June's Mission Moment was written by Alicia Roberts, CBF Volunteer
As Shirley H. Howie waited for the results of a series of mammograms and then a biopsy last year, she remembers feeling scared. Really, really scared.
At that time, she knew of a maternal aunt who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her late 70s and is now a survivor at age 93. But her mother had died of lung cancer, and both her brother and sister had died of throat cancer. She suspected her annual mammogram--something she scheduled every year, religiously---had found something. So the waiting and the fear went hand in hand.
Shirley's diagnosis become official in June 2022: stage 1A breast cancer, requiring a lumpectomy and then a unilateral mastectomy and four rounds of chemo, which she finished the week before Christmas 2022. Now, her treatment includes a daily medication to suppress her estrogen and infusions of Zometa every six months to strengthen her bones.
The worst part of treatment from the start, she says, was the fear of the unknown.
"I tried not to get depressed about it," she says. "I'd never been through this before. Hearing about the different side effects of the chemo, being afraid of what's going to happen to me, just not knowing. My biggest challenge was fear of the unknown."
The chemo fortunately caused only fatigue and a little bit of nausea, but few other side effects. She wasn't bothered by the hair loss, telling herself, "I'll just go out and buy me a cute little wig."
Shirley shares she didn't realize how much she needed to talk about her experience with breast cancer until she called The Pink House on the recommendation of her nurse navigator, Lisa Hamilton.
She connected with operations manager Charmaine Tyson, whom Shirley describes as "sweet from day one."
"She was so calming, just making me feel so much better about my journey and sharing a little bit about her journey," Shirley explains. "Her sense of caring for me made a difference."
Since that initial phone call, Shirley has made regular visits to The Pink House for events and sessions, and she appreciates the opportunity to meet other Survivors.
It gives her hope, she says: "I love The Pink House!"