Katrina almost made me denounce God.
See, Katrina was a dear friend in college, and she died from breast cancer before she hit the age of 30. Now, understand that during this time, I had seen my dad die, my cousin die, two aunts, and quite a few others. But, Katrina was special.
She was a vibrant, loving person who had the singing voice of an angel. In fact, we both performed at the school talent show one year. She was also a bit of a big sister to many of us, as she was wise beyond her years.
When she got cancer, I couldn't really deal with it. She was too young for cancer. As a person, she was too good for cancer. And, I knew and hoped that God would not take Katrina from us – her friends, family and loved ones – at such a young age.
But, that is exactly what happened – she died. I had never been so angry at God. I couldn't believe it at that moment. I was full of rage to the point of needing my friends around me to console me. All of this sadness was due to breast cancer.
This generation needs to be educated.
So, I've decided to reach out to my own mother to help educate on breast cancer. My mother is 20-plus-year-and-running cancer survivor. I remember those depressing days vividly, even though I didn't fully conceptualize the gravity of cancer. I remember the hair loss from the chemotherapy. I remember how my father helped nurse her into health. And, I recall the disgusting way the hospital doctor retreated as my mother vomited, a reaction to her treatment. Those were tough times, but also times of hope, perseverance and faith.
It all preceded the aforementioned deaths, including Katrina.
Since my mom’s victorious bout with cancer, I have watched her change her habits to decrease the possibility of the monster from coming back. With that said, I thought I would let my mother, Mrs. Sylvia Creekmur, offer the "10 Cancer Commandments" on how to identify, stave off and defeat cancer.
10 CANCER COMMANDMENTS (FROM A SURVIVOR):
My, how time flies when you’re having fun! It is difficult for me to believe that I have been a cancer survivor for almost a quarter of a century (24 years). When I think about this journey, I can’t help but give the honor and glory to the Holy One who guides my life. My religious conviction did not begin with cancer. I became a Christian at an early age; therefore, when I was faced with this health challenge, it was the assurance I needed to survive.
I will be perfectly honest here. When the doctor told me my test for cancer was positive, my human frailty kicked in. I cried. At that time cancer, to me, was synonymous with impending death. I wasn’t ready to die. I felt that there were so many people who needed me, like my family, my students, my youth choir, my church family, and my friends; consequently, I had many reasons to live. My faith went into action. I asked God to extend my life and allow me to continue my work on earth. He granted my request!!
My advice to those facing cancer is summed up in the following statements:
(1) If you are a believer, ask God for what you desire, knowing that He will answer. If the answer is not the one you wanted, know that everything will still work out for your good.
(2) Be positive. Don’t dwell on the negative. Read encouraging articles about those who have survived. Read the scriptures or anything that will encourage your spirit.
(3) Never question God with “why me?” Rather say, “why not me?” If you are a believer, you have the armor you need to conquer this challenge. If you are not a believer, you have probably lived long enough to know that life is filled with adversity and everyone will experience it at some point in time. Who are you to be exempt?
(4) When I wanted to continue revisiting what had happened to me, my surgeon said, “ Stop ruminating. If you have to ruminate, do it for about five minutes and then focus on living.” That was profound advice for me. It made me realize that I was wasting energy concentrating on the past. Don’t live in the past. Live in the present. Embrace life.
(5) Surround yourself with positive people. There are people who will immediately start to inform you about how sick you will be from the therapy (chemo, radiation, etc.). Everyone’s experience is not the same. I never missed a day from work because of chemotherapy . Even if you experience some discomfort, it will not last forever.
My husband was my greatest encourager. He was telling people from the very outset that it was an early diagnosis, and I was going to be fine. The doctor had not given us that prognosis, but my husband wanted me to internalize that I would be healed. After recovering, his coworkers at school shared with me that he was “worried sick” about losing me. Yet, he knew that conveying his fear was not going to contribute to my survival. He used his coworkers to vent.
Once you survive, use your experience to help someone else. Be an encourager. Share any literature, words of wisdom, medical information or other resources that might help another individual.
(6) Adjust your lifestyle to reflect habits that may contribute to a healthy body. Diet and exercise have proven to be invaluable for “good” health.
(7) Get regular checkups to know how you are progressing. Even if you survive and feel well, you want a competent physical to monitor your vital signs.
(8) Be informed. Read, read, read. Ask questions. Don’t leave everything up to your doctor.
(9) Do something everyday, regardless of how small it is, that makes you happy. Don’t allow the routine of your day to contribute to a stressful existence.
(10) Love and PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens). Use the time you have and share it with those you love. Life will throw us some curve balls, but it is our response to those curves balls that will make the difference. When faced with life’s challenges, continue to PUSH.
That’s sound advice from one of my heroes - my mom.
Recently, significant energy and effort have been expended to find a cure for cancer, breast cancer in particular. For example, Penn State College of Medicine has determined that they may very well have a cure for breast cancer. They say they have discovered a virus that kills human breast cancer cells. Hopefully, this can happen in our life times.
Until then, we have to do all that we can to avert cancer, particularly breast cancer. Let it be known White women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than Black women, beginning at age 45. But, like Katrina, Black women have a higher incidence rate of breast cancer before age 45.
Black women get it younger and their bodies don't generally respond positively to hormonal treatment. Furthermore, one report from 2006 even said that women in this group are far more susceptible to a deadlier, aggressive form of breast cancer called basal-like subtype. All in all, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age, because, like Black men, critical diagnosis often comes too late.
I'm glad I wasn't embittered by Katrina's death to the point where I denounced God. That would have been just like letting the disease kill me. The best way to pay homage to those that have passed is to stay faithful, to remain diligently educated (and educate others), and support research that forges towards a cure.
Love you, Mom! Love you, Katrina - rest.
Editor's Note: AllHipHop.com is shining a spotlight on good health - our most precious resource - throughout the month of October. Catch DJ Spinderella schooling about diabetes, Big K.R.I.T. and Talib Kweli making "Beautiful" music to support cancer awareness & research, and more!