OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
You never know what health element will impact a person’s life.
My friend, Virginia Smart, appeared to look like herself, as she passionately cared for her grandchildren, cooked delicious dinners for the community, and visited and socialized with family and friends with her husband. But word on the street was that she had taken ill and was battling breast cancer.
I could not believe it! She “looked” healthy to me, but what did I know? Mrs. Smart had not publicly spoken about it, so I assumed that the news was incorrect. It felt like I had been slapped in the face as I tried to remain in denial about her situation.
Breast cancer does not care if you are pretty, young, energetic, intelligent, talented, church-going, kind, upbeat, and have a sense of humor.
Mrs. Smart, 44. was the first person in her immediate family to find a lump in her breast as she was bathing. She called her doctor and went in for her appointment. She defines herself as a “naturalist” and had already predicated her aliment but did not panic.
“I did not have a close relationship with my doctor. She called me in the evening, and I went into the office the next day. After she told me that I had cancer, she was like do you need anyone to be with you? Can I call someone for you?” said Mrs. Smart. Little did the medical physician know that my neighbor had an entire army of supporters.
The American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Center, and the University of Chicago’s research study, titled Wisdom (thewisdomstudy.org), provide resources for women and families who need encouragement to have the will to live.
What was different about her situation was Mrs. Smart’s determined attitude to remain positive throughout the storm. Her husband, JoRico, three children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, church members, and relatives encircled her with a spirit of loving support. They would not allow her to wallow in self-pity or sorrow. The stage one cancer would not manifest, as she moved swiftly to have the lump removed from her system. The entire process moved rather quickly,” said Mrs. Smart, who is five years in remission.
Unlike many Black women, Mrs. Smart was able to use time as her friend, whereas some women of color learn of their cancer stage at a late date.
Mrs. Smart did not use chemo for part of her healing process, as she was trying to protect her health in other areas. She did undergo radiation during a six-week period. The hardest part of her journey was staying mentally prepared to be strong, to cast doubts out of her mind.
Mrs. Smart, prudent and wise, carefully listened to her closest confidants and researched remedies that would improve her health. She said that her husband spent his time looking for natural remedies, like a combination of teas that she drinks daily, to cleanse her system. The ingredients are non-caffeine peppermint, green, white, and oolong teas combined together to start the healing process. She has been drinking this combination for more than five years, and it has worked for her.
“I do think that you should get more than one opinion and do your own research because sharing with other people brings out new information,” she said.
Today, Mrs. Smart “works” as a breast cancer advocate for her friends or family members who have cancer. Women call her for advice and ask her questions, and she bases her answers on her well-lived experiences. In 2019, she and her personal army of 50 supporters walked in Chicago’s Sista Strut Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on the city’s Southside.
She serves as a role model to her family for weathering the storm and working hard to attain and maintain her victory, with a disease known for claiming the lives of thousands of women.