So much had occurred since posting Why Her? about my experiences with my friend who was fighting Stage IV breast cancer. All the hope I had when penning that essay was replaced with dooming fear and desperation two short months later.
At that time, she was undergoing radiation for what we thought was a precaution to make sure they got all the cancer after her bilateral mastectomy. We were hoping to hear that she was in remission once the radiation treatments were complete. When she continued to complain about debilitating headaches, more tests showed she had a tumor in her brain.
From there, things went downhill as more tumors started to show in different parts of her body. She spent the last few months of her life in excruciating pain. When she lost her ability to walk, we pressed the doctors for more tests and we learned the cancer had moved in to her spine. It would also move to her joints and organs, shutting her body down.
February 23, 2012 was the last time I laid eyes on my friend of 28 years. The way the oxygen tank forced air in to her lungs causing her chest cavity to rise and deflate like a balloon was an ominous sign of the end. I had seen this before with my father before he passed away, how the machine did all the breathing for him.
With quiet prayers on my lips, I stood over my oldest and dearest friend (a term I stole from her) asking God to relieve her from the painful existence since it was clear she was preparing to leave us.
As I prayed, my distracted eyes were pulled to a picture sitting on the armoire of her aunt’s guest room where she spent her final days in hospice. I’ve always thought she was beautiful but in this picture she looked more vibrant than I have ever noticed. I stared at the picture and it was difficult for me to take my eyes off the image of my friend.
I think I was trying to reconcile the person in the photograph with the person who lied before me, trying to understand how this could happen to someone so young.
After saying my final prayer, I told her I loved her and said goodbye. I knew that I would never see her again. Thirty minutes after I left, she took her final breath.
I wrote the original post (Why Her?) and this update to bring awareness about breast cancer. My friend was a young and beautiful African-American woman, who was hard-working and full of life, not the typical face you associate with breast cancer.
Cancer is a beast. It is an ugly bully and more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year. It is also the second most common cause of cancer death among African-American women.
Below are some Breast Cancer facts (National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.):
- Early detection is crucial – conduct regular breast self-exams, looking for signs of change. Contact your physician immediately if you feel any lumps or changes in your breast tissue (better to be safe than to be sorry).
- Risk Factors that make women vulnerable to this disease are:
- Being obese or overweight
- Diets in high saturated fats
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcoholic intake of more than two drinks per day
Shine Your Light!