In August 1995 I saw a public service announcement about early detection of breast cancer. Although I was only in my 30s, for some reason I felt like it was speaking directly to me. I asked my primary care physician to schedule a mammogram for me but he thought I was too young. I pushed and pulled and eventually he complied and I was able to get the mammogram.
You know something is wrong when they tell you not to get dressed again after your mammogram because they want to take another picture. And then after that the doctor wanted to see me. When you hear the word “biopsy,” all of a sudden your world falls down around you, like you are in The Twilight Zone.
Who could I talk to? Where could I go? Of course the first person I talked to was my Mom, but she had never had cancer. One of my peers at work suggested that I call the YWCA Encore Plus program. Yvonne Durham at Encore became my mentor throughout my treatment process which included a mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and reconstructive surgery.
Later Yvonne told me about the PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit and I submitted my photo and quote. Since then I’ve been one of the Allegheny County participants in the exhibit. The baby I’m holding in the exhibit picture is my godson and he is now in college!
In addition to Encore Plus, I also belong to the African-American Self-Help Support Group. I look at survivors as being the keepers of hope. If we survivors tell other women about our experiences, it might make them feel a little more comfortable. And they’ll know that they can make it, too.