By Natalie L. Jones-Wallace
You need a support team, even if it is just one person.
I am a 77-year-old retired educator, and I’ve been a very proud breast cancer survivor for over 25 years. For many, after the age of forty, I had my annual mammogram. During those years, I had about five biopsies, and the test results were all benign.
My breasts began to look like a checkerboard, and in approximately 1990, I had my usual mammogram, however, this time the result was positive.
What a shock!?
My doctor and surgeon was the renown, Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., at the Howard University Hospital. When he informed me of my diagnosis, it felt like someone had pulled my chair from under me and had fallen several stories down. I requested that he call my husband in the room for the remainder of the consultation.
At that point, I heard nothing. In my head, I only heard “you have cancer.” I did, however, hear my husband, Wheilan Wallace II, say “We don’t need a second opinion – when can you operate?”
On the way home, I was thinking to myself that I have breast cancer and I am going to die.
I lost my beloved mother, Mrs. Lucy Jones, to cancer, and I made the decision, along with my husband, to have a mastectomy of my right breast. It was determined that I would have chemotherapy and radiation treatment as well.
My beloved late husband never missed being my support at each treatment. On my first day of chemo, I built up my nerve and I was ready. My husband and I went to the treatment center, and the nurse took me in and sat me down, in such a warm bedside manner. As she explained to me what to expect, I broke down and could not stop crying. She said, “It’s ok, this is something new for you and you will be alright.”
Chemo was hard and I wanted to give up. My late husband was so supportive and kept me going. His famous words “Don’t look at the long road ahead, let’s get through today.” I made it. From September to January, I had chemotherapy treatment once a week then every other week. From February to April, I had radiation once a week. I lost my hair, I lost my appetite, I lost my energy, but I never lost my faith.
My family, friends and co-workers at Backus Junior High School were so supportive. My undying gratitude goes to the late Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., the staff of the Howard University Hospital and my “village.”
In closing, I say to you now that having a diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence.