A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Survival Guide

(Photo Courtesy Bing Images)

by Marnita Coleman, Special to the AFRO

Set your mind on the promise, not the process, and go all the way through.

‘Wow, breast cancer. Is this really happening? I didn’t see it coming. But, what do I do from here?’

Those were a few of my thoughts. I knew I had to win this battle, so I buckled up and set my mind on the result I wanted to experience. I decided against focusing on breast cancer statistics. I believed God would heal me based on His word from the bible. But, I also knew that I had to pair practical steps with my faith. In other words, I had to do my part.

I went to a prayer meeting two days after my diagnosis. The pastor interrupted the service and said there were people in the meeting who had received a bad report from the doctor.  He asked that they come forth, to the altar, so that he could pray for them. He had not planned a healing session, but felt strongly that it was God’s doing. He proclaimed healing and I rejoiced.

To me, that meant that God had granted my prayer request. In all seriousness, I really wanted a supernatural encounter where I would wake up the next day and feel a change in my body and go to the doctor to discover the lump was gone. Sounds amazing right? However, that was not the way God did it.

I contacted my doctor to discuss the plan of action. He suggested a couple of scenarios and I decided to go the mastectomy-with-chemo route. The choice wasn’t easy, but with prayer and research, it seemed best for me. The surgery and reconstruction would be done at the same time. It was a 13 hour process altogether. When I woke up, I was happy to be alive and see my beautiful family. I thought it was over, but much to my dismay, we were just getting started.

I was immediately placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a heat chamber, where the temperature was a minimum of 110 degrees. It was so hot that my body stayed wet with perspiration. When visitors came, they peered in through the glass window because it was almost unbearable to be in that room.

You don’t always know how much you can take until you go through something that’s seemingly extreme and come out on the other side.

My desire to live was greater than the pain, the heat, and the inconvenience of the disease. I had great doctors and they became my family. The nurses and interns were pretty decent too. The care was so excellent that I kept calling the hospital a hotel.

(Side bar: my plastic surgeon was single and very handsome. I always knew when he was headed to check in on me because the nurses would bombard my room so that they could all be in there when he arrived. That always made me laugh.)

After surgery, we followed up with adriamycin chemo. Yuck, yuck, yuck! The only good thing about chemo was I didn’t have to tweeze or wax for a while because all of my hair fell out. I shouldn’t make light of it, but it was a blessing to me, haha.

My trek to recovery included a dreadful drain implanted in my breast during reconstruction. When that didn’t work effectively, they used the ancient method of leech therapy to suck the excess blood. Doctors and nurses came from all over town to see this treatment because it was rare and they had only read about it in textbooks.

I had multiple surgeries and a wound vac that put me in so much pain that the doctors gave me morphine. I pressed the button to release the morphine every two minutes, if it were not in restricted doses, I would have overdosed. And it didn’t stop there. I had to be rehabilitated and learn to walk again because I was bedriddened. Oh, did I mention the reconstruction failed and was surgically removed,  Yup, I was taken into surgery for what was suppose to be a nip and tuck, and came out without a boob.

I hesitated sharing these details because it was a hard time in my life. In fact, this is the first time ever. I blocked this entire episode out of my mind. I didn’t think about it, nor did I allow anyone to photograph me during the process. What’s also incredible is I still haven’t told it all.

The survivor’s survival tip that I would like to share is to set your mind on the promise, not the process and go all the way through. Remember, the pastor spoke healing over me (and others at the altar). I held onto that promise and kept speaking it over myself. When I couldn’t move my legs, I declared that I was healed. When I developed a frozen shoulder, that could not be rehabilitated without surgery, I saw myself doing jumping jacks, and again, declared that I was healed.

It is strange to me that so many people that have the same diagnosis can have completely different results. I lost my mom to breast cancer. I lost a dear friend to breast cancer, yet, someone else I know is celebrating over 20 years as a survivor. I cannot explain it. I believe the reason that I made it through was by faith in God and His grace and tender loving kindness. I had two kids at home, and I didn’t want them to grow up without me.  They were my driving force.

As we continue the discussion of breast cancer awareness, I urge every woman to continue with monthly self exams. According to MedlinePlus.com, about three to five days after your period starts is the best time to check, because your breasts are not as tender or lumpy. Women over 40 years old with a family history of breast cancer should schedule an annual mammogram until age 55, then every other year. For more information, see the American Cancer Society guidelines for breast cancer.

Sincerely,

A Survivor

A Survivor’s Survival Guide

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