In 2009, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As far as battling life-threatening illnesses go, my mother got through her first round of breast cancer, relatively easily. But late last year, after telling her that they just saw fluid during her biopsy, my mother learned that her cancer had returned. Unlike her treatment seven years ago, the chemo was stronger, her immune system weaker and the entire process more mentally and physically draining. When I asked my mom what story she wanted to share for No Sugar No Cream, she said she wanted to discuss what she believes God is trying to get her to do and learn this time around.
What happened when they told you had breast cancer for the first time?
I just went in for my mammogram and they said they saw something. Well, you know that didn’t make any difference to me because I have fibroids in my breasts. So I said,’They just see the fibroids in there so they’re going to check that out.’ Well. they called me into the office and they said that I needed to have a biopsy. So then I had the biopsy. I think you were there for the biopsy.
Yes. I was. What were you thinking during the biopsy because I remember you got a little emotional.
I think I got emotional with the biopsy because of the sound of the instrument. You know that click sound. Do you remember that?
But even at that time I wasn’t even thinking that anything was going on. But when they called me and said to come into the doctor’s office and make sure I bring someone with me, that’s when i started to think that maybe it was more than what I really thought it was. This is when your dad and I went in together. And they said that it was cancer but it was a small amount and they needed to act on it right away. So then she left us in the room she said, ‘I’m going to give you guys some time to talk.’ And I broke down a little bit and asked your dad, ‘What are we going to do?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean what are we going to do? We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to pray about it and move on.’ And then after that, I never complained about it. I just prayed that there was no pain, please don’t let me have any pain. So I went through that, 7 years ago. No pain, I worked everyday. I had four chemo treatments at that time. First I had the surgery, then I had the chemo, then I had the radiation.
When during this period did you hear God say you weren’t going to die from cancer?
Okay, now. I think because the first time, there was no meditation period for me other than just going to get the treatment and when I do the treatment of course, it takes time to do that. So I couldn’t go to work on those days. But I didn’t have the amount of time to sit and meditate and study and listen like I do now. But I do remember— and I think I misconstrued it at the time because, like I said, I didn’t listen— but I do remember the words distinctly, ‘You’re not going to die from cancer.’ Well you know I ran with that and said, ‘Ok, I’m gon be fine. I’m not gon to have cancer anymore. It’s cleared up.’ That’s not what He said. He said I won’t die from it. He didn’t say I wouldn’t get it again. And so I think with all of that, seven years ago when I was going through, I did not go through a full meditation and trying to find out what is it that God wants me to do what am I not doing. And so I missed it. I missed it. And I just feel like He’s like, ‘Ok, I was trying to tell you something back then. And you missed it.’ So you know that God will do things, knock you down, bring you back around. So I truly think that this is just a phase for me to sit down, do some studying, reevaluate some things and just figure out what is it that God wants me to do. And it came to me, ‘I don’t want you to sit down. I know that you love me. All of that. But I need you to tell other people of your experience and what I’ve done for you and what I’m capable of doing and all that kind of stuff.’ He said, ‘Because you have a word.’ And girl, you know I’m still struggling because I’m like, ‘I can’t do that.’
So, in my studying that I do every day, every day it reiterates to me that you have got to do what I’m asking you to do. Every day. This is every day. So girl, you know I’m scared because I’m like ‘Ok I gots to do this because this is what God wants me to do but where do I start? What do I do? How do I… Because I’m a background person I don’t like to be out there in the front. I’ll do whatever you need me to do in the background but I don’t want to be out there in the front. But God is telling me, ‘I need you to be my mouthpiece.’ And I don’t think He really wants me to run out there but I think He wants me to comfort others in letting them know that things are going to be ok. God is good. Look what He’s done for me. That kind of stuff. My thing is to visit with people. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Mom, do you remember when— I think was maybe after you had had your surgery, the first time around, and you went back for a check up or something like that and there was this White woman crying in the hallway and you felt like you heard God tell you, you needed to go to her.
Oh! I vaguely remember that.
