In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I remember the day I found out about this “dreaded” diagnosis at such a young age of 34. I was terrified, I cried. I saw death! How was this possible, I thought. I had no known history of breast cancer in my family.
Over the years I have been eating relatively healthy. I wasn’t overweight. How then?? Why??
My clinical team recommended a treatment course which spanned across several months. In February 2019, I started Chemotherapy then surgery. My scars are still visible, reminding me of my yesterdays and how long I have come and still to go. In October 2019, I had radiation therapy but I’m still hopeful than ever as i look to my last treatment - immunotherapy, to be completed in February 2020.
The journey thus far has not been the easiest but I have refused to let cancer hold me back, I have opted to DARE TO LIVE - to fight this head on.
PURPOSE… a word that I wrestled with over the past many months. It tossed around my mind as I sat through chemo, session after session. I believed my answer to that was my determination to share my journey with as many people as I can. To inspire as many as I can, to use my journey as a torch not only to shine a light on the way towards fulfillment but also as a symbol of optimism, faith and above all hope. This cannot go without my mention of breast cancer awareness to all who come across my path.
As I shared my pain, my difficulties and changes in my quality of life, I became exposed to the problems other breast cancer patients and survivors face.
I realized that women in Cameroon and most African countries facing similar medical situation as I am, do not have the resources to improve their quality of life while fighting breast cancer. Many of these breast cancer patients and survivors lack the necessary resources to make this painful journey a little bearable. Resources such as medications, transportation to treatments and even beauty items such as wigs, caps etc are all not easy to find or have.
In my journey, knowing what breast cancer patients in developing countries such as Cameroon experience daily, I count myself fortunate to have received excellent care. I found that irrespective of the resources, one can put in place in these countries, there is a dire need to create breast cancer awareness at both grassroots and national scale.
By the time I got to ring that bell after my last radiation treatment, it was all clear to me....the birth of Dare to Live with Anjoh Foundation. What started as a dream from my first infusion chair is now a reality that was launched on October 5th, 2019.
The journey has been real, my road has been steep, there is a long way still to go ..but hey...we all have to dare to live...I am daring to live! What about you?
In December 2018, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I remember the day I found out about this “dreaded” diagnosis at such a young age of 34. I was terrified, I cried. I saw death! How...
My mum was was told she has cancer last year.. Am so worried as her health keeps declining,always feeling stomach ache...the pain is too much ..she has had 6 rounds of chemotherapy,no change she still feels alot of pain but its so hurting emotionally.. Am so down
My mum was was told she has cancer last year.. Am so worried as her health keeps declining,always feeling stomach ache...the pain is too much ..she has had 6 rounds of chemotherapy,no change she...
Glenn Archie's Cancer Story
Hello I'm Glenn. I'm here to talk to people who had cancer or someone you know who has cancer. I have had 2 aunts who has subcolm from cancer and I fought with brain cancer 15 years ago. I had been having headaches and while at work I couldn't bend over to get boxes. I told my supervisor that I had to go to the hospital. When I get there I'll told the doctor I had been having a headache and i couldn't get rid of it. She said it may be migraine so she suggested I get a CAT scan. I did then she came back and said it's a spot on your brain so I will have to stay in the hospital. She asked me if I wanted to be admitted now before July 4 out wait til after and go to another hospital. I said let me go home now that I I think about it I was scared so on that Monday I want to hospital and they took a piece out of my brain to see if it was cancer or not. It was. They give me a doctor had to go to and see. I was thinking to myself that it was nothing so I asked the doctor, how long do I havhow long do I have to live? He looked at me and you said are you sure I said yeah he said three years. I was lost I went home and I prayed to God and I said God, I know I wasn't the best person but I'm putting everything in your hands, if I die I'm okay if I live okay but I put it in your hands. So I came out of the surgery pretty good but 5 months later I had to do another surgery so at this time I said to myself I want to see how much I can do within that 3 years. I got married around my family but then I I realize it's been 5 years still alive they told me I couldn't go back to work I was only getting $600 a month. I said I got to come back to work I got to come back to work because $600 wasn't enough. I told myself that I got to live my life if I die I die but I did what I wanted to do so what I'm saying to y'all is never and I mean never never give up fight. Fight, you fight until you can't fight no more they don't know when we are supposed to die so we live everyday like i we live everyday like it's the last but we going to be happy when we do. F this I'm asking if you don't ever ever stop fighting because they tell us we only have a certain amount of time to live they don't have the last call for anything God got the last call so let's fight I'm fight until we can't fight no more so don't give up thank you
Hello I'm Glenn. I'm here to talk to people who had cancer or someone you know who has cancer. I have had 2 aunts who has subcolm from cancer and I fought with brain cancer 15 years ago. I had...
