MDI: When were you diagnosed and what was your diagnosis?
Ruth: I was diagnosed in March of 2015. My diagnosis was Stage 1 in Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). I was completing a yearly physical and had not had a mammogram in 4 years.
MDI: Who/what/where did you turn to after hearing your diagnosis?
Ruth: I remember clearly the day of my diagnosis. I had been on pins and needles ever since the day of my biopsies. Six samples were taken. I already felt (intuition) that something was wrong. My daughter and I were driving through Georgetown when I received the phone call. The physician stated that since I was driving, that I could call her back. Me being Me, I said “No I can handle the diagnosis.” She began to explain that my diagnosis was stage 1 in the left breast but small nodule in the right, and so on and so on. I was numb but coherent. My mind repeatedly said I had no lump and no discharge, so they must have diagnosed me wrong. But I had to maintain my composure because my daughter was in the car.
When I finally made it home, I did my usual Motherly duties. I cooked dinner and assisted everyone else. Then the ball dropped. I went upstairs in my bedroom and closed my door. I went inside my bedroom closet with the house phone and called my oldest sister, Donna. I cried so hard. My mom got on the other end of the call so they could calm me down.
My mother said, “It’s NOT A DEATH SENTENCE.” It was comforting but not enough. Then I called my closest confidant Norita Matthews and started crying cycle all over again. As myself, “Why me?” I just signed papers for my divorce and now this. Norita also cried with me. But what touched me the most (in which I still have her message) were her words of wisdom and her genuine love that she drilled in my head as well as her email message. I asked my niece Lashawn Bass to be my official health advocate. She accompanied me to every appointment until the day of surgery.
MDI: Did facing Breast Cancer affect your faith?
RUTH: Being diagnosed with Breast Cancer definitely affected my faith in God and myself. I doubted him and blamed him for giving me this disease. I doubted who I was as a female and mother. The ” why me’s” constantly took over my life. Until I made a change with myself and developed a stronger belief in God.
MDI: Where did you find your strength in dealing with treatment and healing?
RUTH: Because of my bubbly personality and great sense of humor it helped me along the way. The day of my appointment at the oncologist office, the doctor showed me diagrams of what the surgery would entail. My health insurance approved breast implants. I asked, “Well I am getting implants can I go bigger?” We all laughed and this made the rest of the day easier.
Then the morning of the surgery, I was on my cell phone with my four diva girlfriends from my job. We were joking and laughing and they made sure I was comfortable and ready. The ER nurse said, “Ruth with that attitude you are going to be alright.” My oncologist stated, “This is just a bump in the road.”
After my surgery, my oldest sister was instructed to use my cell to give them updates. All this played a huge part in my healing. but my main source of healing was reconnecting with God. I actually never lost faith I was just blindsided. Because of my Catholic faith-it never left my side-I left my side. Since I was in grade school to present- I always prayed at night or day-in the car-at work-etc. To this day, I continue to wear my Catholic medal that gives me strength. Well I prayed for a well-healed surgery with no chemo/radiation. And GOD ANSWERED MY PRAYERS.
MDI: Could you describe how sharing your story has affected your journey with Cancer?
RUTH: I was always told that I need to share my testimony and my journey, because it will definitely help others. When I share my story, people are amazed. I was still working at my job but recovering from knee surgery. I was trying to get back to full duty because I knew my breast surgery was going to be scheduled soon.
As soon as I was near full duty at work, I was involved in a car accident. I was told I maneuvered my car to avoid hitting my front passenger side (where my daughter was sitting-she saw the car coming at us) we hit head on. The impact caused my airbag to deploy and broke my finger. After therapy, I hoped to get back to full duty on my job. When I was cleared to go back full-time, I begin to prepare for my breast cancer surgeries.
It was an emotional roller-coaster. I had to deal with pain and my emotions. I felt alone. Even though I had my daughters there and family calling or coming to check on me. I still felt so lonely. I had to comfort myself at night, I had to change my own drainage tubes and record each amount. I had to be strong. I didn’t want to give up or fall apart. I never thought I could have done it all, and I did. When I share my testimony, people tell me I should become a motivational speaker to help others.
MDI: Has your faith and prayers attributed to your healing and survival?
RUTH: My faith and prayers contribute 100%. My family and close friends came second. I understood the WHY’s and have fully accepted my stage 1 breast cancer. I made a commitment to my family, my daughters, my marriage, and my job at the fire department but I did not care about RUTH.
MDI: What “words of wisdom” or advice would you give anyone facing Cancer or another life-threatening disease?
RUTH: Please love yourself and be at peace with your diagnosis. You are never alone. Your strength will encourage others. Do not lose faith and continue to pray and thank God for each day.
MDI: What message would you like to share for women who have not had a mammogram?
RUTH: Listen to what your body is telling you and pay attention. Recognize any changes in your body. If it wasn’t for me recognizing my weight loss, I would have never scheduled a physical. Don’t be too afraid to get your mammogram done. The pressing down on your breast will save your life and promote early detection/ prevention. Breast cancer is not “prejudice” it does not matter your race, gender or breast size.