, November 07, 2018 | More Post by

Our “A Calendar to Live By” features 11 survivors we serve through Here for the Girls programs and their inspiring, uplifting stories about their cancer journey. Get to know this month’s model, Letoria!

32, Diagnosed at 29

3rd degree family history – no known genetic mutation

Life was flourishing for this fun-loving, jubilant mother of three daughters with a new baby and new career as a pharmacy technician. That all changed when her family doctor ordered a biopsy on the lump Letoria had noticed during the third trimester of her pregnancy and that her OB/GYN had attributed to a clogged milk duct. The biopsy results came back abnormal, and the only way to rule out cancer was to remove the lump and test it. With so much going on in her life, Letoria chose to delay further testing. But the strange lump and the unanswered questions—lingered. When Letoria took action nearly a year later, the diagnosis was clear: stage II breast cancer. After careful consideration (and many tears), she had a bilateral mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and radiation. Today she’s healthy and back to work as a pharmacy tech, substitute teacher, and youth volunteer who coaches kids on finding their passions. Letoria especially wants to thank her three daughters for the strength she gained from them. In Beyond Boobs!, Letoria has found a support network of women who “relate not just to the diagnosis, but to the lifelong changes caused by breast cancer.”

, November 02, 2018 | More Post by

Vanessa (right), and her mother (center) and sister (left) on Vanessa’s last day of radiation.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18

This blog was a three-part series on my journey with the diagnosis; my pain, my tears, my fears, my faith! Here’s my final post.

November 1, my talk with God: Just received a call from my surgeon; my results from my surgery and test are ‘low-risk’. Lord this is all You! Thank you for keeping me; for your grace and favor, for my healing and for my continued restoration.

So, the diagnosis has been made and the surgery is complete, what now? I’m not sure if I mentioned in my previous blogs but I’m OCD. My family would probably say that I just like to be in control (lol); they are probably right!  Maybe that too, but I just like order. I like A-Z, 1-10, and I like plans. In these past few weeks, there was no order; plans yes, but not mine. My choices were limited because I was at the mercy of my physicians and I just prayed that where God guides, He would provide! And He did!

It’s November 10 and I have an appointment with my radiation oncologist (Dr. Alfredo Urdaneta) and medical oncologist (Dr. Kumar Abhishek). I’m being told that I’ll have 20 radiation sessions and then I’ll be on Tamoxifen after.

As I’m thinking of all of this in my mind, I just began to thank God for everything; in spite of. I thank God for my family and friends that He put in my path to support me during this time. I thank Him for sending me to get my regular scheduled mammogram. I thank Him for a team of physicians that from day one I felt had my best health interest at heart. I thank Him for keeping me healthy as I journeyed through my treatments.

When I was diagnosed all I could think of was all of the things that I’d lose; my health, my mind, my appearance, maybe some friends, finances, my fight, and yes, maybe my faith. But as I continued each day talking to God, writing out my thoughts and praying for strength, I just became more thankful.

Before my diagnosis I’d worry about clothes not fitting; the weather messing up my hair or maybe even if I’d have time to run an errand and get home in time to see a tv show. I’m human, so some days I still think on those things. But now it’s not as important.

Now I’m just thankful for every moment. I am thankful that I’m alive and well; to feel, to see the weather change.  I’m thankful to have the time and energy to run an errand. I’m even more thankful for those days where I get to do nothing. I never realized how much I probably took for granted until I didn’t know if I’d have the strength to do any of them.

Thanksgiving 2017, November 23, 2017; my talk with God: Thanksgiving and Lord I am so thankful. For my family, friends, home and my health. Lord you continually bless me and I thank you for all that you are doing in my life. Today is emotional for me because I know this story could have been so different, but you saw fit to change my situation. I will trust you!

November 29, my first radiation treatment and all I can think about is counting down. As I lay there, so many thoughts run through my mind. What is this machine; what does it really do? They position me a few times to make sure that my tattoos line up correctly. Yet again Lord, you sent this team. As I am leaving, I’m given an updated print out of my sessions. Day one and I cross it out; one down 19 to go. My friend Sharon would message me every day before my treatment with an encouraging word and my co-workers (Ms. Shirley and Nurse Aaron) to celebrate after each treatment, we’d dance! I remember my final treatment (Dec 27): ringing the bell, with my mom and my sister Gayle by my side and yes, my final dance (Celebration by Kool and The Gang).

I know that this blog was just a glimpse of my journey, but if anyone were to ask me what would I share with anyone newly diagnosed, I’d give them (3) things to take with them.

  1. Believe in something. My faith is in God and His power. So find something to believe in, to keep you strong.
  2. Surround yourself with positive energy; music, friends, a support group, daily affirmations.
  3. Find yourself. Spend some time with you; maybe journal, storyboard, inspirational quotes. No one will understand how you feel but you!

Nothing about what we have to go through is going to be the same for everyone; so find your place. Find what works for you and as each day ends, know that you will become stronger.

As I end my series of blogs, I MUST thank God for His continued restoration of ‘me’! Thanking Him for giving me a voice that I am able to be a ‘ripple’ for someone else (thank you Shannon).

I would also like to thank my family, my fella (Fred) and my ride-or-die crew; my prayer warriors (they know who they are). To my Boober! Sisters/Here for The Girls, Richmond, VA and my 2017 Pink Sisters, I met you in what was the most life-changing and challenging moment in my life. In spite of ‘how’ we met, I am forever thankful that we did. I do believe that where God guides, He provides.  He already knew my path, and what I’d need even before I did. In doing so, He didn’t just give send me support, but He gave me an extended family of wonderful women; my sisters. Who would have shoulders for me to lean on, hands to hold? And yes, be there to wipe away those tears. He knew that I would need you; not just for this journey, but for a lifetime! Yes, and for that alone I am JUST THANKFUL!