African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other race and the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition does not like this statistic!!! This February in honor of Black History Month, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is running a special “Planting the S.E.E.D. to Health and History” campaign. Visit our website to download a free Family Health History Tree and learn about your family health history and risk factors that may affect you. As a special part of the campaign, we’d like to introduce you to some local African American Breast Cancer survivors throughout the month to share their stories. Without further ado, meet Lynette Shannon. She is a breast cancer survivor and friend of DBCC filled with an inspirational message of hope, courage, wisdom, and survivorship in the Q&A below.
Question: Tell me a little bit about your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. What was the most difficult for you?
Answer: Well at the age 27 my son had just turned 2 and I had just celebrated my 2 yr wedding anniversary. I could remember one day feeling a lump in my under arm and then feeling pain in my right breast. I visited my family doctor who then told me he would have to send me for a mammogram the same day. I was then scheduled for a specialist the same day. Next came the biopsy. I remember sitting in the doctors office with my husband being told I had breast cancer. It was a huge shock. I had a tumor about 4 cm in dimension. I also had 16 affected lymph nodes in my under arm.
The most difficult part….. Everything! Not being able to care for my son, loss in appetite, restlessness, having to convince people that I was going to be okay and not die. Not to mention the fact that the very medicine that was supposed to save my life….. I was allergic to it. So before every treatment I had to take a dose of bendryl. I had 6 treatments in total. Broken in half because my tumor shrunk so fast that the doctor needed proof that I actually had a tumor. After the 6 treatments every 2 weeks I had 30 days of radiation.
Question: How did you get through all the tough issues that come from a diagnosis?
Answer: I honestly got through the tough times with the help of God. For no other reason would I be here today with a testimony of healing.
Question: Did you turn to family for support?
Answer: My husband was my biggest supporter along with my family, church family, friends and co workers.
Question: Did the DBCC help you? Or did you have an outside support system like a church or sorority or friends or coworkers who you counted on?
Answer: The DBCC helped me out a lot. They were always ready to have someone talked to me if I had any questions or just needed someone to talk to. Everyone was always there to cheer me on and encourage me every step of the way.
Question: Did breast cancer run in your family? I know your sister is also a survivor. Did you guys speak about your risk factors before being diagnosed – or do you do so now – especially for the future generations?
Answer: My breast cancer was genetic. I thank God for my plastic surgeon who suggested that I get genetics testing before getting reconstruction. It is at that point I found out it was genetic. At that point I only knew that my grandmother died of ovarian cancer. I was then able to get my second breast removed and help reduce the chance of it coming back. From that I was able to tell my sister and all relatives that it was genetic. I begged my sister to get testing, unfortunately that didn’t happen and before long she was diagnosed.
Question: What advice would you give to a black woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer? Is there anything you wish you knew before that might have helped you along your journey?
Answer: The advice that I would give is don’t give up! Your story does not end with a diagnosis. Have Faith. A doctor once told me that it is really mind over matter. Don’t allow your mind and the things people may say dictate how you heal and survive. You can make it. Go get genetics testing, find out if it runs in your family, there is preventative work that can be done. The one thing I wish I knew, was to get genetics testing before I had my surgeries.
Question: How are you today?
Answer: I feel amazing and grateful that God would heal me and continue to add years to my life. I’m also grateful for my support group that still encourages me and celebrates my life. I have so many reminders of what I went through physically that keeps me humble and helps me to remember that I need to share my story and information with others.