KNOW YOUR GIRLS!!
KNOW YOUR GIRLS!!
Breast cancer awareness is important, not only in October. Early detection saves lives. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. On average, a woman has a 12% risk of developing breast cancer in her life. In 2019, an estimated 41,760 women will die from breast cancer.
Imagine my surprise, when I found a small lump in my left breast at the beginning of 2018. A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer. By the numbers, black women are 20% to 40% more likely to die from breast cancer. Black women are included in the group considered high risk for breast cancer.
The recommended age for a regular mammogram is 40. I was only 37 when I found the lump. It was not the first time, I had a few mammograms before for lumps that I had found in the past. I was about 30 or 31 in 2011 when I found the first lump. The first mammogram was difficult because of the small size of my breasts.
The family history was there, my grandmother survived breast cancer around 1992 only to die from colon cancer in 2000.
This lump felt different. I was scared. I was terrified. The lump felt like a fast, painful death. I was slowly preparing to die. I remembered the vow that I lived by, “I can’t let my mama lose another child.” I saw my mother’s pain first-hand, I hated that she would have to journey down that path, again.
I could not afford to die. I envisioned my young daughter growing up without her mother. I could only pray that life would be good for her.
I saw my funeral, my closet homegirls gathered for the sad occasion, all dressed in purple, my favorite color, serving as Sisterbearers and listening to ‘I’m Missing You,” from the Set It Off soundtrack and of course Tupac as they prepared to say their final goodbyes to me. More than anything, I wanted to impress upon my homegirls the importance of self-check breast exams. I found the lump by doing a self- exam.
I took the pain that I was living with and dying in and held it close for a few weeks, I did not tell anyone what I was experiencing. I suffered, alone in silence. Finally, I could no longer hold it all in, I told my mother and sister. My mother considers herself a cheerleader for Christ, she approached the altar of her heart in prayer. In my immediate family, my mother is always the prayer-leader. I felt better knowing she was engaged in prayer for me. My sister made a vow, to be there for me with each and every step of my journey. She promised to go to the doctor with me for the mammogram. The load was lighter, I had my sister on board for the journey.
I wrapped my mind around death. The day of the mammogram arrived. As promised, my sister was right by my side as I waited to be seen. The mammogram revealed nothing. The only way to determine what the lump was would be to do a biopsy. The biopsy was scheduled for another day and my mother went with me to the appointment. The biopsy was one of the most painful procedures that I have ever had to endure.
The waiting game was the worst, as I waited to receive what I expected to be a death sentence. I needed prayer warriors involved, but the fear of rejection prevented me from asking anyone else for anything, even prayer.
I gathered with my family to celebrate my aunt’s birthday. Near the end of the gathering, we linked hands for a prayer. The need for prayer was met and I did not have to ask for it.
The day that I received the results was the day that the burden attached to the ordeal evaporated. My mother attended the appointment with me, she sat behind me with a pen and pad in her hand, she was ready with her own medical knowledge and life experience. Similar circumstances, my mother had sat with her own mother at the same hospital as she received a cancer diagnosis. Mother and daughter again, my mother and I sat. I knew the diagnosis could go either way, I was expecting the best while preparing myself for the worst.
“It’s not cancer,” the doctor announced.
“Thank God,” my mother said, giving praise where it was due.
The experience was altogether a life-changing.
Moral of the story: It is very important for a woman to know her breast. It is important to do self-exams around the same time every month. A woman should check-up on her sisters and homegirls and make sure that they do their self-check exams. It is important to know the risks of breast cancer. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. It is important to know your girls, not just in October, as women we should be aware of our bodies every day.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2019. Atlanta, Georgia: American Cancer Society; 2019
Clark Forest Family Poem
Family reunions are wonderful occasions and family members should be celebrated,
happy birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and when someone graduated.
Grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,
auntie's, uncle's, first cousins and others,
sons and daughters, nephews and nieces,
these are the members or the familial pieces.
Happiness at each birth and anticipating many more,
remembering the legacies of family members who have gone on before.
From the days of Clayton, Alabama we have traveled a mighty long way,
so, family is what we celebrate today.
Family is where magic begins,
family is where love never ends.
Family is the place where hope can survive,
family is the place where dreams come alive.
Looking for the past we have traced the roots of our Clark Forest family tree,
so today at this reunion we stand firmly in unity.
By Darnicea LaShawn Hope