Editor’s note: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Chicago Sun-Times invited breast cancer survivors to share their stories. We’ll share these first-person accounts throughout the month.
I’ve been having abnormal mammograms since 2005, so doctors have always kept an eye on me. In June 2012, I had my yearly MRI mammogram.
Usually, I get my results in three days max. All of a sudden, two weeks went by without hearing any news. Then I received a call and they told me they wanted me to come in for a bilateral biopsy on my right breast. I was nervous, but also not trying to think about it. I got the news that said I had a stage 2 tumor which was a modified large lumpectomy.
I went back to work and tried to push through, but I just started bawling at my desk the next two hours. I just couldn’t hold it together. I tried hard, and even when I thought I was going to be fine, I just started crying all over again and had to head home.
My sister came from Mississippi and my daughter was there to help me through everything. They helped me pray and keep my faith strong. With everyone helping me keep my spirits up, I could even joke with the doctor when he told me I would need to have my right breast taken out. I told him he could have the left, too, if he wanted. I was trying to do anything to keep my mind off of the surgery, and sometimes comedy truly is the best medicine.
In my hospital room, I had 25 people in there. You would have thought I was having a party, but you need all the support. After surgery, I had 35 radiation treatments. I have no problem talking with strangers at treatment or anywhere and telling them my story and telling them to get regular mammograms. For me, I was asymptomatic. I had no breast pain at all. Things could have been so much worse because they found the tumor far back in the breast tissue. So many others go undiagnosed.
When I think about it, I’m so glad I work in health care at Advocate Trinity Hospital because when you work in health care, it makes you think about your health. I want to be an instrument to help others who go down this journey and let them know there is hope. If I can just give hope to someone who feels disillusioned or depressed then I feel good.
Brenda Williams-James, 60, Country Club Hills