By Marnita Coleman, Special to AFRO
Help someone to overcome their problem and it will help you overcome yours. You reap what you sow.
Family, as I bring this article to a close, I would like to thank the AFRO for allowing me to share my story.
After the botched breast reconstruction, I was done. The plastic surgeon had the audacity to ask if I wanted to try it again. He was willing to clear his schedule to do this just for me. I turned him down flat. I didn’t have the strength to go through another surgery. After that decision was rendered, they said I could go home.
I was given a list of dos and don’ts: do get plenty of rest, don’t go up and down the stairs. Eat well. Call the doctor if needed and to best manage pain, take your meds on schedule.
I would have agreed to whatever they said just to get out of the hospital. The ride home was very bumpy and painful. Everytime we hit a pothole, it felt like my body was coming apart at the seams. It was difficult getting comfortable. In fact, I slept sitting up because lying down made it hard to breathe.
I was told that immediate rest produced faster healing, so I tried to limit my activity. I’d walk to the kids’ room, hang out with them for a while, then go back to my room and rest. They were so happy I was home.
Each day I became stronger and stronger. I recited my healing affirmations several times a day. Whenever someone would ask about me, I’d tell them, “I am healed and getting stronger day by day.
I had a lot of quiet time on my hands during recovery mode. I began thinking about my features and how to address my postoperative condition without reconstruction. After speaking with my husband, I decided to try prosthetic alternatives. Although it worked well and gave me the symmetry I needed for fitting into my clothing, inside I still felt insecure.
I worried that the mastectomy would be overwhelming to my husband and he wouldn’t be attracted to me. Then other thoughts began to emerge. Would I still be pretty? Would people know I had a mastectomy? As the negative thoughts continued bombarding my mind, hope was fading as my dreams appeared derailed. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
One day, I was surfing the internet and I came across a website called “Still you.” When it came up, tears filled my eyes. I knew that it was meant for me because it brought the calm to a raging storm of thoughts.
I am still me.
I clicked onto the site. There were items for women who had breast cancer, very girly apparel and I felt hopeful again. I was re-energized. I’m still me. I’m still cute. I’m still sexy. And I lost a few pounds that I didn’t want to gain back, so I decided to move onward.
I resumed living, enjoying my family and friends. I wanted to give back to help other women. I asked my oncologist about support groups, etc. She had a patient that was having a very difficult time with her diagnosis and treatment. She asked if I would give her a call to encourage her. I was delighted to do it.
Well, after that went so well, my doctor recommended that I join the American Cancer Society “Reach to Recovery” program. The program is a one-on-one peer support for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The organization pairs you with someone of like demographics who desires to have contact and support during their process.
I remember one person I spoke with that had a daughter in her junior year of high school. The woman was very distraught because she believed she was going to die during this monumental time in her daughter’s life. By the end of our conversation, she had a different perspective. She wanted to live and was excited about all the festivities she would share with her daughter! Everytime I encouraged someone else, I became stronger. It was fuel to my soul.
I eventually had the reconstruction and got my cleavage back. I have had the pleasure of seeing my children grow into beautiful young women. I’ve written a couple of books, hosted a radio show, and became a freelance writer. I have a saying, ‘In the picture but not the plan.’ Breast cancer showed up in my picture like a photobomber. But, the plan was to stay focused and keep moving forward. By God’s grace, I did just that.
To all the sisters that fought the good fight against breast cancer, as my mom did, but succumbed in the end, I salute you. You are missed but not forgotten. Your influence still lives through us. My mom’s battle with breast cancer made me fight harder. I didn’t want my girls to experience life without me.
To all the sisters who are going through treatment now. Hold on to your faith. Believe you will overcome this interruption. Keep speaking the result you desire to see. Give the naysayers a vacation from your presence until you have weathered the storm. Don’t allow anyone to talk against what you are believing. Find a survivor mentor that will guide you through this place. Stay positive.
You will get through this.
To all the brothers, thanks for your compassion, love, support, and willingness to take a stand against breast cancer.
To the rest, watch what you are eating. Read the labels. Cut back on portions. Say ‘no’ to the wrong foods more often than not. Get some exercise and drink water. Continue to support those who have been diagnosed. We are stronger and better together.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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