Angela contacted me for a photo session a few months back. She wanted to celebrate living life and overcoming obstacles through photos, but she (in her words) is “not a photo person.” She doesn’t really care for taking photos, but stepping out of her comfort zone is a part of her self-care regimen. Rather reserved and private, this new adventure brought Angela into brand-spanking new territory. Posing, laughing into a camera lens, and being the center of attention was a bit uncomfortable at first, but let me tell you, by the end of the session, Angela was a total pro and gave Tyra Banks a run for her money!
In the next couple of weeks you will meet several breast cancer survivors, but Angela had to be the very first, as she was actually the inspiration for this project. On the way home from her photo session, my synapses started firing and this photo interview series is the result. I want you guys to hear from real-life people who have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming) a disease that has touched so many of our lives. Friends, I can’t wait for you to hear Angela’s testimony.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the eldest child of my personal superhero, Helen Eddings. I am the mother of three beautiful and successful humans, the proud Nana of three of my favorite blessings, one son-in-love, and a friend to many. I am employed as a Coordinator for the Jefferson County Public School system, division of Family Resource Youth Service Centers. And first and finally, the most important of all my roles-
I am A child Of the all knowing, ever present God!
Tell us about your journey with breast cancer.
The age of 21 brought with it a newfound responsibility to life and an accountability that superseded any thought of growth I could have conceived as a young woman. My eyes were opened to the world of Motherhood as my first love was introduced to me in the form of a beautiful brown skin baby girl now known to the world as Alise.
Nothing could have presented me with more excitement and a greater sense of life than realizing the responsibilities of parenthood. Then 1996 happened. While pregnant with my second child, Dangelo, I heard an almost deafening voice speaking to me from the chart of my medical records. When I realized the physician was declaring a diagnosis of Lupus, I felt all the life drain from me in that moment. Aside from the embarrassment I felt from not truly understanding what it meant to have Lupus, I couldn’t keep myself from wondering what would become of my little baby girl and my unborn son if Lupus didn’t allow me to live. With the overwhelming physical pain, the loss of my hair, a rash-ridden body, and fluctuating body weight, I made up my mind to go to war for my life. In this war for life, we face many battles. In 2006, just as I had accepted my lot with Lupus, another physical ailment called me to the battlefield. It seemed as if my war clothes weren’t going to be enough to protect me against this one. Much about the science of the brain is unknown to man, but still medical technology revealed the presence of not one, but two aneurysms. One of the aneurysms was considered immediately operable and so it was successfully removed. However, the other left the medical team without any real urgency to remove. The decision was made to monitor it over time and essentially hope for the best. For the last 14 years of my life, I have lived knowing that any day could be interrupted by the unexpected rupturing of the aneurysm I carry with me wherever life takes me.
Throughout my life, pain and illness has been a familiar presence. At an early age, I watched prayerfully as Breast Cancer became a mountain in the life of my greatest heroine. And for more than 30 years, I was able to stand beside my mother and joyfully celebrate how she not only survived this cancer, but how she was determined to let her faith in God fight the battle on her behalf.
Having a firsthand account of my mother’s breast cancer journey should have prepared me for my own, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.
That fateful Saturday in 2018 on the 28th of June, my life was forever changed.
I was diagnosed with upper-outer quadrant estrogen receptor positive stage 3 breast cancer.
Ironically, this wasn’t my first diagnosis of cancer, but somehow, this time was very different. Managing major illnesses had become a strength of mine. Still, for the first time, my fear was not embedded in the cancer itself, it was in my ability to make the right decision for the protection of my family. I could withstand an array of treatments and prescription cocktails, but what I could not handle was causing my family to hurt. My third and final son, Darius would be forced to spend his final years as a teenager and senior year of high school living with the Cancer treatments and emotional ups and downs of his mother.
Seeing the anguish and pain on the faces of my children led me to retreat from everyday life into a place of solitude and silence like never before.
Not because I was afraid of dying, but more so because I was afraid to live with the knowledge that everyday could be my final one.
Still, the team of doctors responsible for my care met with me and the decision to undergo whatever treatments to preserve my life rose to the forefront.
In the ten weeks to follow, Radiation became my reality.
It was my reliance on God and the support of beautiful people that carried me through my dark nights and anxious days. The sight of my treatment laden body made my body ache from anger. Other therapies were a piece of cake compared to the burns of 32 radiation treatments.
The excruciating pain and rawness of my skin that might burn at the slightest touch kept me awake at night crying out to God for answers.
Yet it was in the stillness of my bed where I lay fighting to know comfort that I found my greatest comfort in the arms of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And today, although I still suffer nightmares surrounding those radiation treatments, I can declare that I not only survived, but more than two years post-diagnosis- I am Thriving!
All praises to My Lord and gratitude for the love of those He ordained to walk with me during this fight!
Whatever my lot, God has taught me to say, IT IS WELL with my soul.
What did you learn about yourself, others, and the world throughout this journey?
This journey has revealed much about who I am and the fiber of my being leaving me sure that I am More Than a Survivor! I’ve learned that my survival was a divine orchestration meant to increase my knowledge of the most important elements responsible for my victory. Not one human being is required to stand beside me as I travail. But every person necessary to my growth has never needed an invitation to invest in me.
They are connected to me in spirit and need only to know a need exists and I need only to open the door of my heart.
What advice would you give to someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
- Lean not unto your own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge God and He shall direct thy path.
- Carefully share your journey with others in the effort to be a support and receive support.
- Stay in tune with the source of Your Strength. Take time to honor your truth. Self-care is most important.
- Find your support group and learn to enjoy your time in the waiting room. Listen.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Schedule and attend mammograms on time. Heed the warnings of your body. Take care of your temple; it’s the only place you have to live. And remember,
Only what you do for Christ will last.
This is a beautiful idea. It honors survivors and their journey. Also it’s informative and inspirational. Once this is done I could totally see a book coming out of this project.
Truly amazing! Praising God with and for you!!
Shannon you are amazing for creating a space where SURVIVORS can feel safe about who they are and the journey they have been on.
Angela you so eloquently spoke about your journey and the battles you have had to fight for to sustain good health! Know that you are more than a conquerer and I am very proud to know you! Your beauty radiated through your photos!!! Thank you to the Lord above for being a healer like no other! I admire your tenacity and the fact that you moved out of your comfort zone and opened up to vulnerable to share your life’s journey to encourage and inspire other!!!
May God bless Shannon Drummond for her vision and Angela for being the WARRIOR that you are!!!
Thank you, Remona.