“Dianne’s” Faith Battle with Breast Cancer

The Beginning

Before explaining the skip in my journey, I’d like to respectfully remind every woman of the importance of the beginning…meaning as far back as any of us can remember as young women concerned with self-care. It’s important to start there because from an early age we are encouraged to know our bodies. We are taught to perform self-examinations, and to be proactive in our own well-being. Well, I did all of those things, and although I still experienced breast cancer, I thank God that through his nudging, and my lifelong “obedience” to self-examinations, I am still here to tell my story. My point is, because of who God is, and self-care, the skip in my journey was just that…a skip. And now, without further ado…

The Skip in My Journey

The skip in my journey is one that I never thought I would be faced with. Primarily because where middle aged mature women are concerned, I considered myself to be pretty healthy. I guess now in retrospect, I still do. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to share my story. And honestly, as a storyteller, I believe this one is amongst the most profound in my life’s journey.

My story began with a self-examination. Like many other women who have walked in my shoes, I found an unusual lump in my breast. After three doctor appointments, urging my PA to order specific tests (yes…I was the one doing the urging and suggesting…remember self-care!), I finally reached the time for my mammogram. I knew something was there, and I felt strongly that it was very possible that something was wrong. For this reason, I prepared for tests by taking every Friday off work, from January to March in 2016.

During this time, to occupy my mind, I cleaned and organized my home. Sort of an early spring cleaning,….lol. Well, on March 30th, I saw my first specialist and the skip began. I found myself in my closet (remember I was on this cleaning frenzy) singing and praising God for who He is. I flooded my soul with praise and thanksgiving unto God. I was reminded of God’s promises and His holy word.

His Holy Spirit reminded me…Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, withthanksgiving, letyourrequests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6).

This scripture was so important to me in this moment because my heart was broken. I was hurt because I was faced with such a devastating disease. My own mortality became very real for me, instantly. We all know one day we will face such a time, BUT I never thought it would be this soon.

It was during this time that I felt so many different emotions like lack of confidence, shying away from people, feeling less than a woman. There is a beauty that this disease pulls and tugs at which comes

from the deepest admiration one has for oneself, it’s called self-esteem. In those moments I called on the name of Jesus to help me. I prayed and asked for those feelings to be removed from my spirit. All I can say is But God. I am so thankful that He loves me and cares for me.

What Now?

Well, after many doctor visits; God’s been busy with me…lol

I am so glad I have a Father who loves me and knows my future. Rather than focus on the disease, I continue to focus on what I know about God.

As a Christian it is always important to apply God’s word in my life, but during my fight with cancer, His word became a lifeline. It literally sustained me on, and through my journey. I came to understand that it is moments like this that define and shape our journey. I was faced with a choice. Will I cower to fear, or will I trust that God has already gone before me and has a plan for me. Of course I choose to trust God!

I pray without ceasing because I am a witness that God is real, and His promises are true. In every moment of every difficult challenge, God is with me. I look for Him and He lets me know He is there. Hallelujah! It is these very moments that strengthen the Christian’s faith and remind us that He is a VERY PRESENT help in times of trouble.

I give God all the glory and honor for saving me and keeping me. I praise Him because He has answered my prayer to see my grandchildren. God is real!

My Support System

I thank God for my support system. I am blessed to have my son and his family, and twice as blessed to still have both my parents. My greatest support, however, was and continues to be my wonderful and loving husband, truly a man of God. Our union was a blessing from the very beginning. Definitely in divine order and for that I am very thankful.

He watched over and cared for me during this time. Without him I don’t know physically how I could have made it. He is so kind, and he never complained about anything other than to say “you gotta eat”, lol.

I am thankful for the example my granddaughter was allowed to see. Seeing his love demonstrated through his care for me, my granddaughter said “granddaddy really loves grandma because he cleans up her puke. He must really love her”, lol. I am thankful to know that she is spot on. I love my husband, and I look forward to being able to continue to be by his side as we continue to serve God and live a life full of faith, joy, peace and most of all hope.

My Care – Atlanta Cancer Care (ACC) Team

On April 1, 2016, I received the news that started my journey of hope from Dr. Arthy Yoga (Breast Surgeon). She referred me to Dr. Lijo Simpson. I believe it was in divine order to be under the care of Dr. Lijo Simpson & staff.  I was advised from the onset if the cancer was HER2 positive, it would be a challenge. Well, it was stage 3 breast cancer, HER2 positive. After receiving neo adjunct chemotherapy that was not successful in reducing the tumor, surgery (September 20, 2016), followed by different protocol treatments was in order. First, was radiation treatment. The areas needing radiation was so complex, I laid still for four hours while the team mapped out two plans to reach the key areas to target. It was grueling! Tears flowed from my eyes as I laid there not being able to move. I received radiation three times a week for several weeks. Once that was completed, I thought I was good until the next scan revealed suspicious cells beneath my left chest area less than three months later while being treated with Letrozole. A second surgery took place in June 2017 to remove lymph nodes in questioned. I must say the challenge dealing with this type of cancer is an understatement. I believe the second surgery in the same area made it harder and perhaps longer to heal. It still hurts after five years. The next treatment plan was given with Kadcyla. Again, this didn’t work. It was determined that I would be placed on a clinical trial March 2018; Xeloda. I received the education overview and immediately knew I needed to try it. Not only for me, but for others as well. I felt the Atlanta Cancer Care (ACC) team cared and I clearly understood that my prayers were answered. After participating in different trials, the last one proved to be successful; Enhertu.  It was FDA approved in December of 2019. This was also the month I received, again, scans indicating suspicious cells under my left clavicle area. It is by God’s grace that I have not been consumed by this life-threatening disease. And I am so thankful! 

For the past six years, ACC has shown a kind, compassionate, attentive and most of all, personable care towards me. I am grateful for each of the beautiful faces (Carla, Esther, Shameka, Courtney) at the front desk who always greet me with a smile; my Nurse Practitioner R. Anderson NP-C, and the team of Nurses, of course Dr. Simpson, who all do their part to understand and add to the quality of my life.  I am extremely grateful for each of them. Having a great relationship with those who are your health care providers is key to your wellbeing. It takes true compassionate hearts to serve in this capacity. I watch and notice how much they truly care for all the patients. Watching over us as we receive treatment after treatment. Six years of treatments is a long time to observe impeccable care.  My treatment plan recently changed from receiving chemotherapy every four weeks to every five weeks. Oh, I am so glad because it usually takes 11-12 days to recover and feel like I have energy, can eat my favorite foods or just stay awake. I make sure to eat as much protein as possible along with comfort foods to soothe my stomach. The headaches are sometimes too much to think about so I sleep. One thing for sure, I do not allow my state, during this period of time, to stop me from doing the things that are most important to me. Like attending Church, singing in the Choir and spending time with my grandchildren. I have exceeded the non-progression period for my current treatment plan, and it is a testament to the dedication, awareness, research and knowledge Dr. Simpson has with navigating cancer.

I am thankful for the grace bestowed upon me and the hope and peace I have embraced and endured on my journey. Of course, it’s not one I would have chosen but I must say I am blessed to have ACC taking care of me. I hope sharing my journey filled with faith and hope is an inspiration for others to continue having a drive to live and never lose hope. Nothing is too big for my God. Continue to enjoy life, sharing special moments with family & friends. Life is so precious and so worth the fight to survive through God’s grace.