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My Cancer Journey (Part 2)

"What did I loose in the whole process? Nothing really, except for a big chunk of my left breast."

My sister, Deanie took me to the second surgery in September 2007 and it was more of the same. The Surgeon was very nice as was the hospital staff. I was used to the routine and I felt confident that everything would be fine after this second surgery. I had the same post-op routine.

All I had to do was wait.

After two weeks I believe, I had follow-up tests and again I was told that not all the cancer had been taken out. A third surgery was scheduled for November. My daughter, Arlene took me to the third surgery. What I will always remember is that this time the surgeon walked me all the way to the theater. Quite a long walk, which one of the nurses offered to do but the doctor said no. What a guy!

As he wheeled me along that long walk, we talked about everything that was totally irrelevant to the surgery; things that I liked doing; what he liked; his family; mine; current news; anything that came to his mind. What a walk that was! It definitely put me at ease and the surgery seem like the furthermost thing on my mind.

I had the surgery and the doctor again said that everything had gone well. My daughter is usually a happy-go-lucky person and she followed in the doctor’s footsteps. She talked about everything with me on our way home and she made me laugh a lot. We stopped for Chinese food at a restaurant on Riggs Road in Maryland. I followed the same post-op routines and I went to work as usual in the succeeding weeks. I looked forward to the follow up visit with my doctor. I was really prepared for any news whatsoever, good or bad. Finally, the day came, I saw the doctor and he told me that he seemed to have got everything out. Free at last, I thought.

"What did I loose in the whole process? Nothing really, except for a big chunk of my left breast."

I had not lost any sleep over the issue and I had not allowed myself to dwell on it for one minute. The doctor told me that I would need to do Radiology but not Chemotherapy. He suggested that to be on the safe side I should see an Oncologist to make sure everything was ok. He further advised me to enjoy Christmas and then schedule Radiology in the New Year. I had every intention of doing that. I saw the Oncologist as advised and he said that the prognosis looked good for a complete cure. He confirmed that there was no need for Chemotherapy. He suggested that I could take Hormone tablets if needed. He gave me a prescription which I never filled out. To this day I have not taken any hormone tablets.

I scheduled Radiology for January 2008. Sometimes I went once a week, sometimes twice. I had to exercise a lot and was given a 12 oz bottle to fill up with water and drink before every session. I was really worried when I started especially when I realized what Radiology entailed. Any remaining Cancer was literally being burnt out of the affected Breast. When the sessions started, the heat on the breast did not seem so bad but as the sessions progressed the heat was intensified. Sometimes I was very scared especially seeing how the heated area became very dark and swollen. A Cream was prescribed which I applied to the affected area. Every time I was assured that it was a normal reaction and that things were proceeding quite well. Everything healed up quite well and the sessions lasted for eight weeks. Following that, I had six-month mammograms for two or three years and it was determined that the Cancer seemed completely cured. After those initial years, I started having Mammograms on a yearly basis and to date everything has turned out fine.

In 2008 my Sister, Deanie went on the Susan G. Komen Cancer Walk on my behalf. In 2009 I started the first of five walks with Komen. From 2010-2013 my daughter Arlene, my son Brian, Deanie and my sister-in-law Sonia went on the Walk with me. We had a blast each time since we not only walked on my behalf but on behalf of others, friends and family who were survivors or victims of Cancer. We looked forward to that Walk every year.

What an experience!!! My kids told me that they were devastated when I gave them the news in 2007 and that they were “freaking out” according to my daughter. She added that the way I dealt with it helped her and her brother to cope. They both told me that not allowing it to get me down helped them tremendously since naturally they thought they were going to lose me. I thank the Lord every day for taking me through and out of it. I drew a blank and totally did not talk about it or think seriously about it when I was actually dealing with it. I told my children from the onset that I would handle it and that everything would be alright.

I never discussed it further with them except when they asked me questions about the treatment. Was that the right approach? I don’t think so. The name of the non-profit organization “Hematology and Cancer Untold” is quite apt since it depicts quite accurately my attitude and that of so many of us when dealing with Cancer. It is certainly an “untold” disease. People don’t usually discuss it, but in hindsight I feel that we should. Of course, I talked to one or two people in Church about it after the fact, but the majority did not know about it until 2014 when my family had a surprise birthday party for me. My son, Brian talked about how devastated he was to hear about my illness in 2007. Since that time also I have advised a lot of people about how to deal with it. I know that the most important thing is to be brave and strong and not be overwhelmed by the diagnosis. Also, the Cancer surgeries prepared me for the others I have had; Knee replacement, Thyroid and Back surgery.

Finally, I think about “cool chick” Enitan Metzger so many times and I never cease to be amazed by her strength, courage and tenacity. She had been suffering all her life from Sickle Cell and yet she did not complain. She took it all in her stride every day of her life. What has always been foremost in my mind was what she said to me one particular day when we were teaching at the Annie Walsh Memorial School. “Ar see den foot yar day art me tiday. Ar nor bisin sef, den day do den yone, me day do mi yone.” In other words: “My legs hurt today, but I am not going to pay them any mind. They are doing their thing and I am doing mine.” That is the attitude I used to determine my altitude in dealing with Cancer and any other adversity for that matter. I’m sure all Cancer survivors have their specific and personal reactions to it.

Whatever, it is, I advise you not to let Cancer own you and bog you down with undue concern and worry. You must own it, control it, handle it and you will be the better for it. When I see or hear about people suffering from Cancer and fighting for their lives, I say, “You go guys, that’s the way to do it. However, I take my hat off to all non-survivors. They lost the battle, but they fought hard. May we hold them in our embrace forever and may their struggles continue to inspire us. As I look through the eyes of all the kids at St. Jude’s, Children's’ Hospital I say to them, “Go on, boys and girls, fight for your lives. Just do it!” I salute them for their strength, courage and bravery. I understand their pain and suffering since I have walked a mile in their shoes.

Dedicated to my Family, Dorothea Williams, my Cancer Surgeon, all the other doctors, nurses and hospital personnel at Sibley hospital, Community Radiology Associates, WRA, my “Cool Chicks” Selina Pratt, Rosaline Robison, Elizabeth Boyle, Enitan Metzger, and my beloved Mom, Matilda George whose extreme bravery and courage in the face of so much adversity will forever sustain me.

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