How my story begins: My life before cancer was rich and full of life - with having a full-time job managing a breakfast restaurant. All of my children were grown and on their own. It was just me and God - being a Christian woman. I had a full life of working and serving in the church - and I just felt at the time that my life was full and rich.
Now, from the time that I had had my baby daughter, I always had abnormal Pap tests. But after many tests - always the same - I just continued to check on my Pap tests on a regular basis. Anyway, I went to a wedding and my period came on. It stayed on for about two months - and then when it was time for my regular Pap test, I told the doctor that I had a period for the past two months. She was concerned about it and told me that I should have came in sooner, being that I had always had abnormal Pap tests. The sad part about it is that I have had abnormal Pap tests for like twenty (20) years, so I never knew nor thought about it becoming cancer - and that is what happened.
How I felt after diagnosis: Death - first of all - in being told that I had cancer. I did not feel that I would live to tell my story. I did not have any type of health insurance and never in a million years did I ever think that I would be told that I had cancer.
Telling my family and friends: I did not and still do not have friends. I have family - church family and customers. That is how my life is and was. Being that I was brought up and raised in a family of ten (10) - a very close knit family - our mother did not think that we needed outside friends. Being that we were also light skin and had hazel eyes - and in the black community we were outcast being that darker skin families felt that we felt that we were better than them. So we were brought up and raised to not have friends - and I still do not have friends.
My treatment: They decided that they wanted to do "intense chemo and internal and external radiation" - I had cisplatin for chemo - six (6) Mondays - and External Radiation - (10) weeks daily and Internal (6) times.
How I felt after treatment: After treatment was just as bad as during treatment. It is a life struggle to be able to get well. Cancer treatment takes a toll on your body, mind, soul, spirit and your life. And once I finished the treatment, I was waiting to feel better and to be able to do the things and have the quality of life the way it was before my treatment.
What was most difficult for me: The most difficult thing for me is that my life will never be the same. And in this life that we live in, life is for the living - and it does not seem like I have my life the way it used to be. In this life that we live, we have dreams - hopes of doing things - and with having had cancer and treatment, there is no getting my life back the way it used to be. I now have a lot of long term side effects from the cancer treatment and just having cancer. A lot of times, I feel like I have a sign stuck to my head - and that if you see someone with that sign, you will go around them instead of having to deal with them.
My long term side effects are chemo brain fog, daily bowel issues - which is really sad and crazy. My teeth have had to be replaced being that the chemo broke the bones down in my gums. So now I live with a top and bottom partial plate - that even today - go to talk and the plate falls down. I am so tired all of the time. The fatigue is part of my life. I do not feel good mentally being that each and every ache and pain - I think that my cancer is back - my hip bones ache so bad - and I have pins and needles in my feet and a dead arm a lot - the sad part about this life is that when you call the doctor - they tell you that you will be ok - just give it some time - and then you are told you have to learn to not only live with it, but to accept it as the norm and part of life.
What I did to help myself: I help others that are starting on this journey. I belong to a couple of support groups and I try to help the women by giving them life lessons - to start today to eat good, to build your immune system up by eating fruits and vegetables, to take multivitamins and start drinking plenty of water to keep your system flushed, to get out there and do some type of exercises to help you get your body fit and to swallow the mustard seed - the smallest of seed - and ask God to forgive you of your sins - and to save you and to help you during this cancer journey - being that it is a long uphill road - and you will need all the help and love and support that you can get.
My life after cancer: Daily a struggle to know that life goes on - to daily seek God's face - and live my life to the fullest that I am able to.
Where I am today: Today I am still trying to learn to live with the life that God has given me - to continue to take care of myself the best that I can - to eat a healthy and full meal - to drink plenty of water - take my vitamins - irons - medications and other supplements and to continue to live the life of being holy and separate in this present world - so that my life of light will shine and other ladies will see and know that if God did it for me - and he can and will do it for them.
What I want other women to know: Any type of cancer and/or illness is not easy to deal with or get well. But - with God as the head of your life - you can and will do anything. If he did it for me, he can and will do it for you.
How I will try to help others: I help all the ladies that I can for the last couple of years during the month of January - I always have a Cervical Cancer Awareness Day with all types of speakers. I am on the computer daily, being that I keep a log of all of the new ladies and I try to help, encourage and pray for them as they are going through their cancer treatment. I have a log book and as soon as they are diagnosed, I send them information to help them with the questions to ask their doctor. Then I send them information for chemo and radiation - internal/external - and side effects - I also mail out some patient resources - Women's Cancer magazine - and I give them all of the help and motivation that I can give them (being that daily life with cancer is not easy). And a lot of these ladies - they are now single and divorced- a lot of men are not men being that they do not want to help take care of a person - and they are weak and the women are left holding the bag and the children.
I also am a volunteer with the American Cancer Society - Look Good Feel Better program - where ladies come and get renewed and refreshed and leave with a new complete make up kit.