Or so I thought…Let me take you back to the moment in time where absolutely nothing changed my life forever. It was March of 2011, just six months after having my first child, when my boyfriend (now husband) and I were finally catching our rhythm as new parents; it was then that he discovered the lump in my right breast. Trying his hardest not to go into a full blown panic he advised me to get it checked out. I of course, had other things on my mind.
After thinking it was absolutely nothing, I put off scheduling an appointment for about a month until I finally decided to go to my OBGYN for a regular checkup. When I finished sharing a few laughs with the doctor about how my overly concerned boyfriend “saw something” in the middle of a very intimate moment, I continued on with the examination. Immediately following the visit I was referred to the breast care center for an ultrasound. At the ultrasound I was told that it was a fibroadenoma (or whatever that means) and I was given the option to leave it alone or have it removed. Well, at the tender age of 29, my young and naive mind thought “if it’s not cancer, then leave it. I don’t wanna go through a whole damn surgery for nothing.” Per medical protocol, there was a standard follow up appointment made about 8 weeks out. Why are they being so extra over absolutely nothing I wondered, nevertheless I reluctantly returned. During this appointment, I was told that the mass had doubled in size; however it was still benign. Once again, I was asked if I wanted to leave it there or have it removed. At that point, I said F* it and I made the decision to have the damn thing removed because I wasn’t about to keep running back and forth to these medical offices over something so small. Of course I didn’t let anyone know about this upcoming procedure because, in my mind it wasn’t a big deal, just a removal of an insignificant lump, nothing serious at all.
Once it was removed, I received THE phone call that would change my life forever. To this day, I still can’t find the words to describe the utter shock I felt just five days after the biopsy when my doctor explained they found cancer cells. “Wait what…come again?” I had to have the doctor repeat it over and over again because I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. I mean, the doctor herself said that she was just as shocked as I was. Ummmm was this supposed to be some type of consolation prize? Was the fact that she too was surprised supposed to be comforting in that moment? Was I supposed to feel any better after hearing her say this to me? She then proceeded to tell me that I had to undergo an emergency surgery because they didn’t remove everything the first time. Now fast forward to August of 2011, after the lumpectomy, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Breast Cancer. WTF is all I keep thinking. This can’t be true. I must be dreaming. I mean I’m only 30 freakin years old. I’m not old enough to have cancer. I’m not ready to die….That day and the initial agonizing conversation with my doctor will forever be etched in my head.
Honestly, breaking the news to my friends and family wasn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who heard the news reacted as if they had just witnessed me being run over by a big rig, but I on the other hand, wasn’t really trippin. Looking back at it all now, I realize I was in a state of denial. However, when I got home from my first post cancer diagnosis appointment, that’s when the shit got real and the gravity of everything sunk in all at once. It hit me hard and immediately I broke down crying inconsolably. Why was this happening to me? What did I do? When did this happen? What should I have done differently? During the appointment, my anxiety was beyond piqued. I couldn’t retain any of the information that was being thrown at me; but I was expected to, make all these decisions immediately. I had no clue what I was going to do, but the one thing that I was certain of was that I was going to see this through, if not for myself, for my son.
I had 8 rounds of chemotherapy, lost all my hair and opted to have a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction (in place of undergoing radiation). When it was all said and done, I survived nine laborious surgeries and completed five years of hormone therapy. Yes, undeniably these were all hard and unimaginable things to endure nevertheless, I had to keep on pushing. I was fearless and faithful, I mean shit I had to be. There was no way in hell this cancer was going to beat me. I changed my initial thinking of “it’s nothing” to my life’s mantra of “it’s Nuthin! I got thins!” Not only was I determined to fight, but I swore to myself that I would be intentional about remaining positive and counting each day as a blessing. In addition, I am so grateful to have been surrounded by people near and dear to me that helped me see this process through. Whether it was taking my then toddler son out and about for a day or two when I had my lows from the chemotherapy, holding my hand during my scheduled appointments, or just calling and texting to let me know they cared, I knew I was lifted in love. I’ll admit that I had some days where I felt depleted, destitute, depressed and just wanted to be by myself. I knew I needed the support, but I was so tired of the constant reminder of how sick I was. People fail to realize how overwhelming and down right annoying it is to be reminded daily of the fact that you’re fighting for your life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it was all meant in love, however I grew weary of the “get well soon and I hope you’re feeling better” conversations which is why I began rejecting and ignoring phone calls, text messages, social media messages and guests and guess what, I don’t regret it at all. I had to do what was best for me in order to keep my sanity.
Coincidentally, my stepmother was also going through her own battle with Stage 4 Breast Cancer at the same time. Having spent many nights speaking to her about her journey is what truly helped me cope. I will forever be grateful for her being there and really understanding exactly what I was going through. Even though, I only had her for six months following my diagnosis, it meant the world to me that she was there to confide in. However, in February 2012, she lost her on-going battle with cancer as I was right there by her side while she took her last breath. To say I had survivors’ guilt is an understatement. I kept asking God why he took such a precious soul and spared me. But who am I to ask such questions? I was alive because God had plans for me and a part of His plan was for me to be here today sharing my testimony and giving hope to those who aren’t strong enough to go through this alone.
Fast forward to 2019, I am overjoyed to announce that I have been cancer free for the past 8 years. Won’t He do it! Sometimes, I forget that I ever had cancer and all that I went through to just to be here today. Yes, it was one of the most trying times in my life, however I didn’t let it consume me. I stand here today, not as just a cancer survivor, but as a loyal wife, mother of two (yes TWO) amazing boys, sister, friend and beacon of hope for all those fighting. So whether you think it’s something or nothing, get checked because early detection is key. For those of you in the fight with Breast Cancer trust me when I say, keep your head up, keep smiling, pray and remind yourself that You Can Beat This…”It’s Nuthin!”
Mommi Ife Campbell