And remember you were hesitant about it because you were like, ‘I don’t want to go up to no White woman and talk to her.’ **In the story my mother told me she was hesitant about going to the White woman because she didn’t know how she would receive her.**
Girl! Vaguely remember. And see all of that Veronica, all of that. Umm Hmm.
But ‘member you said God told you to go to her and you were like, “I don’t know’ and God was like, ‘After all I’ve done for you.’
I can’t believe you don’t remember that.
Girl I vaguely remember that. When you said it was a White woman that’s when it clicked.
And you went to the woman and were hugging her and consoling her and telling her what you’re telling me now. That everything’s going to be ok.
Oh, girl! And see this is what I’m saying. I’ve got to come out of that. And I don’t even understand because I speak well…but I just…I don’t know…I don’t know. But I know I have to do it because I can’t go through this again.
My sister Vanessa: Ok! We done with it.
Cannot go through this again. And even though, going through this the second time, there’s been no pain. I’ve had no pain, but it’s just the weakness and not being able to— Girl, sometimes I can’t even get up. And I mean, I can’t get up from a sitting position.
So I want to ask you the second time they told you that you had cancer again what was your reaction the second time—because they told you, initially, that you didn’t have it.
Right, right right, right, right. Well, when we went in they said they saw something and they wanted me to come back. And so we went back and it wasn’t anything. Then it was time for me to have another mammogram because it was seven years. So I didn’t have to do it regularly anymore because it was seven years. And they say after you clear five years, it should not return. Well, seven years, you know. When I went in there they said, ‘Oh we’re just going to watch it because it may just be a fibroid there.’ So I went back in three months they said, ‘Well, this looks like it might have grown a little bit. So we’re going to take you in and do a biopsy. ‘ And so when I came in, they stuck the needle in and when they put the needle in, fluid came out. And she said, ‘Oh! This is fluid. But let me go on and just finish it up anyway. Just to make sure’ So I left out of there feeling ok because they said it was just fluid.
But then they called me and told me that it was cancerous.
They told you over the phone?
No, your dad and I had to go in.
They told you to bring someone this time?
No they didn’t tell me at that time because this was a different doctor. We went in and they told us it was cancerous…So then we had to set up a time to start…
What was your reaction the second time around? Did you have another breakdown?
No I didn’t. I didn’t. And I think I did not, at that time, because I was like, ‘I sailed through it so nicely the first time’ I was like, ‘Ok. It is what it is, we’re just going to work with it and be done.’
Were you angry?
No. I wasn’t angry. I just didn’t understand. But it was always something in the back of my mind to be cautious because you never know. You always have those thoughts. Oh! And in my meditation and all of that stuff that I do and reading and that kind of stuff, I’ve learned that I need to—three times a day—ask for forgiveness. Because girl, you just never know, you have these crazy thoughts and those things have to be cleared up on a daily basis with God. And so— instead of— you know how people wake up in the morning and they say their prayers and then they say them again before they go to bed. But I ask for forgiveness three times a day, every day. Just to be clear.
You talked about feeling confused. Did you ever go through a period where you felt like you misinterpreted the message?
Well, what happened was like, after seven years, I was going through my head and I was like, ‘But didn’t you tell me…’ ‘What did you tell me?’ And then I said, ‘Uh nuh. He said you’re not going to die from cancer.’ And so I said, ‘Oooh!’ And so girl, then that’s when I said, ‘Ok. It’s something I’m not doing. It’s something He wants me to do and I’m not doing it. And He’s putting this affliction on me again to pull me down to, ‘Ok, sit down and take a breath and listen to what I’m saying to you.’ I think that’s it. I really think—because in all of the reading that I’m doing, that’s the thing that’s standing out to me the most. So I just believe that it is. That’s what it is.
Weeks after this interview, things became even more difficult when my mom developed pneumonia, was suffering from dehydration, among other things. With the chemo wreaking havoc on her system, it was too much for her system to fight and she was in the hospital for ten days.
