SHARRON Christie was told that she had breast cancer over the phone. After being informed that her mammogram had picked up irregularities several weeks earlier, she had prepared herself to expect the worst from her biopsy, but deep down she was hoping to hear that it was just fatty tissue that had caused some concern.
“To my shock and disappointment he said, 'Would you believe I just got back your results… you have cancer'. Just like that. No compassion, no pause, nothing. I told him I couldn't speak now and hung up the phone,” she recalled. “For a moment my faith in God took wings and flew through the window. I was numb. Speechless. Hollow. I could feel the warm, salty tears running down my cheeks.”
She was 45 years old at the time, and she would become the seventh of nine siblings to be diagnosed with a form of cancer. She usually relied on her mother, who also had cancer, for comfort in such situations, but she had died in 1998 and Christie was uncertain of her next move.
“I reached for my cell phone and called my sisters and best friend,” she retraced. “I needed strength, as all of mine had gone. My sisters were devastated. I left the office and I went to my sister in Kingston, and we spoke about it and cried.”
Although they later identified her cancer to be stage 0-1 (the earliest stage of breast cancer), it was recommended that Christie completely remove the affected breast because of her family history with cancer.
“In August 2007 I lost one of my beautiful breasts. It was gone. Just a flat surface and a slice across by chest,” she said grimly. “I had actually wanted them to take both of them off at the time but my doctor talked me out of it. The exact words were, 'But you have such beautiful breasts'.”
When she woke up from surgery, the nurse told her that she would not be able to lift her arm for a little while, and she would have to do a particular exercise until she regained strength in the arm.
“Well, can I tell you that I could lift my hands right away and not only that, I went to the bathroom, washed my face, put on my red lipstick, my sexy jade green lingerie. Oh yes! No hospital gown for me! And propped myself up in the hospital bed waiting on my visitors to arrive,” she laughed. “I had to take action to remind myself that life goes on.”
As her body healed from the surgery and she started adjusting to having just a scar where one of her beautiful breasts used to be, Christie started having doubts about her body image. Not only did she miss wearing her off-the-shoulder dresses, which her padded bras would not allow, but she also questioned whether she would still be attractive to men.
“At first I thought, 'I'm not yet married, how is a man going to look at me?' But then I thought my faith in God has taken me through, because after a while I realised that the right man will love me more because of what I have been through.”
In 2010 she decided to have reconstructive surgery.
“I had the breast reconstructed for the simple reason that I wanted to do it, not because I felt any less about myself or any less of a woman,” she pointed out.
“They didn't have to take off my breast in the first place, but they rushed and did it because of the family history. To this day I am a bit upset and disappointed but keep saying God knows best, because I've known people who actually found out that they had breast cancer and refused to take it off for whatever reason and they are not alive today,” she reasoned.
She said that as women, we owe it to ourselves to keep abreast with our health.
“Take care of yourself, love yourself, and respect yourself,” she pleaded. “Finding out that you have breast cancer is not the end of the world. Get yourself checked. You have a choice in the matter and life goes on.”
Throughout her battle with the illness she was guided by Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.
“That's a promise from God,” she affirmed. “Everybody goes through something that they feel is the end of the world, but it's not.”