Kim Haley's Cancer Story
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2009 by Dr. Nicholas Tranakas at Broward Health Medical Center. My treatment included lumpectomy and radiation followed by aromatase inhibitor medication for seven years.
My dearest friend volunteered to organize where to receive treatment and with whom. I would never have been able to get through the first stage of being diagnosed and the journey without the support.
My children rallied with love and kindness, and most-needed support after I made my decision to have surgery. I had a young teenager and this was so difficult for him, rocking his world as well. He would help out when I was tired. I feel blessed to have a wonderful family and many friends.
I am a very spiritual person. If I started to feel alone, I could always reach out for a lifeline. I was scared at times but I kept telling myself that I was going to be OK. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is like being in a sorority. An instant bond of sisterhood is made.
All at Broward Health were, and still are, amazing with my care. I feel like I have a team. Dr. Tanakas said something to me that I will never forget. He said, "I will be watching over you."
Dr. Elizabeth Tan-Chui, my oncologist at Florida Cancer Care, is my rock. She monitors my blood levels and is meticulous. Dr. Tan-Chui takes so much time to talk to me, explaining how everything is going in a way that a lay person can understand.
I call nurse Pia Delvaille at the Lillian S. Wells Women’s Center at Broward Medical Center "my angel."
Dr. Amy Sonnenblick is like a cat, overseeing the GYN side, looking for any signs that are not normal.
I also want to express my appreciation to Dr. Dana Sands and Dr. Steven Wexner at Cleveland Clinic Florida for being proactive in testing, due to losing my mother to colon cancer.
Pick your team and follow their directions. Let them do the worrying and get the wrinkles. Let others help you. We all need help and this is not the time to tough it out. Distract yourself. Stay busy with other things. Feel grateful every day. Cancer cannot take your spirit.
I have been blessed with a passion to help others. It started with waking up from surgery so uncomfortable with the garment I was put in. So others would not have to go through what I experienced, I developed and patented the Medebra, a comfortable, post-surgical bra/mastectomy kit. The cost is reimbursed by insurance. www.Medebra.com Is that not divine intervention!
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2009 by Dr. Nicholas Tranakas at Broward Health Medical Center. My treatment included lumpectomy and radiation followed by aromatase inhibitor...
La Keisha Walker-Sheeley
La Keisha Walker-Sheeley Grandfather's Cancer Story
This is my grandfather, Oklahoma affectionately known as "OK". I'm his only daughter's first living child. My mom was spoiled as she got her first car when she was 12 so to say the least I was spoiled but never rotten. Hardwork, respect for others, love and take care of my community is instilled in me. My father was in the Army so my grandfather was ALWAYS there. He was a hardworking man as he worked with his hands. He built malls, mansions in Palm Beach, trained the dogs of the wealthy and was a driver throughout his life. He couldn't read or write and was born in June of 1924. Talking about so strong and nobody messed with his family. I was diagnosed with grand mal petite seizures at age 4. I was on some pills but every morning I had freshly made aloe water from the bush that was outside his door. I'm glad to say that I no longer suffer from seizures. As I type this, I remember how strong he was, how loving he was and how he was about the community and believed it takes a village. It could be because he was one out of fifteen. It could be because he was a Mason. It could be because he just cared. Whatever it was my grandfather was and still is my hero. He showed me how I am to be treated by a man."My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer around 94-95. He fought a great fight. We actually thought that he was recovering as he was moved to a rehabilitation facility. I passed by coming from work as I was not feeling well that day. My plan was to stop by and check on him. I saw the ambulance there and was like I will go home change clothes and then come back. I had no idea that they were there for him. We just took him in July to the family reunion that was in Atlanta. I was happy that he saw all of his living siblings and relatives before he passed. He had a great time with his brothers." Throughout his battle with cancer, he lost so much weight that he was super thin. A long way from the strong, 6'2 superhero that I was used to was his body but his spirit and fight was on Thor status. I hope that me pursuing my dreams as I moved away from home to Act and Model, makes him proud of me. But I know me not having a dog doesn't. Renting sucks when the owner doesn't want you to have any pets. I miss him everyday. RIP Grandfather OK June 1924-Sep. 1996
This is my grandfather, Oklahoma affectionately known as "OK". I'm his only daughter's first living child. My mom was spoiled as she got her first car when she was 12 so to say the least I was...
