Cancer: If it happened to me, it could happen to you
Quote: Finally, just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. – Anonymous.
My journey with cancer began not with me, but with my mother
I’m Kerri Conner. It was April of 1998. I had just graduated from Howard University and I was studying to become a CPA so I could work side by side with my mother in her accounting firm (Anita T. Conner & Associates, P.C. – Home of the Tax Divas) (www.atconnercpa.com).
This particular April was no different from any other. We were swamped doing tax returns trying to make the April 15th deadline. As an accountant, I quickly learned that everything had to be put on hold until after the tax deadline and that life as I knew it would resume the day after.
Little did I know, was that this April 16, 1998 my life would be changed forever. It was on this day, that my family and I learned that my mother, who was only 41 years old, had an advanced stage of breast cancer.
I was 23 years old, I did not know ANYTHING about breast cancer. I did not know ANYONE who had the disease, and I had no idea what to expect. What I did know was that my family was devastated and this could not be good.
The ironic thing about my mom’s situation was that she had felt a lump in her left breast for years. She did tell the doctors about the lump and the discomfort it caused, but they all said the same thing….She was too young for it to be breast cancer. It was not until she was going in for a routine procedure that the doctor said “Let’s do a biopsy…you are here…and it can’t hurt.
By the time, the cancer was detected, my mother had a high stage three cancer, and it had begun to spread to her lymph nodes. My mother’s routine procedure turned into a total hysterectomy and a radical mastectomy.
I will never forget that day. It was the longest surgery ever. My family took shifts coming to the hospital and sitting with me. When the doctor came out to give us a status…he took my father and I to a little room…it was here he told us to pray for a miracle. He told us the cancer had spread and it did not look good. My mother’s doctor was preparing us for the worse.
Mom’s Treatment Plan
I knew that the Lord was going to heal my mother. I watched her go through, high dose chemotherapy treatments (sometimes 10 x’s the standard dose) stem cell transplant, 80 radiation treatments, reconstruction surgery and 10 years of preventative medicine. I watched her go through set back after set back and yes, it was extremely difficult for me to watch.
I am proud to say that 13 years later…my mother is alive…my mother is well…and my mother is sharing her story, so other women will not have to go through what she went through. And I am also still working with my mother at our accounting firm as we had planned.
What Came Next
As a result of my mother’s journey, I became a breast cancer advocate. I learned that African American women get the disease less often than other ethnic groups, but are dying at greater rates. I wanted and needed to do something to promote awareness about this disease.
Hence, we started Praise Is The Cure. A program under our non profit – the George E. Thorne Development Center (www.getdc.org) geared towards African American women – motivating, educating and encouraging them to get breast health screenings and treatments.
April 16, 2008 – My mother’s 10 year anniversary of being cancer free
In 2008, April 16th to be exact, 10 years to the day that my mother was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, I too was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. I was 33 years old and I had a two year old daughter. My family and friends were devastated. My mother blamed herself for my disease. Little does my mother know…is that I credit her for my survival. I thank God every day for allowing me to watch my mother go through what she did. It was her faith, her determination, and her strength…that showed me that I to could do this.
Like my mother’s cancer, my cancer was spreading fast. I had a round of high dose chemo, a double mastectomy, another round of high dose chemo, radiation treatments, and just when I thought I was finished, the doctors found another lump, so I did two more years of chemo, reconstruction surgery, and five years of preventative meds. When I looked back over this time period, I realized I had 6 surgeries in a 2 year time period….. But to God be the Glory….I am Still Standing.
One year after my diagnoses, two more young African American mothers at my daughter’s day care were diagnosed with breast cancer. It was then, that I knew what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to share my story with these women and their families. He wanted me to encourage an inspire them to NEVER give up despite what life threw their way. So I wrote the children’s book… “My Mommy Has Breast Cancer, But She Is Ok!” (www.mymommyhasbreastcancer.com). My goal is to raise money for breast cancer awareness while encouraging our women to fight. All the proceeds from the book go to the Praise Is The Cure (www.praiseisthecure.org) initiative so we can continue to encourage and inspire families to take action.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her life time. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 3 minutes in the US. This means that by the time you are done reading this, there will be 3 women that have been diagnosed. And if they are African American they are at greater risk of dying than any other ethnic groups.
Don’t think because you are young you can’t get the disease.
If it could happen to me, it could definitely happen to you.
If it does, will you be ready to take the journey? If I can do it, so can you. This blog will offer you support, hope and information on living with a cancer diagnosis of any sort, plus tips and interviews on ways to survive, during what is a difficult process. I encourage you to share your stories, tips and ideas as well.