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Cancer and My Journey to Advocacy

I have been advocating for cancer since 1997, because my mother was diagnosed in 1996 with lung cancer. I had no idea this journey would lead me to this place where I am now. Serving as an advocate for several national organizations as a voice for the underserved. As my journey began, this question continued to resonate in my mind. “How do we deal with the fact that your mom is sick with a disease that actually blindsided us?”

We never had a conversation about it. It was nowhere in our frame of reference. It just came weighing us down, hovering over our lives like a vulture. Watching her loss of weight, hair loss, and constantly being sick. All was overwhelming to us. My sister and I were at a loss.

I only knew cancer equaled death.

We searched for answers but found none at the time to address our needs. We started a non-profit organization, Cancer Awareness Network for Children. The word “children” was used because my mother’s children were devastated, dealing with this unknown giant: CANCER. Our main goal was to eliminate the fears associated with a cancer diagnosis for others. You see, we believed that no one should have to go through this alone. My cousin had just died the month before my mother with Adrenaline Carcinoma. So, within 30 days we had seen firsthand what cancer will do to you.

We hosted four workshops a year. These free luncheons enabled cancer survivors to share their story, as we honored them with gifts of love. Dr. Sharon Spencer a radiation oncologist at UAB was on board from day one, when she saw the work we were doing.

Little did I know that in September 2010 I would be diagnosed with breast cancer! It is one thing to tell others, “You can make it through,” and when the arrow points back to you, and your own words come streaming back to you, it becomes a different animal. Taking your own medicine, so to speak. After getting over the shock of those dreaded three words, “You got cancer.” I was diagnosed with Morphos Calcification, Stage 0, ductal carcinoma.

I had to constantly rely on my faith, praying, reading scripture, and meditating three to five times a day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner and even sometimes in between, I prayed fervently. I only knew cancer equaled death. My mother and cousin had both died less than 30 days apart, within 2 years of their diagnoses. But because I focused on my body, my faith, and my God, I came to the reality that to live is because of Christ, and to die is a gain because I would be with Christ. So, I was in a win-win situation. Either way it went I knew in the deepest part of my being I would be okay.

I had a lumpectomy and two weeks later my doctors told me I was good to go. I was offered chemo and radiation, but I opted out. No chemo and no radiation! My family was incredibly supportive and they trusted my decision. Five years later the scientific community came up with the conclusion that people with my type of cancer do not need radiation nor chemo.

I had no idea this journey would have me advocating and traveling all over the United States being a voice for the underserved in my local community. I have met the giants and the ants in the cancer community; the one thing they all have in common is a drive and hope that we can survive this. The determination to survive and the resilience is evident in the lives of so many cancer patients who refuse to give up or be conquered by the disease. This gives me hope to do more, to go further, and to stand strong with my brothers and sisters who fight to live on their cancer journey. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a voice for those less equipped to speak out, for the underserved who often get ignored or left behind. Yes, I am so fortunate that my tenacity is being heard loud and clear for many individuals, as we together march on toward the victory of no more cancer.

For over 24 years Cancer Awareness Network in Birmingham, AL has touched the lives of over 250 people each year with free quarterly workshops/luncheons.

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