Karen Finister's Cancer Story
My story started 8 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer I had a lumpectomy and did 6 months radiation. Last year I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer did 7 months of chemotherapy it made me really sick couldn't eat so the surgeon had to go back and do my surgery over that corrected the problem I started to get better afterwards my oncologist ordered a pet scan which was routine the pet scan showed cancer on my liver 3 lesions it was from the colon cancer which meant it was stage 4 colon cancer I did 12 rounds of chemotherapy my oncologist said itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s working now I have to do another 12 rounds let me tell u how good god is the chemotherapy is not making me sick this time around. THANK U JESUS.
My story started 8 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer I had a lumpectomy and did 6 months radiation. Last year I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer did 7 months of chemotherapy...
Daisy Achidi's Cancer Story
I was diagnosed of breast cancer in December 2017. Being told I had breast cancer was heartbreaking. At that moment those words felt like a sword piercing through my heart, my whole world came to a standstill and a million questions raced through my mind at the same time. Am I going to die? Is this the end of the road for me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I being punished for my sins?. How do I break such news to my parents and siblings? I also thought about my cousin who died of breast cancer and all she had to suffer before her death. I was scared out of my mind. I knew it was going to be a difficult time emotionally and financially for my family. Then I thought about my job and how long I waited and prayed to have it and now that I finally had it, cancer was going to take it all away from me. What was supposed to be a beautiful Christmas holiday with family turned out to be nine months of pain and suffering.
After meeting with a counselor and my surgeon I developed a new perspective. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as worried as I thought about loosing a breast and also loosing my hair. I decided that day I will not let cancer determine my happiness and future. I knew deep down in me that I will finish my treatment and go back to work. I knew I had to beat cancer so I turned to God and surrendered everything to Him. I Ã‚ knew on my own I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the power to fight this disease so I decided to lean on God. From then on throughout I became strong, courageous and a fighter. I remember I used to console my mum saying itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a matter of time before I am well again. I told her I am not dying anytime soon. I knew I had to brave for my family because it was hard on them as well.
God gave me abundant courage and strength throughout. I loved myself more, Ã‚ I was happier and strong spirited. I became more determined to live than ever before. Its been seven months now since I finished treatment and I am fine. I know I am healed. I Ã‚ will remain forever grateful to God and all those who stood by me throughout my ordeal, my family, colleagues and friends. I am blessed to have my job back after the long leave of absence. I consider myself to be a living miracle and that is why I share my story so I can encourage someone out there who is affected by cancer in one way or the other. Whatever you do, never ever give up hope. Decide to fight till the end, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t throw in the towel no matter how hard it is. Take it to God and let him handle it. I know the battle is won but the war is still on so I will keep fighting.Ã‚
I was diagnosed of breast cancer in December 2017. Being told I had breast cancer was heartbreaking. At that moment those words felt like a sword piercing through my heart, my whole world came to a...
Angela Durham's Cancer Story
I always thought..."It will never happen to me." Well in December of 2018, it happened. After having a sore on my tongue for 10 months, and never saying anything about it, even with the pain I had been in, I found myself being referred to an ENT. He looked at the sore, and said, "Biopsies are needed now.". He proceeded to take 5 biopsies of what I thought was a tiny sore.
Two days later, I received a call where the nurse was telling meÃ‚ a time to come in that day. The news wasnt good. It HAD happened to me! I was told I had cancer. My heart sank. I wasn't scared like I thought I'd be, but I was instantly saddened and grief-stricken. It was less than a month away till my surgery on January 2, 2019. On that day is when my life was truly changed forever! I had to have a partial glossectomy, where a quarter of my tongue was removed. I didn't think I'd ever speak again. My ENT assured me that with speech therapy, I would talk again. I went through therapy, and was able to talk again just as I was told. I was also cancer free, or so I thought. Fast forward 9 months, to the day I felt a lump in my neck.
I was struck down again with cancer, but this time in my lymph nodes. Heartbroken is an understatement! I had to go through a CT scan, and a fine needle biopsy to ensure it was indeed cancer. I got the call, telling me it was. Another surgery was scheduled for a week after that diagnosis. This time I had a neck dissection and removal of a saliva gland.
My life truly was changed! I've had bad days and I've had good days. I've lost people in my life and ive gained people. Most importantly, I found a new life with God! He's drawn me nearer, and has brought me through the storm. Today, I press on and warrior on each and every day!
