She walked over the register and in a quite small voice, she asked if the hat she was holding was gray or black. In my smiling customer service voice, I said it’s gray, and the other one in your hand is brown. She said to me I have to wear these because I’m losing my hair. As she moved her hat back off her head I saw that her head sparingly had strands of hair, I began to cry. She said to me she had been diagnosed with #Breastcancer and was going for her last Chemotherapy (Chemo) treatment in the next few days.
She began to cry as she told me how she gets so tired sometimes, and I began to cry. I wiped the tears from my eyes in case another customer showed up. She went on to tell me how strangers would try to help her in the grocery store because they could see how tired she was, I began to cry and as I told her, let them help you – it’s okay, she began to cry. I walked around to the other side of the register and hugged her, and she cried, and I cried. I walked back around to the register in case a customer showed up.
I told her about my mom who is a #BreastCancer survivor and I said to her, my mom made it and she would too. I told her I believed that no matter what painful situations we find ourselves in they are all designed to help someone along the way. She told me how she had to leave her corporate job because they would not tolerate her going in and out of the hospital for Chemo and deal with the recovery period necessary for some patients after Chemo. I shook my head in anger.
I didn’t want to rush her tears, so I was silent for a moment and let her get through – as I too needed a moment to get through my emotions. Gently she asked me, do you think my daughter will like this (a yellow jumpsuit)? I said well, you know my mother used to tell me don’t through away your clothes away because they’ll come back. Who listens to their mother at 16? I said sure she would; I shared a story with her about my daughter. I told her I would buy things for her and most of the time she didn’t like them either. She might not tell me she didn’t like the item, but I would figure it out because she was using or wearing the it.
She shared a story of how she and her mother took her daughter shopping, and they got two chairs and let her daughter go and pick out her clothes. Then what she said next nearly through me on the floor. She said, you know I call my daughter “Little Bird”! Oh my goodness, the floodgates opened like a levy had broken, you see my father who passed away a little over a year ago, used to refer to my daughter as a bird. I remember when we talked on the phone he would ask me, “Where is that lil bird at?”
I’m not crying now I’m smiling at the memory. You see she was not there just to tell her #BreastCancer story she was there to provide healing to a stranger. We must have talked and cried for about an hour and not one customer or manager interrupted us that day at Macy’s Northlake in Charlotte, NC. God will always make a way!
What is Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body.
Chemotherapy is most often used to treat cancer since cancer cells grow and multiply much more quickly than most cells in the body.
For many women with breast cancer, treatment may remove or destroy cancer. The end of treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You’ll be relieved to finish treatment, yet it’s hard not to worry about cancer coming back. This is very common among people who have had cancer.
For other women, breast cancer may never go away completely. Some women may get regular treatments with Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments to try to help keep cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that does not go away can be difficult and very stressful. Living with cancer is different from living after cancer. (Cancer.org)
Effects of Chemo
Routine blood count monitoring is a crucial part of chemotherapy. That’s because the drugs can harm cells in the bone marrow, where blood is produced. This can result in several problems. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues. Anemia occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, making you feel extremely fatigued. Other symptoms of anemia include:
Chemo can lower your white blood cell count, which results in neutropenia. White blood cells play an important role in the immune system: they help fight infection and ward off illness. Symptoms aren’t always obvious, but a low white blood cell count raises the risk of infection and illness. People with an immune system weakened by chemotherapy must take precautions to avoid exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other germs.
Cells called platelets help the blood clot. A low platelet count, called thrombocytopenia, means you’re likely to bruise and bleed easily. Symptoms include nosebleeds, blood in vomit or stools, and heavier-than-normal menstruation.
Some chemo drugs can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in cardiomyopathy, or disturb the heart rhythm, causing arrhythmia. This can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Some chemo drugs can increase the risk of heart attack. These problems are less likely to occur if your heart is strong and healthy at the start of chemotherapy.
Share your V-I-C-T-O-R-Y Story if you are a 2014, 15, 16 #AnyYear Cancer Survivor!!!
