Saturday, March 27, 2010

Savonda's Breast Cancer Story

Savonda is a coworker of mine at North Georgia Technical College. Savonda was an ambassador for the Atlanta Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure in October 2008. This is the talk she gave to the participants on one night of the 3-day journey. It speaks volumes about Savonda's incredible journey in her fight against breast cancer and also her great sense of humor.

My name is Savonda. I live in Clarkesville, Georgia and this is my second Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. My first walk was last year. It began in the Spring of 2007 when I decided to walk in honor of my mom who was approaching her 8 year anniversary of being cancer free. What started out as a hope to play a small part in the fight against breast cancer and honor my mom took on new dimensions and became even more personal during the training period.

On July 31, 2007 I woke up and began to get ready for work. I switched on the television for the morning news and jumped in the shower, as was my morning routine. Before I left for work I sat down for breakfast and the first few minutes of Good Morning America. The next few minutes jolted me into action. Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts came on but their mood was more somber than usual. One of the things I enjoy about the show is the banter that happens between the morning team. This morning Robin had something to tell the audience. She had breast cancer. Her announcement took my breath. Robin Roberts, the picture of health, had breast cancer. And she is my age. I couldn’t wait for 9 am so I could call my gynecologist.

As I processed the announcement, I recalled that it had been 5 years since my last mammogram. I really had not meant to let it go so long but life had been busy and I had cancelled appointments and not rescheduled. When I arrived at work that morning I called my gynecologist and scheduled an appointment for August 11th. The appointment was the beginning of a whirlwind few months for me. My mammogram showed something suspicious so I was scheduled for more mammograms and an ultrasound with the Imaging Center. There was still nothing conclusive so I was referred to the Breast Care Specialist here in Atlanta. More mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs…

After the closing ceremony of last year’s 3-day Walk I remained in Atlanta with my daughter because I had an MRI biopsy scheduled on Monday. As I sat in the waiting room with Erin, my daughter, I scanned the room and saw mother’s there with their daughters, daughter’s bringing their mother’s, a sister with a sister, husbands with wives, a friend with a friend, and women alone. I was scared and trying not to be for Erin and from the look on some the faces in the waiting I was not the only one feeling anxious. We all shared the common thread of being women facing the possibility of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The ladies were young and older, quiet and bold ~ business women tapping away on Blackberries ~ moms scheduling rides to practices for their children ~ a grandmother talking about plans for Thanksgiving ~ just normal women doing life. The patients spanned socio-economic levels, ages, and stages of life but they shared the dread of the known and unknown of breast cancer.

On October 24th, one year ago yesterday, I received a call from Dr. Steinhaus with the results of my biopsy…I HAD BREAST CANCER. I was in shock but scheduled to meet Dr. Steinhaus the following week to discuss my options. I wasn’t ready for this.

By Thanksgiving, I’d had a double mastectomy, a second surgery for removing more lymph nodes, and began reconstruction. Yes Ladies, these are fake…my real ones tried to kill me. I can’t take credit for that thought…I saw it on a T-shirt. On December 14th, I began chemotherapy and completed chemo the first of this past April.

In less than two months, I went from walking 60 miles in three days to being unable to walk a mile. The toll on my body, my psyche, and my life was overwhelming. Breast cancer tested my faith, my family, my friends, and my physicians.

My mom having had breast cancer was enough to motivate me into action. And now I personally know what it can do to a life. I am inspired by the hope and vision of the Susan G. Komen foundation because in its efforts lie the hope that my daughter, my nieces, my sisters, and my friends may not have to face breast cancer or if they face it the treatments will be more effective and less destructive. I am prompted in to action by the faces in the waiting room. I am here to walk this year because I CAN walk and I want to celebrate that I don’t have breast cancer now.

I am Savonda and I walk because "everyone deserves a lifetime."

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