Saturday, August 19, 2017

Valerie Smith: My Breast Cancer Journey

October 1, 2012 by Las Vegas Black Image Magazine  
Filed under Highlights

As told to Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

Las Vegas native Valerie Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009

THE BEGINNING

My name is Valerie Smith, and I am a native of Las Vegas. In 2009, I went to get my annual mammogram — which is important to me, because breast cancer runs in my family. I had been getting mammograms ever since I was 38-years- old. Today, I am 49 years of age.

Prior to getting an unprecedented second mammogram in one year — due to a change in health insurance carriers — I was told there was a cyst in my breast. So when I received the second mammogram, it came back negative and I immediately said, “Oh that is just the cyst I was told I had. It’s no big deal.”  To my surprise, the abnormality was found in the opposite breast, and I had to return for another mammogram.

THE MIDDLE

I received several mammograms, and was scheduled for a biopsy on the lump/mass that was found in my breast. I went for surgery, then hopped on a plane to go to my family reunion for a week. When I returned, the doctor gave me the news that I had stage 3 breast cancer. I literally cried for three weeks. I went into shock, because I had been getting my mammograms every year. The doctors indicated that the breast cancer I had was very aggressive, and grew to a stage 3 in less than a year. After receiving a partial mastectomy, I had to decide my treatment — and was given a year of chemotherapy and six months of radiation. I lost my hair and my taste buds. I was tired and weak from the treatment, and a lot of people experience weight loss. Unfortunately for me, I was not one of those people (smile).

THE CROSSROADS

Now, I am in remission from breast cancer, and still waiting for my hair to grow back like it was. The love and support from my husband was tremendous. My entire family gave me the needed support to help me through my health challenge. Currently, I have to go back to the doctor every six months for a scan to make sure the cancer has not returned. It is very stressful, because you never really know. I am thankful that at the time I discovered I had breast cancer, my husband was in the construction industry. That offered us dual health insurance, and I also took full advantage of my job’s health coverage.

THE EPIPHANY

We have to go to the doctor to get our check-ups and mammograms — even though you might be afraid. It’s better to know than to die. I was told by my doctors that if I hadn’t gotten my mammogram and treatment, I would have only lived for another four to five years. It is sure nice to be here.

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