Breast Cancer: Facing the Giant

Breast Cancer: Facing the Giant

In every person’s lifetime, there are milestone events that shape them in dramatic ways. Among her milestones, Loretta N. cites marrying her high-school sweetheart, having two amazing sons, being blessed with the “tall gene” and the talent to play basketball. Remarkably, she also includes being diagnosed with CANCER.

“Of my many roles in life, I never thought “cancer survivor” would be a label I’d wear with pride,” she admits.  

Loretta’s life as she knew it forever changed with one phone call in 2012. “My primary care doctor left me a message asking me to call him at home right away,” she remembers. I immediately thought, “What doctor gives you his home number unless he has something MAJOR to tell you.’

Riding with her husband to her eldest son’s high-school basketball game, Loretta held her breath as she dialed her doctor’s number. Moments later, three words changed everything.

Loretta’s doctor told her, “You have cancer.”

As she let those shocking words sink in, she thought “I’m on the way to my son’s basketball game. What do you mean I have cancer? My brain was suddenly running a hundred miles an hour.”

The Journey Begins

Loretta’s doctor had already made an appointment for her to see an oncologist first thing Monday morning.

“I knew what an oncologist was because I lost both my mom and brother-in-law to lung cancer. My sister had her own battle with breast cancer a decade earlier,” she explains. “In my mind, my mom and brother-in-law lost their battles. I didn’t want to lose mine.”

In the weeks to come, Loretta met with the medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist who would treat her.

“Little did I know I would experience so many emotions on my journey – frustration, anger, inspiration and appreciation,” she marvels. “I haven’t met many cancer survivors who say they appreciate what having cancer did for them personally, but I do. Within three weeks of being diagnosed, I received a spiritual message that inspired me to write a book – A Life-Changing Event: My Cancer Journey.”

At times Loretta found treatment (surgery, 33 radiation sessions and five years of oral chemotherapy) scary, physically painful and emotionally overwhelming.

“The fear and uncertainty are a lot for one person to deal with,” she reveals. “But I realize now that I’m stronger having survived the journey. And because of my cancer, I’ve met the most phenomenal and inspiring people.”

Finding Strength in Community

Loretta found herself lifted up by a group of incredible women in the throes of their own battles with breast cancer.

“We bonded over our faith, our desire to fight cancer, a determination to never give up, and the belief that we will enjoy many years of life ahead. Above all, we bonded over the mutual support and compassion we feel and accept from one another.

“During this journey, I’ve met women who believe, without any doubt, that they’ve met a heavenly angel assigned to help them through their journey. I’ve met a male cancer survivor who has helped me understand that cancer has no face. It’s not partial to race or gender. Everyone in my cancer survivor community wants to achieve and retain the label of “cancer survivor” – whether they’re male or female. 

Loretta is proud to wear the mantle of cancer survivor.

“I feel blessed to have experienced the support and camaraderie of so many strong and inspirational people along the way,” she says. “I’ve faced the giant and I’m still here.”

Originally published 10/1/2017; Revised 2022