my composure enough to drive home. Then I locked up the house and the tears flowed again. I felt helpless. I blamed myself for what happened to me. I live alone so there was no available support system.
After a few weeks I found the courage to finally tell one of my brothers and felt better inside. I then told a neighbor who has since taken me under her wing and remained with me every step of the way. I was introduced to my social worker who has been patient with me all throughout the crying and sniveling. Preparation for surgery began and I decided to let a few other people know about my diagnosis, which made me feel better inside. I underwent chemo and radiation and now am on hormone treatment. My doctors and nurses at Smilow were all personable and made me feel welcomed whenever I had to be there. A heartfelt “Thank You”
to them all for caring enough to help us.
I heard of Sisters’ Journey through my neighbor and have met other ladies with whom I could bond and share stories. I am thankful for that. Divine order, God is in charge. I have learned to accept my life as it is. I am at peace with myself now. I go forward believing that the Almighty has a purpose for my life. My motto is: live today to the fullest, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.