I always thought..."It will never happen to me." Well in December of 2018, it happened. After having a sore on my tongue for 10 months, and never saying anything about it, even with the pain I had...
Gwen Ngu's Cancer Story
You never know when you will reach rock bottom,Â but when you get to rock bottom you know it is rock bottom. That was me 3 years ago at the age of 27, I unexpectedly got diagnosed June 10th, 2015 with breast cancer. It was such a shock because I had not family history,Â no underlying conditions that I knew at that time and being a nursing student I had done a couple of research papers on breast cancer. Funny how God prepares us for the journeys ahead.
One evening I was taking my shower and my hand accidentally felt this lump, I must be one of those who pay attention to their bodies. The next day I rushed to my primary care physician who of course brushed it off to be a cyst, being my last semester in Nursing school and a mother of 2 under 5 and a wife. I had my hands full to run after doctors but I did, I changed doctors, went to the ER and still got a cyst diagnosis. Thank God one doctor reluctantly ordered a sonogram after I gave her a lot of pressure.Â Why I had the instinct to keep searching I know not. Long story short the sonogram then a biopsy later that day, then back home. I was hoping and thought that was the last time I will hear from them.
It took about 3 weeks before I finally got a call. Because I had no PC in that hospital so they did not know who will relay the message, need I say the call came and yes, sorry it is cancer, stage 3. â€œWhat?â€ , that was chaotic. Doctors appointments, breast doctors, fertility clinic, surgeons, oncologists, more scans, school and work at night. Waooo.
I started chemo immediately, dropped out of school because my professor will not let me do clinical due to my immune system being compromised. 6 rounds of chemo, complete double mastectomy with reconstruction a year after. Hormone treatment till date. Unfortunately, the last day of my hormone Herceptin treatment my son got diagnosed with a brain tumor and died 11 months later. My then-husband also filed for divorce shortly before my son died. My daughter and I moved to another city to start over and help make the world a better place. I finally finished with nursing school and I am now a hospice nurse helping people with a terminal illness.
Going through cancer was rock bottom for me and to everyone who is or had and will walk the path. Letâ€™s make a change in stopping rock bottom or contributing to make rock bottom better for someone. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month!!!!
You never know when you will reach rock bottom,Â but when you get to rock bottom you know it is rock bottom. That was me 3 years ago at the age of 27, I unexpectedly got diagnosed June 10th, 2015...
Nanci Williamson's Cancer Story
My good friend (and college Sorority Sister.) Mary-Ann asked me to create a motivational painting for her husband Joe as he fought Pancreatic Cancer. Itâ€™s titled Paper Angel and included a bit of water she had brought back from Lourdes in the glaze, for inspiration. It brought them both comfort during a hard time. Joe embodied all of the attributes I included in the painting. Faith, Hope, and tremendous Courage.Â
His grace, humor and deep devotion to God, his family and beloved wife never wavered during his illness and for that and for so many reasons is my hero.Â
I hope that my art can comfort and inspire others in need as well.
My good friend (and college Sorority Sister.) Mary-Ann asked me to create a motivational painting for her husband Joe as he fought Pancreatic Cancer. Itâ€™s titled Paper Angel and included a bit...
Ashley Giza's Cancer Story
June 14th of 2018 my husband and I planned to get me a reversal procedure but they wouldn’t do it where I live so we had to travel 15 hours away to do it. For those who don’t know what Essure is its two coils that block the fallopian tubes so you can’t get pregnant. In Iowa, its meant to be permanent birth control. So when we got the money we traveled to have it reversed the surgery went really well 8cm left on both sides of my tubes but only 36% chance of pregnancy. So we started trying for a baby and I found out I was pregnant August 1st, 2018! We were super excited but it was short lived because our baby went back with Jesus sept 6th 2018Â Â we were so depressed and didn’t understand why”¦. so I was scheduled for a post-miscarriage check-up appointment and they checked everything and my doctor was feeling my throat and found a lump on it he saw it concerning so he ordered a biopsy to be done”¦. so after a couple of days I got the biopsy and they found out it was thyroid cancer! We were so scared and depressed I didn’t even have time to mourn for our baby that passed away”¦ so over time, I had surgery to remove my thyroid and then did radiation treatment”¦ I struggled with getting enough calcium and getting my thyroid levels leveled out let alone my cancer numbers weren’t going down”¦ but my husband and I stayed in faith and kept praying and thanking God! Only a month starting my thyroid medication my thyroid levels were great! My doctor called me and told me my cancer numbers were at zero and my thyroid levels were perfect! Some people can take years!!! The point is everything happens for a reason even the bad! If it wasn’t for us getting pregnant and losing the baby who knows if they would have caught it in time! God is great! I feel that God sent our baby to save my life! I’m in Remission now and am healthy as ever! We are currently trying to conceive.
