In November 1999 I turned 29 years old and I had my annual Well Woman’s visit; it went well, No Problems, No Issues. Mid-February 2000 I took my wire bra off and rubbed the indention that was left behind from the wire. I felt a knot while talking on the phone with a male friend. I didn’t think much about it when he told me I needed to go to the doctor immediately. The next day I went to work as usual and told a female co-worker/friend about my “knot”. She also urged me to make a doctor’s appointment.
I made an appointment for the following Friday, February 11, 2000. I went to see my assigned primary care doctor whom I had never met before; there was never a need before this. I was perfectly healthy; 29 years old, in my prime, had won 3rd place in a fitness competition in September 1998, I worked out at least five days a week and I did not eat too terrible bad. When my doctor examined my breast he confirmed there was a lump. I leave the doctor’s office and head straight to radiology and get an ultrasound and mammogram. I call my mother and tell her about my situation. She says “WE ARE NOT CLAIMING THIS” “THE DEVIL IS A LIAR”. Monday morning I go in to see my doctor, ALONE….SCARED….HORRIFIED…..NERVOUS. He says, Ms. Carney……………I say, “YES?!!!” “I am 90% sure your lumps are cancerous!” I could not hear anything else after that. I could not see from the tears welling in my eyes. My heart was racing so fast I felt as though I could not breathe. I ask myself “How do I get the strength to walk out of this office?” as I could not feel my legs. I called my supervisor to tell him I don’t think I am going to make it in. This very kind man says, don’t worry about it, Stephanie, take all the time you need. I did not return to work until a year later.Read more
I had a biopsy scheduled for February 28, 2000; 2 whole weeks to wait, think, stress, cry, and scream and to hold my breath. My mother and grandmother were at the hospital with me. I had the best support team. My surgeon briefly spoke to my mother and he did not have the best bedside manner…with her. With me he was like my grandfather; kind and sweet. My surgery took longer than expected and I started to come out of the anesthesia while they were finishing up…painful. According to my mother, the surgeon came out of the operating room, told them it was cancer and walked away. My family was DEVASTATED. My grandmother cried, my mother who is made of steel….prayed. I was admitted to the hospital and two days later had my right breast removed!!! I am 29 years old with ONE breast!!! I had Stage III Breast Cancer; 2 malignant tumors which had doubled in size since my ultra sound and I had 9 cancerous lymph nodes removed.
Day four in the hospital they inserted a chemo port to my main artery. My coworkers came to visit that week and they were a raunchy bunch…lol. I laughed so hard my monitors kept going off and the nurse told me to calm down because I was overheating.
Things moved fairly quickly after my release, I got set up with an Oncologist and started Chemo about 3 weeks later. The doctor gave me her best educated guess as to what may have caused my cancer. I was warned about the hair loss, pain and nausea. Although I knew my hair was going to fall out I still was not prepared emotionally. When I noticed my entire weave came off in my hand at once I was DEVASTATED!!! I cried like a baby. I was embarrassed, ashamed and felt unattractive. On the outside I was ALWAYS happy, bubbly…that cheerleader from high school, but on the inside I was angry sometimes. I was hurt. I was scared.
I was in the waiting room waiting for my 3rd round of chemo when I came across an article about chemo taking away 50% of a woman’s fertility. I was again DEVASTATED!!! Why did my doctor not inform me of this? What am I supposed to do now? I asked my doctor about this and she plainly said, “My priority is to save your life!!!” she said, “Stephanie, I could not have delayed your chemo for you to think about fertility options, plus most insurances do not cover freezing eggs!!” It was a blow to my spirit, but I had to do what I had to do.
My mother was with me for about 5 or 6 months. We had a good time hanging out in the Oncology Center with the best group of nurses I have ever had. When she left I had to fend for myself. Over the years I had numerous surgeries; some good some bad. I ended up with 1st and 2nd degree burns on my chest from radiation. I had a failed reconstruction surgery because of the radiated skin. In 2010 after moving to Texas I had a new oncologist and she recommended I have my other breast removed as a preventive measure; so I did. I do not regret having both breast removed because now I only have 2% chance of getting breast cancer again.
Sixteen years later, I look at all of my many scars as warrior wounds. I was in the battle of my life and I WON!!! The scars are a reminder to never take anything or anyone for granted. I am STRONGER more CONFIDENT after surviving CANCER. I am not defeated I am the VICTOR!!! THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!!! Although I never had children, I am ok with it!! I would not have wanted to pass this cancer gene on to my children; I would not want them to go through what I have gone through; it was not a chance I was willing to take. I hope my story inspires someone to get a mammogram and not be afraid to go to the doctor. Do not be afraid to ask for help or seek counseling. God Bless!!! #SurvivingEveryday
In 2002, I went to Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas because of severe pain in my breast. After running numerous tests, it was discovered that cancer cells were at hand. My family insisted that I visit The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Although I had the assurance of all doctors, I also had the promise and confidence in God. I was then reminded of Matthew 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”.
