Felicia Diagnosed at 27

"Remember: If it didn't rain, nothing would ever grow."

My Childhood:

I’m a native of GA.  I had somewhat of a surreal childhood the first ten years of my life.  My mother was the epitome of what a mother should be.  We were inseparable.  She exposed me to so many things.  It wasn’t a Saturday that went by that we weren’t doing something.  We were always going to museums, the festival of trees, Broadway plays, five star restaurants, and so many vacations.  I don’t know if she subconsciously knew that she wouldn’t see me grow up; but she made sure that I had some sense of cultural.  

Sadly my mother died when I was ten and my world came to an end.  She was my everything.  I never would have imagined how losing one person could change your life forever.  I strive to be just like her.  Even through her fight with breast cancer, she never showed any fear.  I attended her chemo and radiation appointments, and while we were there she was always encouraging the other patients and willing to lend a helping hand.  Even on her bed of affliction, she was more concerned for others than herself.  As a child I often mimicked her while playing with my baby dolls.  

She inspired me to want to be a mother and take care of people.  Even as a small child I knew that what you do for others is more important than what they can do for you.

Breast Cancer Experience:

I come from a long family history of breast cancer. From this disease I lost my mother, three maternal aunts, and one maternal cousin who was my very best friend at age 25.  The death that stood out the most was my cousin.  She was young, vibrant, and pretty.  She was me.  We were the same age.  We enjoyed the same places, people, and hobbies.  We were practically joined at the hip.  If you saw one you would see the other.  

I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.  She had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy.   She called and said the doctor felt a large mass in one of her breasts.  They told her she needed a biopsy to make sure it wasn’t anything serious.  I remember telling her; “It’s not cancer, it couldn’t be.  Your mom had cancer.  Karma couldn’t be that bad.”

Well sure enough, it was breast cancer.  Stage four.  I remember picking her up from the hospital.  She got in the car very upset.  I asked her what was wrong.  She looked at me and said, “The doctor told me that it is a strong possibility I wouldn’t see my son grow up, and I needed to get my stuff in order.”   My heart was in my throat.  I couldn’t imagine being twenty-four and facing death.  

I can vividly see the day she died like it was yesterday.  I sat next to her hospital bed.  At this time she could no longer speak.  Every time I walked close to her, she would shake her legs and moan as if she was trying to tell me something.  The look of fear and desperation on her face stills haunts me to this day.  Who knew that two years later I would be facing the same thing?  

On October 18, 2007 my life changed forever, when the doctor said “You have cancer.” It was at that moment I was determined that I would survive, even though cancer had only been a death sentence for my family.  I believe that my family was cursed, but the curse stopped with me. I took a step back and thought one more thing to survive.  My mother’s death, two rapes, and a home invasion didn’t kill me, then clearly I wasn’t about to let breast cancer break my spirit.  

Instead of taking the attitude of “why me?”  I took on the attitude of “why not me?”  I thought, what better person could God use to beat this disease, show people that cancer isn’t always a death sentence, and work  to find a cure for it?  It is for this reason why I’m so passionate about aiding any cause to fight breast cancer.  I truly believe in the American Cancer Society’s slogan, “Creating a World with more Birthdays”. It is because of this belief and their help with advancement in cancer research that I’m alive today.

Being a survivor lets me know that hope is alive!  I have to say that my experience with breast cancer didn’t go the way I expected.  I assumed that my family would step in and take care of me.  Clearly after losing so many people to this disease, you would think they would have been very sympathetic.  For the most part they were very absent.  However my father, sister and boyfriend, and friends were very supportive.  But there were times when I was alone.  I remember after taking chemo and my blood count was low.  I had to be admitted into the hospital and receive a blood transfusion.  I was all alone and scared.  

I was always told that I was destined for great things, and God was going to use me in a mighty way.  I thought maybe God is trying to show me that at the end of the day, all I have is him.  And whatever he had in store for me, he was just getting me ready for it.  As I laid there in the hospital bed I remembered that when all else forsake me then the Lord will take me up.  From that they day forth, I made a promise that I didn’t want any other breast cancer patients to feel that they were alone in this battle.  I vowed that I would make difference and do whatever I could to make their journey less painful.   Just call me Ms. Breast Cancer.  

My niece Makalah often says “auntie you love breast cancer.”    I really am passionate in the fight against this disease.  I’m a team captain for Relay for Life and Making Strides against Breast Cancer, a peer mentor for cancer patients at Emory, a State Leader for the Young Survival Collation, and a patient navigator for Grady.  

I’m proud to say, I broke the curse.  I’m the first survivor in my family in 20 years.  My only advice is to live every day as if it was your last.  I try not to do anything that I don’t want to or that doesn’t bring me joy, and surround myself with positive people.  My faith and believing in Jesus is the only way I got through this. Even if you don’t believe in what I believe, Believe in something; if only yourself.  

Remember:  “If it didn’t rain, nothing would ever grow.”

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