A Model of Courage and an Example of Hope
Guest post by Cheryl Perkins, Ford Model of Courage
May 2003: Clean bill of health from my doctor. October 2003: I found an almond-sized lump in my right breast. After two weeks of thinking that it might be a clogged milk duct due to breast feeding, my doctor scheduled a mammogram which later turned into an ultrasound and biopsy – all in the same day. “Invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2B and triple negative. It’s a very aggressive breast cancer and we need to act fast.” What a shocker! In that one moment, my life was changed forever.
At the time, my children were aged 11, 9, 4 and 2. I had just finished nursing school and had started my orientation as a NICU nurse at Children’s Hospital in Detroit. That week I met with the oncologist and the surgeon. I had a battery of tests, scans, classes and I bought a wig. I started chemotherapy the following week which lasted six months. This was followed by a double mastectomy, reconstruction and radiation. September 2004: I was able to go back to work as a labor and delivery RN.
The hard part was over, or so I thought. The whirlwind year of ups and downs left me feeling uncertain of what to do next. For years, I think I just waited for the shoe to drop, to hear that I’d had a recurrence. I prayed that I would be around for my children and husband. Somehow, I kept pressing on getting back to a new normal. My children are now 21, 19, 14 and 12 and my oldest will graduate from Spelman College in May. I am so thankful for the blessing of days that turn into years which mean more time with my family. Unfortunately, the stressors of a cancer diagnosis can change people. You are never the same after battling cancer. My marriage of 22 years was a casualty.
What makes one person survive when so many lose the battle, I don’t know, but I am thankful for the opportunity to share my story. Ford, a longtime Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure sponsor, gave me an opportunity to share my story as a Ford Warriors in Pink Model of Courage. As a Ford Model of Courage, I have shared my story through print, social media and television as a way to encourage other men and women who are battling breast cancer and those who need an extra push to empower them to take control of their bodies. If something does not feel right, do not sit on it. Get it checked out. I am alive because I did not stop with the initial diagnoses of a clogged milk duct. I have learned to embrace the new me.
I have also been involved with the Race for the Cure for the last ten years. My girls and I walk together and talk about our lives 10 years ago and plan for the future. They watched with pride and tears as I held the Honor Guard sign as a 5-year survivor. Breast cancer is the most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer death among African American women. During Black History month let’s applaud and celebrate those who paved the way for us by continuing to protect the future. Susan G. Komen’s mission is to end breast cancer forever; I have the same passion, to share my story and save as many lives as I can. “Cherish yesterday, live for today and dream for tomorrow.”
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.