“But he answered and said, Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. ” (Matthew 15:13)
“And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” (Exodus 23:25)
Years ago I worked with a woman named Evelyn in New Haven, CT. If you had an opportunity to meet Evelyn you would be shocked to know she was living with Cancer. She was always smiling, never had a harsh word to say about anyone. Sometimes you just never know what someone is going through until you have a conversation with the person. Jennifer is much like my friend Evelyn, she choose to not to disclose her story outside of her family and friends. During our conversation I found her spirit to be calm and she was a patient listener. She openly shared with me some of her experiences and I learned a lot about “The Loss of Hair”. Should you get to meet or talk with Jennifer you too will be pleasantly surprised. Frankly during my short stay with Fusco Management, I was so caught up in my own “beginnings” and my father’s heart attack, that I had not stopped to wonder why Evelyn had so many absences from work. Subsequently, I’ve learned that it may not be in one’s best interest to share life’s negative moments to world immediately – the world has a way of taking our dark moments and twisting them until we can’t breath. Jennifer’s story is one strength, courage and it shows what a true support network is worth. Here’s Jennifer’s story…
My name is Jennifer F. Johnson, born June 26 under the zodiac sign of “Cancer”, which represents strength and courage.
My journey with breast cancer started in March 2011. My life came to a screeching halt, and suddenly I was forced to prioritize my life to accommodate for major changes ahead. I felt betrayed by my body and powerless! All I wanted was the cancer out! Cancer is a life-changing occurrence. The emotional and psychological scarring is almost as bad as the physical scarring.
I chose to be private during my diagnosis – only talking to my immediate family, immediate supervisor and a small circle of close friends who all were very supportive and prayerful. The most difficult part was telling my parents. I had more life to live with my family. After learning of my diagnosis, their concern quickly shifted and they became over-protective. I was the first in my family to experience breast cancer. Before treatment began, I found myself questioning “why me?” and “what did I do to deserve this?” I felt like giving up, but I prayed the prayer of faith.
I started taking a daily chemotherapy medication pill regimen (Xeloda) just to function and continue working. I was told I needed four chemo treatments, radiation and two years of hormonal treatment. I wasn’t very receptive to those suggestions but I had to come to terms with the hand God dealt me.
The doctors said that most patients’ biggest concern is hair loss. Mine was my quality of life. I wanted to continue to be as active as I always was. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to take care of me and I wanted to continue to live life as I always had.
The doctors were very optimistic that I’d be able to do all of what I was used to doing. Unfortunately, they were wrong! I experienced vomiting, nausea, fatigue, headaches, achiness and other possible side effects associated with chemo and radiation. Fourteen days after my first treatment, I began to lose my hair. Tears began to run down my face and reality then set in. It was incredibly dramatic and heartbreaking watching as my hair fell out every time I combed it. I had thick shoulder-length hair prior to starting chemo. and by the time chemo was complete, I was practically bald. Thank goodness for wigs and weaves!
I finally had lumpectomy surgery on both my left and right breast and had nodes removed. This journey with the diagnosis of cancer has truly been a testament to my faith in God. Today, I live to say that I trust Him even more now than I did before and I know He is a healer. He healed my body. It is a life altering process to be diagnosed, but God has promised me life and I believe Him.
Since my illness, I accept every opportunity to learn whatever I can about breast cancer – the causes, possible prevention, and how to help others going through this illness as I did. I have learned that it is very important to talk to your family and friends for support and not shut down. No one should go through this illness alone. I was determined to stay positive and live my life while battling cancer.
I remain determined to stay positive and live every day of my life to the fullest. I am grateful for the lessons that cancer has taught me.
“For all things I have strength by virtue of Him who imparts power in me:” Philippians 4:13.
Discipline is one of the basic dynamics in life needed to acquire and accomplish a better quality of life. Discipline coupled with three other dynamic elements were the keys that got me through my bout with this disease.
Number 1 was my faith in God who was the chief medical physician over an assorted team of doctors and surgeons. Number 2 was the discipline and willingness that was exemplified by my family, friends and coworkers, which reinforced Number 3, my strength and desire to continue to fight a good fight and never give up. That fight will forever burn in my spirit. These are the basic dynamics that served as my guide through the bout with cancer. I am a Survivor. I will never give up!