June 14th of 2018 my husband and I planned to get me a reversal procedure but they wouldn’t do it where I live so we had to travel 15 hours away to do it. For those who don’t know what Essure is...
Cindy Levana's Cancer Story
14 years ago, I went into the Dr. for pain in my breast and they sent me to a specialist and she treated me for an infection, only it wasn’t that simple the antibiotics did not work. She sent me in for a mammogram”¦ I was 41, you’re supposed to get mammograms when you’re 40. Back then you had to have doctor orders.. after the results were read the radiologist came in and said I’m very sorry to tell you but we suspect you have cancer!? My first reaction was death I’m going to die.. I fell to my knees and cried ? I never wanted to hear those words.
14 years ago, I went into the Dr. for pain in my breast and they sent me to a specialist and she treated me for an infection, only it wasn’t that simple the antibiotics did not work. She sent me in...
La Keisha Walker-Sheeley
La Keisha Walker-Sheeley's Cancer Story
I think of my family members that have passed as my Angels. They fought a great fight but wasn’t able to stay. My favorite warrior was my grandfather, Oklahoma known as “OK” . My grandfather taught me so much and was so strong. My father was a soldier in the Army and went to Vietnam. He did not return the same as he went. There was my grandfather. He stepped in and picked up everything. OK gave me his remedy for seizures, aloe water boiled fresh every day. He took care of all of my siblings. He taught us how to shoot, clean, we watched as he fixed cars, so many life lessons. To see him fight his fight made me admire and love him even more. Not a day passes that I don’t miss him. After my grandfather, I have had to go through great aunts, cousins, great uncles, an uncle, great grandmother, all on my grandfather’s side to pass after their fight. I have great memories since we have always been a close family. My grandfather had 14 siblings and there are only one living sibling. All except for one had cancer. I don’t like cancer at all because they died so young but who does. I am happy to have the memories of my family. We value each other. We also get together very often because we know that tomorrow is not promised.
I think of my family members that have passed as my Angels. They fought a great fight but wasn’t able to stay. My favorite warrior was my grandfather, Oklahoma known as “OK” . My grandfather...
Zuri Bracy's Cancer Story
Tribute to Rose
Tribute to my mother, Rose, standing strong as a fearless woman with style and grace. Each hurdle that you overcome is a badge of honor. You are blessed each day that you live to see another day.
My mother just recently lost her battle with cancer, but she would not want anyone to reflect upon her memory with pity. She was a warrior”¦ tried and true. She survived breast cancer and was in the middle of the battle with the deadly, and unforgiving ovarian cancer however, those diseases are not what defined her as a strong woman. Despite her afflictions, she was a proud single mother of four, a grandmother and recently a great grandmother that continued to persevere as she pursued her educational goals. Not many can say that they pushed through chemo and finals in the pursuit of their undergraduate degree from Texas A&M. No one would’ve blamed her for giving up but that is not apart of our genetic makeup. She made numerous sacrifices for her family and served as a source of motivation to the children within her church. She was, is and always will be a phenomenal woman.
Tribute to Rose
Tribute to my mother, Rose, standing strong as a fearless woman with style and grace. Each hurdle that you overcome is a badge of honor. You are blessed each day that you live to see...
Chris Jacob's Cancer Story
I was just a everyday Guy until one Day My life was changed.I was on My normal route to work one morning when I was involvedÂ in a Car accidentÂ I totaled out my truck but other then that I felt fine but I went and got Myself checked out just for Precaution.
I went and sat at the emergency room for a few hours they ran test on me to check to see if anything was broken or internally wrong such a bleeding the Doctor''s found nothing at the moment just before they wasÂ about to release me another Doctor steps in the room and says I would like to check you one more time. So as I sat there the Doctor feels of My stomachs and touched one spot that made pain shoot through my stomach almost like a hot knife being drove in me.
So he sent me to have a cat scan done and well that''s when I found out that I had a cancerous Mass in My colon.After that and a bunch of other test I had to go through was like living in my own Hell 28 yrs old with colon cancer not only that but I was a smoker as well so that was also a hard habit to quit after 15 years of smoking.Any who they always say when it rains it pours but God will not Put Nothing on anyone that you can''t handleÂ so later I found out I also had nodules on my lungs and esophagus that was Benign thankÂ God for that!
