Cancer runs in Eloise Powell’s family, and she’s lost loved ones along the way, but today she is a proud five year breast cancer survivor who encourages others to have faith. (Courtesy photo)

By Marnita Coleman
Special to the AFRO

Every October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time when considerable focus is placed on this matter to bring enlightenment and discussion about prevention, detection, treatment and keeping the embers of hope burning in an effort to fund research that will bring about a cure. According to U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, over 330,000 women are estimated to receive a first-time diagnosis of breast cancer in 2021. That means on any given day this year, more than 900 women will hear this gloomy news, however, about 90% are predicted to fare well. 

Our survivor’s survival guide spotlight shines brightly on Eloise Powell, a five year survivor. Like fingerprints, unique and distinct, her individual path to recovery was specifically assigned to her. She came from a family with a significantly high mortality of cancer. When women are victorious over the giant of breast cancer, their storied details must be told.

In November 2016, Powell showed up for her annual mammogram. It was an ordinary fall day. The holidays were approaching, and she was looking forward to spending time with her family. The screening detected a tumor in her breast that would be identified as malignant. Cancer ran in her family. Powell shared, “My mother was the first to die from cancer and from that point on, all of my siblings started dying from cancer. I was always scared and wondering when it would be my turn.” 

Health professionals urge women to get mammograms every year, starting at age 40. Catching breast cancer early can help save lives and provide more options for treatment. If close relatives have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is recommended that screenings be done before 40.

When Powell received the breast cancer diagnosis, she said, “I thought I was going to flip out when I heard the word cancer because I saw it attack my siblings.” But, she took it in stride. Although the word cancer is taboo to her, she was not spooked. Powell attributes her serenity to reading the bible and drawing closer to God. She continued, “My faith had gotten stronger. I didn’t have any type of fear of not making it or taking chemo. I said ‘look we have to break this curse.’” Her only daughter was more upset than she was and couldn’t understand why her mother was so calm considering six of her nine siblings died from cancer. 

The doctor assured Powell that they had caught the cancer in time and could remove all of it. That was good news because she wanted to save her breast. The recommended procedure would be surgery to remove the tumor. Then, radiation treatment to the area twice a day for two weeks, and finally a pill that Powell would take for five years, ending December 2021, after that, she wouldn’t have to take it anymore.

Powell made arrangements to schedule surgery and treatments immediately to avoid any interference with the upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She believed God was causing everything to work smoothly on her behalf. “I didn’t even stay in the hospital. The surgery was done as an outpatient and I came home the same day,” she said. A drain was placed in her breast to remove excess fluid. She had no side effects from the radiation, and didn’t lose any of her hair. The only remaining evidence of her battle with breast cancer is a tiny scar from surgery that can barely be seen. 

Powell was also fortunate to have a strong support system with her daughter and son-in-law at the helm. Her daughter helped with changing bandages, follow-up doctor appointments, consulting with the medical team and taking her to radiation therapy in the mornings, while the son-in-law accompanied her in the evenings.

Cancer was hereditary in Powell’s family. Her mother and siblings had different types from lung cancer to esophageal cancer. She was the only one that had breast cancer. There were 10 children and now only three are left. When asked what she would say to someone who recently received a diagnosis of breast cancer, Powell said “I would just tell them to put their hand in God’s hand and keep on doing what they’ve been doing. Don’t even think about cancer. Just keep living your life as it is. Because God is still in control and nobody is leaving here until it is time to leave. Stay encouraged!”

The one thing that Powell would put in the survivor’s survival guide would be the scripture that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! When someone asks, “Do you have cancer?”  “I say I don’t have cancer, I had cancer. I don’t have it anymore, I’m a cancer survivor!”

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