So then my journey began. For me, the hardest part of being diagnosed with cancer was the uncertainty. At this particular time in my life, I went through three surgeries performed at a high volume breast cancer hospital by gifted and supremely experienced surgeons, followed by chemotherapy. During my treatments, I was surrounded by my family and friends who went out of their way to make sure I received the best care possible. My children (Kaylon McNeal and Kendall McNeal) and my mother (Sedonia Dillon) have been my inspiration. After chemotherapy treatments, I would go straight to my sister’s house, which is close to MD Anderson Cancer Center. My sisters insisted that I stay in Houston, Texas during my chemotherapy because it meant we could all be together with a big sleepover. Watching me go through treatments has made my family a stronger people and has shown us that adversities will come. Everyone in my family has become much more resilient as a result of my cancer diagnosis—including me. In other words, my family have been able to withstand, able to recoil, spring back into shape after bending, stretching and being compressed from a difficult condition as such. However, with much excitement, I must say, “the race is not given to the swift nor the strong but the one who endure to the end”.
But cancer is a fickle and insidious foe. It has deep and lasting tentacles. It creates an uncertainty that we need to learn to live with to some extent. In November 2011 tests and scans indicated cancer cells in my colon. Two years later, cancer cells were discovered on my liver.
How and why had this deadly cancer attacked me once again? Yes, I was shocked! But after reviewing my records with the doctors and crying with my sisters, I knew then my faith was being tested and I had to reach back from my childhood days and chew on the word of God that had been instilled and injected within my family through the mind and heart of my grandparents. I stand boldly on the shoulders of my praying grandmother, the late Corrine Brock! Nevertheless, Proverbs 18:21 came to mind: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof”.
No, I do not think I am “cured” because I know it can return. But for now, I am cancer free. This year I celebrate 12 years of being a breast cancer survivor, three years of being a colorectal cancer survivor and one year of being a liver cancer survivor!
I almost didn’t go get that mammogram in December 2009. It had been two years what with life, work and putting it off for one reason or another, but after all – my mammograms had all come back clean for years, right? When I finally got to the appointment, they took the regular images, and then told me they needed to take a few more. Afterwards the doctor showed me the spot in my left breast they suspected was cancerous and things started to happen fast.
I saw my GYN within a couple of hours, who confirmed the diagnosis. An appointment was set up within the next couple of hours to talk to a surgeon. Things were happening so fast I barely had time to call my husband! He probably broke every speed limit in order to make it in time to talk to the surgeon and a decision was made to go for a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy. All this happened in the same day.
Within ten days, a port was put in surgically to prepare for chemo, the lump was removed and then the treatments started. I was part of a clinical trial in which only two of the three common chemo drugs were used once every third week. I receive follow-up calls each year to see how this treatment worked.
God is so good in that this particular combination did not incapacitate me and I never for a moment thought that I wouldn’t make it through this. Throughout chemo, radiation and the daily pill, I was so blessed to be able to work and go on with life sporting many different scarves and caps and learning to draw on eyebrows beautifully!
Most important was family and friends. Those who knew what was going on pulled together and not only came with encouragement, meals, cards and just company – more importantly lifted me up in prayer. My parents, children and siblings called, encouraged and prayed constantly. My cousins started a card campaign so I received something from one of them every week. My good friend called in her network of crafters from around the world who sent a ton of hand-made cards and gifts that I still treasure. If you guys are reading this – I still have them all!
Of everyone, my husband was my biggest supporter, shoulder to cry on and who bore the brunt of my ire when I was feeling bad and had to vent on someone.
Today I celebrate five years cancer-free. I never doubted that I wouldn’t come through this, but I know I’m in God’s hands whatever may come.
The thoughts I’d like to leave everyone with are:
- Get that mammogram – don’t wait. If I had waited another year, I might not be here today.
- If you know someone fighting cancer, be an encourager. Call them, pray for and with them and lift them up. They’ll love you for it.
- Let your family and friends know that you love and appreciate them. Tomorrow is not promised.
- Take care of yourself, relax, develop healthy habits and enjoy life.
- Get connected with God. He’s the ultimate healer and the One who will walk with you through it all.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 23, 2011. I started my chemotherapy treatments on July 25, 2011. I had a total of six treatments, one every three weeks. I had my ups and downs with my treatments, but I survived them.
On December 14, 2011 both of my breasts were removed. We went that direction because my cancer was aggressive. If it wasn’t for my breast implants, the cancer could have spread farther.
I received my “new” breasts on February 12, 2012!
My last visit with my oncologist was January 12, 2014 and I am cancer free!!!!