Survivor Sanctuary Survivor Stories
My story is one of unexpected life challenges and glorious triumphs. About ten years ago, I had a kidney transplant. This was a difficult time for me and I thought it would be the first and last time I would experience such a serious health issue. Then in 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I first suspected that there may be a problem when I felt a lump on my breast while attending a wedding. No, I don’t usually make a habit of giving myself breast exams at weddings (smile), but this particular day I did - let’s just say it was divine inclination. Seriously, I am fortunate that I grew up in a time that encouraged women to be conscious about their health and abnormalities in their bodies.
I had the surgery to remove my breast followed by chemotherapy treatments. Life was good and I had not experienced any issues with my health until 2007 when my world turned upside down again. During a routine mammogram, a lump was found on my left breast. It was a very small mass – nearly undetectable with a self examination. If not for the mammogram, I am sure it would have been found at a much more advanced stage. Although I was thankful to have found it early, it was still difficult to understand why this was happening again. Like so many women who experience breast cancer or some other life-threatening disease, I thought it was a death sentence, and then my very next thought was, ‘No, I will live. I will envision myself doing the things I want to do.’ I was determined to become my own Super Hero, fighting against any thought of defeat or feeling of hopelessness. Deep within the recesses of my soul, I knew I would get through this. I had already come through kidney surgery and one cancer diagnosis, which meant I was already a survivor.
All my life, I had silky, long black hair. I remember losing that beautiful hair after the chemotherapy treatments. Surprisingly, however, I did not see it as a loss – at least not in the way that most people do. Instead, being bald gave me a feeling of empowerment; it was an instant and clearly visible sign to me and to the world that I had overcome.
I don’t have that luxurious black hair anymore – I wear it short and curly. I also opted out of the surgery to reconstruct my breasts. When I feel like it, I wear a prosthetic. I’ve learned that although I may not have long hair and I may not have breasts, all of me is still very much a woman. It’s not the hair and breasts that make you – it’s what’s inside that makes you. I have found that inside me is God’s wonderful creation - a woman… grateful … empowered… strong… living.