Born Again Natural

In late 2005 at the age of thirty-five, I felt a lump in my breast, smaller than the size of a pea. I never thought anything about it. I asked my husband to touch it to see if he felt something too. He told me I should get it checked out, but I brushed it off because I didn’t think it was anything.

However, the lump continued to grow to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. But, I never thought it was breast cancer because we are trained to believe that 40 is that magical number where everything goes wrong.

So, in early June 2006, I went for an annual checkup with my gynecologist and told him about my concern. He examined me and said not to worry, that is was probably fibrocystic cysts. However, for a pre-caution, he gave me a referral to have a mammogram. Later that month, after many hours in the mammography office, the doctor told me that he couldn’t say if it was or wasn’t cancer, but recommended that I have a biopsy to be sure. So I was referred to another specialist for the fine-needle biopsy.

I received good news right before July 4, NO CANCER. However, the specialist still wanted to do a regular biopsy in case of a false negative. After the regular biopsy, it was confirmed – Stage 2A cancer. I scheduled a mastectomy for August as recommended because of the two lumps that were detected; my breast would be severely deformed if I had a lumpectomy on both tumors.

After much prayer and with the advice of my Pastor’s wife (a registered nurse with oncology experience), I sought a second opinion from another chemotherapy oncologist. After looking at my medical records and performing more tests the diagnosis was in. I didn’t have two tumors, but one large tumor that was growing. She recommend that I have chemotherapy first to see how much of the tumor would shrink, then have a lumpectomy followed by radiation (because of the involvement of my lymph node) and finally reconstructive surgery if needed.

In August 2006, I started the recommended treatment. My first treatment included 8 weeks of Adriamycin to shrink the large tumor. The Adriamycin did not make the tumor shrink, but the tumor wasn’t growing. Then, the doctor suggested that I be treated with Taxotere for another 4 weeks. Again, the tumor wasn’t shrinking, but it wasn’t growing.

Finally, after 2.5 months of treatment, I decided to have the mastectomy and radiation therapy, and a year later reconstructive surgery. In the end, the process was complete in early February 2008, and I had beaten Stage 3A breast cancer! My suggestions to all women, if you find something get it checked out immediately!

Before this entire process, I had long relaxed hair. Prior to my diagnosis, I thought about going natural, but was nervous about it. But when my hair began to fall out, I decided to take control. I shaved my own head and decided not to put any more chemicals in my hair once the hair grew back. After I stopped taking chemo, I began using a mixture of jojoba, lavender and rosemary oils. Once my hair started growing back, my cousin gave me some Miss Jessie’s Buttercream. It worked wonders until my hair got past my ears. I didn’t follow a “natural” regime. I blow dried, pressed and flat ironed my hair for many years. I used non-natural products to shampoo, condition, moisturize, etc. I was the only one who didn’t have a relaxer among a few black women in my department at the bank. I remember comedian Paul Mooney saying the reason why black women relaxed their hair was so that white people feel “relaxed” around them. It’s a joke, but true. While I didn’t relax my hair, I straightened it to point where I had heat damage. When I started another position with another bank, I decided to go completely natural after seeing a co-worker wearing her hair natural. She encouraged me to go for it. She introduced me to the wonderful world of! I was amazed to see so many women embracing what God gave them…beautiful curly, wavy, kinky and “other” hair! I’ve enjoyed Curly Nikki’s suggestions on the products she uses and her styling tips to maintain her tresses. She offers invaluable advice thru her own experiences and thru the experiences of her followers with different textures. I’ve been so inspired to start my very own YouTube channel and Twitter page called ManeAngels! My co-worker was my “mane” angel and I would like to be a “mane” angel for someone else! I will offer advice on protective styling, maintenance tips, product reviews and inexpensive ways to mix your own products for those who can’t afford to buy!

I’ve learned thru having breast cancer that I don’t have to be afraid of the unknown! It’s not a death sentence! I can embrace my natural self without fear of how others will perceive me. I’ve been given a second chance at life, physically and “naturally”!

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