According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, it is estimated that there
will be 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer amongst women in
the United States in 2016. As the number of women diagnosed with
breast cancer continues to increase each year, it is imperative that
we raise awareness of the signs and symptoms. The word cancer has such
a negative connotation, and just hearing that it is in your body may
cause one to lose hope. However, thousands of women across the nation
have been victorious in their fight against breast cancer and are now
known as survivors. Rhonda Sewell and Tracy Steele are both survivors
from the city of Akron, and although they have lead two different
lives, they share a common belief that Faith was key to their
In August 2011, Rhonda Sewell found out she had breast cancer and was utterly devastated. She made a trip to Akron General to meet with an oncologist to investigate a lump that she noticed, but she was misdiagnosed. After further testing, they concluded that she did, in fact, have breast cancer. “If something doesn’t feel right, be proactive and take your care into your own hands, “she stated in her interview. Once she was informed she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Rhonda was overwhelmed with emotion. She had no idea of what to do next or how she would tell her family. She stated, “When I heard the word cancer the first thought I had was, ‘I’m going to die.’ But, I thank God for my sister, my parents, and my daughters because they were my biggest support system.” Despite the hardships ahead of her, she had faith that God would bring her back to health. “I was afraid, but my fear was surpassed by my will to live and my spirit to fight.”
Rhonda decided to do her treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, where she felt more comfortable with her caregivers. She stressed how thankful she was for her good health insurance, because without it, it would have been nearly impossible for her to be treated. During her treatment process, she had a left mastectomy, which means her left breast was removed. Although it was tough for her to deal with the drastic change, her nurses encouraged her saying, “You don’t need your breast to live.” These words gave Rhonda much-needed inspiration to overcome her disposition. She also had to endure chemotherapy as part of her process. Chemotherapy is a controlled poison that is distributed through medicine bags and kills all of the cells as it flows through one’s body. “It’s like you can feel the life leaving your body,” she explained. “I was so weak, I could barely even open a water bottle. That tears you down mentally.” She took five out of six chemotherapy treatments and decided after the 5th, she was stepping out on faith by not taking the last one.
For her, the hardest part about the road to recovery was the toll treatment took on her mentally and physically. She no longer felt or looked like ‘Rhonda’ anymore, and when she looked in the mirror she “saw a monster.” Still, she refused to give up, and she overcame her own anger and self-pity. Two years after she was diagnosed, her body was free of breast cancer! When she was asked about what being a survivor means to her she stated: “Being a survivor means I have a second chance at life. Being a survivor is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I changed my whole life, and I found my purpose. I have a new attitude about the life that I live because I realize I have nothing to be angry about. Through it all, I learned to love me!”
Now, three years fully recovered, Rhonda is a lot more conscious about the things that she takes into her body. She urges women to always read the labels before consuming food, exercise often, be aware of changes in their body, and to get mammograms. Her goals for her new journey of life are to learn something
new every day, enjoy life and live hers to it’s fullest potential, gain new experiences, and educate women about how important it is to take care of their bodies. Lastly, Rhonda wants to give a special message to women with breast cancer: “You can survive!”
Tracy has endured a series of hardships n her life, but she always holds her head high. Losing her mom at age 16 to domestic violence, she had to learn to fend for herself at a young age. She developed a good work ethic and did well for herself as she became an adult, getting married and starting a family of her own. “Marrying my husband and having my baby, Chelsy, were the happiest moments of my life,” she explained.
June 1, 2012 was the day that Tracy was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. This means that the breast cancer spread to other organs in the body, like the lungs and even the brain. Although she knew there would be rough times ahead, she remained hopeful, praying for strength and healing every day. With her husband and daughter at her side for support and Jesus at the center of her life, Tracy knew that her struggle wouldn’t last forever.
For one year, she had to stop working to begin chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Chemotherapy was a horrible experience for her and taking her medicine each month was depressing her more and more. Radiation was not as painful, however, she was burned very badly as a result and was always in pain. She lost all of her hair, one breast,
and could not get out of bed. “I constantly leaned on my family and God to get me through. Without Him (God), I would not have made it.”
Since she was no longer working, Tracy was looking for ways to make extra money. Of course, she prayed for inspiration and in 2014, came up with the idea to make and sell women’s jewelry under the name Fancy Feet & Hands by Tracy. She specializes in bracelets,earrings, necklaces, anklets and rings for both your fingers and toes. Many of
her jewelry items include aspects of her Christian faith like crosses or angels. In addition, she also makes jewelry for men which she calls “King’s Wear.” Along with putting some money in her pocket, making jewelry also helps Tracy to focus and concentrate again since chemotherapy made it harder for her to do so as well as made her forget lots of things.She recently started creating custom T-shirts with rhinestone designs on them, many of which include inspirational quotes like: “Pray about everything; worry about nothing.” Her favorite thing about having her own businesses is seeing the reaction of a satisfied customer when they purchase her products.
To Tracy, being a survivor means, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Since her recovery, she has talk to other women with breast cancer about her journey, some of whom did not make it. However, she still continues to share her story with people dealing with sickness. “If He can do it for me, He can do it for you,” she said with a grin on her face. Always keeping God and her family first, she focuses on growing her relationships stronger with them each day. Having successful businesses is also a focal point in her life. “I’m truly blessed to be alive, my favorite things about my life are being cured from cancer and having my family to help me battle through it.”
These two women had the hope and strength to survive. Breast cancer is becoming an epidemic, and many women who are diagnosed don’t make it because they find out too late. We must be proactive and raise breast cancer awareness amongst the women in our communities! If you or anyone you know have never been checked for abnormalities or lumps in your breasts, be sure to do so as soon as possible! Here is a checklist for you to follow to ensure that you stay on top of your head up and continue to have a healthy body and a happy life.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS CHECKLIST
1. Eat healthy foods, exercise often, and maintain a healthy weight.
2. Limit your alcohol intake.
3. Talk to your family and your doctor to find out if you are at risk.
4. Have a clinical breast exam every three years starting at age 20
5. Have a mammogram every year after age 40.
6. Notify a doctor immediately if you notice any changes in your breasts.