While doing a self breast exam in January of 2015 I felt a very small lump in my left breast. I assumed it was just my hormones or an irritation from the underwire of some new bras that my sister had given me for Christmas. By March the lump was still there And I started to get a little concerned due to the fact that one of my favorite aunts ( Aunt Helen Kelly) was battling breast cancer. She was very ill at the time. I decided to go in for another mammogram even though I had just had one the July before and the results were normal. Second mammogram results compared to the first had few changes. The exam showed that I had fibrocystic dense breast tissue and to follow up in six months for a repeat exam. For now that news was good. I thanked the Lord, prayed and carried on with life. I had a lot going on. My aunt was sick, I was working, and I was coordinating my moms wedding for May. I was too busy to be sick. By April there was a burning sensation whenever I touched the spot. Being a nurse I was taught that cancer and pain don’t go hand in hand but I couldn’t get it off my mind. Working in the hospital you have access to so many doctors, so at work one day I called one of our OB/GYN‘s , Dr. Brown, and asked if he could examine my breast. I just needed someone to feel what I was feeling. He did the exam and was only able to feel the lump once I placed his finger on it. He was amazed that I found a lump so small. He immediately got his nurse to get the surgeon Dr. Rooks on the phone. You see, I think this is where favor from the Lord stepped in. Dr. Brown didn’t have to do anything for me that day but he did. He helped set my journey in motion. The day that I had my biopsy was a day that I will never forget, it was a Friday, April 24, 2015 to be exact. My family and friends were home preparing for the home going celebration of my aunt Helen. Yes her journey ended a few days prior and her funeral was scheduled for that Sunday. The following Tuesday I was at work when my cell phone rang. I went into to the break room and answered. It was Dr. Rooks nurse. She was very sweet but she had some very disturbing news. She said "Rochelle I got your results back; your biopsy was positive". "You have invasive ductal carcinoma stage one breast cancer". She told me that my tumor was very small and that it measured .5 mm in size. She said she would schedule me an appointment to come in and talk with the doctor about my options. My heart started to race, my eyes filled with water, my voice cracked. I stood there holding the phone in total disbelief. She gave me the follow up appointment and I hung up. At that very moment my coworker Angela walk in. She knew, she looked at me and I looked at her and we both started crying. She was that one person that I have been talking to other than my husband and God the entire time because my mom was getting married and I wasn’t telling the family anything until after her wedding. We prayed a little prayer and I pulled myself together and held my head up high and went back on the unit to continue taking care of my patients. They needed me. I went in for my appointment the following week.
I chose to do a double mastectomy with implants using the latissimus flap procedure where they took the muscle from my back to reconstruct my breast. The closest available date for surgery was June 1st which was my birthday. Either that day or wait two months for the next available date. I chose my birthday, the sooner the better. I trusted that God would take care of me and He did. I woke up from surgery to a room full of people, candy, balloons and a pink purse and so much love. My support system is awesome. The doctor came in and told me that my tumor measured 17mm, it had tripled in size in just a short period of time. Look at God. What if I had waited the six months that the mammogram suggested? They took three lymph nodes and they were negative but because of my age and the type of cancer which was triple negative, I would need a full 16 rounds of chemo. I also did the genetic testing which was negative meaning my cancer just happened. The first few months after surgery went by pretty fast. At first I required a lot of assistance with wiping and bathing myself. My range of motion was limited. Thank God for my daughters and my husband who would do it all. I started chemo in August 2015 with the first four rounds being Adriamyin/Cytoxan. Some people call it the red devil but my mom renamed it the blood of Jesus. On my weekly one and a half hour drive to Jackson for chemo I would always have company. My sisters, my sister-in-law, my children, my husband but there was always one person no matter who was in the car she would go also that was my mom, Levonne Smith. She made sure she went to every appointment and every treatment. Chemo day turned into restaurant days for us.. I would get my chemo with all of that Benadryl and sleep for a few hours then wake up hungry. We always found a great restaurant to try out in Jackson. After my second dose of chemo my hair started coming out I clipped it short then asked my husband to go ahead and shave me bald. I lost every piece a hair on my body. My nails, my skin and my tongue all turned black. Chemo is really harsh. Not only does it kill the bad cells-it kills the good cells too. I had to be very careful who I was around because of my immune system. Chemo also has lasting effects on the body. Some of which I deal with daily. Some people think that cancer is a death sentence. I embraced it. I put on make up and got cute. I made a different T-shirt to wear to each of my treatments. All with cute little sayings. One shirt said “bald head cutie”, another one said “heck yeah they’re fake the real ones tried to kill me.”I always remained positive . I never wanted my family to see me down besides God had me. Somewhere around the end of August or 1 September I was hospitalized because my blood sugar was over 600. The Decadron that I was getting with chemo was causing this. I remember standing in line after getting out of the hospital waiting at the pharmacy for my medication I spoke to the lady in-line beside me. Somehow she just knew something was wrong with me. Maybe the fact that I broke down into tears when she spoke back. We start talking and she informed me that she had resources that I could use.This lady was Paula Provine and she became a very good friend. Not only did her company “Caring and Sharing “help me financially they helped me emotionally. She also introduced me to an organization called the Delta Belles and they help me financially. The entire time I went for treatments they covered my gas with gas cards. In December, a couple treatments shy of my last chemo my boss called and said that I needed to come back to work or I would no longer have a job. Although I didn’t feel like I was ready to return, business was business and I needed my insurance. I put my bald head in a beanie cap and put my lipgloss on I walked inside of that hospital and took care of my patients. I took my last dose of chemo on December 15, 2015 and as of June 2016 I am cancer free. I had to also have a total hysterectomy and just recently a total hip replacement. Chemo helps a lot but it also does a job on the body. I’m so thankful for Pink Saavy and being able to be a part of such a wonderful organization. I love it here.
- Rochelle Woods
About me: Mom of 3 girls. Jackea. Latoya and Denyia. grandma of 3 girls, Jourdan, Jaiden and Ryan. Wife to Randy. Nurse by profession, Treat maker by craft.