Healing Will Come…

There are a lot of things about Letisha Perry’s story that could have gone very wrong. She was thirty years old when she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. It would be another 10 years before any “routine” mammogram would be on her calendar – but, as it turns out she did not have 10 years.

She had a “weird” feeling in her right breast. Being proactive, she visited her primary care physician who disregarded the issue because, at age 30, it was unlikely to be anything serious. Letisha pressed. Thankfully.

A specialist confirmed that the feeling Letisha had experienced was more than weird, it was cancer. The year ahead would be consumed with rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, 30 rounds of radiation, and finally, reconstructive surgery.

Letisha does not dismiss the facts – the process was hard on her body and without the love and support of family and friends, she might not have persevered through the process. But for all of the science and the calculated weeks of medicines, therapies, and treatments, there was one factor that could not be quantified in Letisha’s equation – her faith.

Perhaps the scariest question any of us ever face is the “what if” question.

What if…Letisha had been satisfied with her primary care doctor’s dismissal?

What if…she herself had thought, “I am too young for this to be anything major”?

What if…she had not persisted.

But the scariest of “what if’s” became her greatest source of peace. She credited God’s grace with helping her reach a diagnosis. She believed that it was by divine intervention that she had been diagnosed and that complete healing was already at hand.

As it has a tendency to do, cancer heightens the senses. Things that Letisha had known to be true of herself before cancer were crystallized.

She had always been independent, now as family and friends tried to aid in her journey, she had to remind herself to heed the advice of her Pastor, “Let them love on you.”

Her faith had been strong, but now it was faith alone that gave her assurance. In the hardest times, she was at peace knowing that healing was to come.

Perhaps that is the assurance of research; each of us doing our part, hoping to find the answer, the solution. We know that each day, each advancement we are getting closer to a cure – the day that healing will come.

 

For more information on the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visit KayYow.com.

Being Their Peace…

As a society, our focal point is where it should be, on the person with cancer – but cancer is not a one person fight. It takes a community. As a community, we struggle to know how to help and what to say. We just know we need to do better. We want to do better.

Cryshaunda was 27-years old when the doctor told her she had pancreatic cancer. New mother to a 6-month old daughter, she immediately went into denial. After a few “second opinions,” reality set in and with reality came fear.

Fear that she would not make it.

Fear that she would not see her daughter grow up.

A month in, she became determined. Leveling with herself, she promised she would do all she could. All meant everything that she had done before cancer. She was a dancer, so she danced. She loved volunteer work, so she continued to look for ways to give, ways to serve.

It may have been hard to see at the time, but Cyshaunda was on her way to being cancer-free.

We often overlook the role of “our people”–our people that love us, support us, comfort us, and care for us in hard times. Our hard times can be their hardest times. The mental debate for our people can be agonizing.

They search for the right things to say or do, not sure what is best, or how to help. They are scared too, but censor their fear.

For Cryshaunda, her family had not come face to face with cancer before her diagnosis. There was no other experience to reference. They knew the facts. Pancreatic cancer. 27-years old. New mother.

They were devastated.

The fix for such emotions is not chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation. The fix is hope, peace, faith.  Cryshaunda’s advice to families who are facing cancer is, “Keep the faith. Look for God. Bet at peace and help your loved one be at peace.”

We are changing the narrative on cancer. Crysaunda is a pancreatic cancer survivor. Things are getting better. Research is making a difference.

Perhaps our support system, our people, is the bridge between a where we start when diagnosed and where science can take us – they help us see our path out, our path beyond cancer.

One day science will prevail and cancer will no longer have power in our lives. Until then, one survivors’ advice to those who want to help: Be their peace.

 

For more information on the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visit KayYow.com.

Still Waters…

It is not the first drop in the bucket that makes it overflow.

Life can work in a very similar way. The pieces may be manageable, but the totality is much more difficult.

Michelle Henderson was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2016. She had always been the strong one in her family.  She cried while telling her husband, in fact, she apologized to him. His side of the family had been ravaged by cancer. She knew what the words “I have cancer” would mean to him.

All of our lives are interconnected. The anxieties of generations, dripping along into a collecting pool. The death of her mother; four months later, the death of her brother; the long list of cancer occurrences on her husband’s side of the family, all adding up. Now Michelle.

Michelle went through the rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, and 12 weeks of radiation. There was anxiety—enough that she would have spells of lightheadedness, even passing out on a few occasions. Her doctors initially thought these were the result of low potassium, perhaps even low magnesium, when it was simply her body’s response to anxiety.

Through it all, Michelle continued to live. She went back to school to pursue, and receive, her degree as a pharmaceutical technician. She went to church. She read her Bible and prayed for a deepened faith, a peace that surpasses understanding.

Sometimes in our weakest moments, we find our greatest strength. Michelle worked hard to maintain a strong front. Her daughter only saw her cry once. Yet, if exploding emotions have no outlet, there will eventually be a physical manifestation – the fingerprints of anxiety.

Perhaps the lesson learned is to embrace vulnerability. There is strength in allowing yourself to be weak, to show fear, to need help.

Cancer attacks the physical, but the sneak attack is the effect cancer has mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Michelle found ways to combat the silent attack from cancer, the impact of anxiety. She began exercising daily, even if it only meant walking several laps in her home or a trip to the mailbox. She ate better—limiting her diet to chicken, fish, and vegetables. She even incorporated yoga and massage to help alleviate stress.

In all of the discussion around cancer – prevention, diagnostic techniques, treatments, surgeries, and clinical trials – there is very little discussion about the effect cancer can have on a person’s state of mind.

Michelle is now a part of a community that, for better or worse, grows everyday – the community of cancer survivors. As we work to advance medicine, awaiting the day when cancer and its arsenal of attacks are completely eliminated, it is important that we give women, like Michelle, a voice in helping others.

Michelle’s voice is calm now. The voice of someone who has been through a valley, a battle and is on the other side, victorious. It is her voice and the others like her’s that will help calm the anxieties of cancer.

 

For more information on the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visit Kayyow.com.