How else would you say that this time is different from the last time?
This time is very, very difficult for me. Very, very difficult because I don’t feel myself. There are some days I can’t do anything. And I mean anything but get up to go to the bathroom and stumble back in the bed because i’m just too weak. Girl, sometimes I’m so weak, I can’t even tie—you know the little headpieces that you gave me? I can’t even tie those. I’m just too weak. I can’t even tie it.
The other day I was in Ollie’s [her puppy] room because I go in there all the time to clean it up for him. And so I sit on the little purple bench in there. (It’s really more like a foot stool.) Girl, I could not get off of the bench. I couldn’t stand up. And so your dad had to come up and help me off the bench. Now, how crazy is that?!
Like I said, I have no pain. If it was pain, I think it would be…but you know God’s not going to do anything that you can’t endure. He didn’t give me any pain but he sure knocked me down.
How would you say this time is different spiritually?
More time to meditate and focus on Him and Him telling me what He wants me to do through the scriptures and stuff. And I didn’t read the scriptures like that the first time because like I said I was busy, I was still doing things. And I just think He said, ‘I took you through that and I did everything you asked me to do. And I took you through that smooth sailing and you still not doing what I’m asking you to do.’
And I don’t feel bad about it. It just… it is what it is. You just have to…you know, you do what you do. I don’t feel bad about it. I feel weary sometimes and sad because I can’t do anything but this is His way of saying to me, ‘I need you to sit down and think.’
How did it come to you that you were going to go and sit with people and comfort people, that specific type of action?
There’s a lady that has a daycare…Oh Kiya! You remember Kiya?
Her mom said to me, ‘Why don’t you come and go with me sometimes to visit with people?’ And I said, ‘Oh that would be nice.’ And she said, ‘Ok, so when I get ready to go.’ She said because on Saturdays that’s what she does. And I said, ‘Oh! That would be great.’ Cuz you know, I don’t do anything on Saturdays. (My mom was raised Seventh Day Adventist. So while she attends a non denominational church now, she still observes the Sabbath.) But it would be nice for me to go and comfort people. And so she said, ‘Ok. I’ll give you a call.’ And I told her, ‘The only thing about that is that we would have to wait until I’m finished with the chemo stuff because I really can’t be around people until the chemo’s done.’ So, that’s how that came about. But I think that I’m just going to go over to the hospital, in a little chapel. Anybody that needs comforting, that kind of thing.
What is your routine when you get up in the morning?
When I get up in the morning…girl, do I get up? Hmph! In the beginning— it’s not so bad now because I figured out a few things. But, in the beginning I couldn’t. I would just get up to go use the bathroom and struggle back in the bed. And then, just struggle in the kitchen to fix breakfast. Your dad would sometimes leave some lunch in there for me. I got to get to stuff quick because I can’t stand long. I have to do things quickly. And your dad brought a chair up from the wash room so that I can sit in the kitchen and do things in there. Well, today was the first day, and I mean it. The first day where I was able to walk around and I could stand in the kitchen and get my lunch and my breakfast ready. But there was a couple of times, earlier too there that I could fix your dad dinner. But it’s rare. I do realize that after I have the [chemo] infusion on Tuesday, I start coming out of it on the weekend before I have to go back in and have the other infusion. So yeah, this one was kind of rough. No pain but just the draining.
What else would you say you’ve learned from this experience?
People just need to take time and slow your pace. Because you know when you’re always rushing and doing things, you don’t hear God talking to you. And I think, when I go back to work, I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to do devotion because I’ve got to do that everyday. And I’ve also said that I’m going to sit down and write about this. I’m going to write about this experience as well. Because it’s good to go over stuff that you write.
And you know what, the first time when I went through it, I felt like I became closer [to God] but I could feel it leaving me too.
When did you start to feel that?
I can’t even…You know, you feel something gradually leaving? That’s how it was, like slipping back into the old ways. And so all of those things let me know. Because girl, when God is trying to tell you something but you won’t do right. So this time around, I gots to do it.