Bending down to tie her white running shoes with the pink stripes, Sharlita could not tell whether the wet spots on them were from her tears or from the light rain that was falling. She could hear the sounds of excitement and anticipation all around her.
Sharlita took off running and as she ran it might have looked to the casual observer that she was running for her life. But her tears were tears of joy, and she felt she was running to life. As she ran, her thoughts went back to two years ago, to the day when she was given life altering news.
Sharlita James, you have breast cancer.” Dr. Beck said, as though he was announcing a prize on a game show.
“What? That can’t be Dr. Beck, I’m twenty-five years old and I feel fine. There has got to be a mistake. This little lump cannot be cancer.” she said, placing a shaky hand over her left breast.
“I’m sorry for the diagnosis, but it is what it is. But, I believe we have discovered it in its early stages, and today’s treatments are….” his voice droned on.
Sharlita barely heard what Dr. Beck said. The room was suddenly cold, or was it just her insides. Cancer? I CANNOT have cancer. There is way too much good going on in my life right now. I’m engaged to the greatest guy, and my life is on the fast track to success with my new job.
Dr. Beck’s voice continued, interrupting her thoughts. “My suggestion is surgery, then chemo and radiation. Please check with my nurse for scheduling on your way out. Sharlita, please remember what I said about keeping a positive attitude. We are in this together, okay?”
Two second opinions later, and after doing her own research, Sharlita agreed to the surgery. She also wanted Dr. Beck to do it. What he lacked in his bedside manner he made up for in his expertise and knowledge of the treatment that was best for her. Sharlita was going to have a lumpectomy, and removal of the surrounding lymph glands. Her research showed that although breast cancer is more prevalent in white women, it is more deadly in African-American women and other minorities. The main reasons were, lack of education regarding self-exam, lack of health insurance and just plain fear.
“I will not become a victim to this disease. I will do something, starting with raising awareness with my African-American sisters.” resolved Sharlita.
The room was filled to overflow as Sharlita went to the podium. “Good Morning everyone, my name is Sharlita James, and I have breast cancer. Thank you all for coming, this organization is called SFAC, Sisters for a Cure. Not just for my African-American sisters but all women, we are all sisters in this together. Look around, you can see cancer is an equal opportunity disease, no matter the age, race or social economic background. I am twenty-five, moderately successful, and now bald.” she paused to laugh. “But with my faith in God, a good doctor and support of family and friends, I will be victorious. When you leave here today you will be better informed. The handouts will explain the “how to” of self-examination, and answers to when is the best time to start having mammograms.
“Good news, Sharlita, the last scan showed and all clear.” Dr Beck said.
“Thank you God!” shouted Sharlita. “I’m thankful to you too Dr. Beck. This experience has really changed my life, and believe it or not, to the good. When I lost my hair, I also lost my fiancé; he said he hadn’t signed up for all of this. But you know what? I discovered our relationship had been based on the superficial. I now have clear direction and purpose for my life. I’m going to continue the fight against breast cancer everyday and everyway I can.”
“Welcome, everyone to the 1st Annual Sharlita James, Sisters For A Cure, 5K Run and 2K Walk!” the master of ceremonies announced to the crowd. We are here today to raise funds and show support to those who have or have had to fight breast cancer. We proudly wear the pink ribbon, so get on your marks, get set, let’s go!”
The runners took off, Sharlita among them. As they ran, the rain shower gave way to sunshine and the hint of a rainbow.
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