In 2013 according to the CDC, white women had the highest rate of getting breast cancer, followed by black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI), and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women.
One may never know the impact we have on each other as we navigate the road of this thing called life. When Rachael came on the Bus she smiled at me, she smiled as if we had been friends in another time and place. We met as employees of Yale University School of Medicine. She asked me out to lunch with her one day; we went to a Mexican restaurant across the street. One thing I had not acquired at that point in my life was the ability to engage with other women without an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. I didn’t think I had the right background, I didn’t think I was smart enough, I knew nothing about how to make an impact in my place of employment, hell I didn’t even know the rules and regulations of engaging with women outside of my 4 hour telephone conversations with my then “road dog – Vera” talking about other women, their men, our men, and thoughts on the latest TV show or perhaps local community events and of course the proverbial topic most of us have, “what WOULD Jesus do if He were here today”. I was at a total loss when it came to ordering food at place I had not been before, I had no clue what to order from a restaurant that I had never frequented or from a type of cuisine I had no desire to try. Rachael and her kind mannerisms made it comfortable for me, we ordered and we talked and for the first time I knew what it was like to “meet for lunch” with a female colleague. When she reads this it may be the first time since 2004 that she will become aware of my fears – unless she knew that day…
The artist’s song lyrics goes a little like this:
Little girl with the press and curl
Age eight, I got a Jheri curl
Thirteen, and I got a relaxer
I was a source of so much laughter
At fifteen when it all broke off
Eighteen and went all natural
I went on and did what I had to do
Because it was time to change my life
To become the woman that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlocks all gone
I looked in the mirror for the first time and saw that
I too have delved in hundred of styles, colors, cuts and additions like the artists states in her lyrics above. I’ve made some changes to my hair because it was the latest style, or I thought it look great on someone else and of course I have changed my hair for “him” whoever he was at the time… but one thing I have never had the privileged to do was to have my hair changed without my permission only to find out that there is a “me” under that style. That “me” has nothing to do with my hair…
Rachel exudes this belief and the first time I saw her without her hair pictured in the photo below I was so moved by an array of emotions – sad, angry, confused, but most of I was educated on the #Truth about my hair and the strength of one African American woman’s courage to say to you and me – “…losing my hair was a gift…”
“I Am Not My Hair I am a 6 month triple negative breast cancer survivor and chemotherapy took my hair! Most people think when a diagnosis includes the word negative it’s all good. Chemotherapy took my hair! Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of breast cancer in which there is no targeted treatment. Chemotherapy took my hair! By choice I’ve always enjoyed trying different hairstyles, cuts, color, wigs, and weaves. But I didn’t have a choice, Chemotherapy took my hair! Losing my hair was a gift. I’ve never felt more beautiful and confident than I do today. When I rock my bald head, my smile is brighter, my head is held higher. I am a God fearing, beautiful, confident, and smart black woman. I AM NOT MY HAIR”
A truly phenomenal woman – This woman has traveled on the Bus with me since my birth. There were times when she had to get off the Bus and let me ride by myself; there were times when she had to sit in the back and watch from a distance; there were times when I kicked her off the Bus and begged her to get back on. Some days I hated that she was a catalyst for me and my Bus so much so that I wanted to leave the Bus for ever and there were days when I got off and tried real hard to never return.
Today I’m grateful for my catalyst, the Bus and let’s be honest there were days when I was on the back of the Bus and I had to watch her navigate so that I could draw upon her strength to remain on the Bus. This catalyst is my mom – during her Breast Cancer days – I had walked off the Bus and got lost. I’m here today to tell you I found the “right” location I got back on the Bus and we will ride this out together for the rest of our loves.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
A mother, the guiding force in a little girls life, the strength when she’s tired, a feeder when she’s hungry. A mother the wondrous powerful human being, who can hold, manage, and create another human being is a task only a woman has been designated to perform. That woman my mother, who’s looks and facial features can stop the tears of an infant – mid stream, make a toddler behave in church, put fear in her husband’s heart, and make a student learn their ABCs, 123s, home address and phone number in a song she makes up off the fly, can’t control the “ugly” in cancer.
Love you mom, you are a Phenomenal Woman.
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