Throughout the Process I at first was depressed Angry Confused because ultimately I was scared there was so many nights I asked MyselfÂ why me I''m so young I cried I lashed out at people becauseÂ I felt alone I at the time had no insurance but I had applied for Medicaid for help the family support from my mother brother and sister was a huge help Mentally .So thanks to a Dr. That stood in my corner and guided me to get the help I needed until Medicaid kicked was a huge help and will never forget that as well.So I one night had this break down and I Prayed to God for a healing and to calm the waters around me and I felt toward the end of the prayer heavy eyes and sleepy I woke up the next morning feeling positive knowing Things was gonna be fine I started thinking PositiveÂ about it this was not a sickness to kill me it was a sickness to heal me to slow me down and have me look at my life cancer For me was a blessing in Descise I knew it was part of God''s Plan for me I started fighting and would not let this beat me I later went on to have a colon resection which did not require any chemo or RadiationÂ because My surgeon removed all of the cancer AND that''s My story ChrisÂ JacobsÂ to whoever may be reading this and going through cancer be strong keep fighting Never stop believing!
I was just a everyday Guy until one Day My life was changed.I was on My normal route to work one morning when I was involvedÂ in a Car accidentÂ I totaled out my truck but other then that I...
Daphne Evan's Cancer Story
I'll always remember that pain in my back and intestines, a gravitational pull so severe, it knocked me to the ground. The year was 1998. Ten months earlier, my gynecologist had given me a clean bill of health. So you can imagine my shock when, after an MRI, my doctor told me, "You have stage 3 ovarian cancer."
Ovarian cancer—which doesn't run in my family—had spread to my large intestines; that's why I'd felt like I had a horrible case of hemorrhoids. I'd have to have surgery to remove not only the metastasized cancer, but also my uterus and ovaries. At the time, I was 35, married and longing to have a child. The idea of losing a major part of my womanhood brought me to tears.
Two weeks after the surgery as I was preparing to undergo radiation, menopause hit—that's what sometimes happens when you have a hysterectomy. Suddenly, I was dealing with mood swings and hot flashes. I couldn't try hormone replacement therapy because doctors said the estrogen would've made my body more vulnerable to cancer. So I incorporated baked yams, a natural remedy into my diet. As I worked to get my physical symptoms under control, my home life fell apart. The cancer and recovery put a great strain on my relationship with my husband, and in 2000, after five years of marriage, we divorced.
I needed to start over. I resigned from my job as a legal administrator and moved from St. Petersburg, Fla., to San Francisco, where I took a position as an operations manager and settled into my new life. Then in 2005, I decided to have a breast reduction. When I went in to see the doctor before the procedure, I got some news that knocked me for another loop: There was a mass on my left breast. The ovarian cancer had predisposed me to other forms of the disease. Instead of a reduction, I had a mastectomy.
Angry and depressed, I asked God, "Why is this happening to me?" As I dealt with the disappointment, I started thinking about how I could feel better—even beautiful again. So I went to a spa, had my body massaged and got in the whirlpool, which was so soothing that I returned every day for a week. I felt nurtured, which lifted me out of my funk.
That's when I made a choice: I wasn't going to let cancer define me or allow it to rob me of feeling beautiful and creating joyous experiences. I began to dress more stylishly. I got my hair and nails done. For years, I'd been doing so much for others that I had neglected my own needs. I finally learned to put myself at the top of my priority list. I even coined a word for my new perspective: divatude.
After the mastectomy, I wanted others to experience the pampering I received at the spa. That's why I began Heaven's Door Cancer Foundation (heavensdooropen.com), a charity that provides female cancer survivors with free spa services. My message to those who participate is simple: Yes, you have cancer, your head is bald from the chemo and you feel sick a lot of the time. But when you're what I call a Cancer Diva, you don't have to take any of it lying down. There's still so much to celebrate—starting with the fact that you're here.
My battle with this disease continues: In 2009, I was diagnosed with a third form of cancer: spinal. Right now, I thank God that all of my cancers are in remission. Though I still have my challenging days, I'm learning to be less focused on my hardships and more grateful for my blessings—all while standing tall in my stilettos.
I'll always remember that pain in my back and intestines, a gravitational pull so severe, it knocked me to the ground. The year was 1998. Ten months earlier, my gynecologist had given me a clean bill...