On November 5th, W.E.L.L. is having our 1st annual Breast Cancer Benefit/Luncheon and we are honoring 3 breast cancer survivors/patients, myself being one of the honorees. Here is my story:
My name is Cherie Unsworth and I am a five year Stage IV Breast Cancer survivor. Everyone has a pivotal moment in their life, whether it is graduating from college, getting married or having their first child. Mine was finding out that I had breast cancer and that it had spread to my lungs in 2006. My symptoms had actually started in August 2005, but only being 37 years old I never thought that it could happen to me. I figured I had a breast infection, I looked up home remedies online and started those but then Hurricane Katrina came and everything was forgotten about. It wasn’t until October 2006, when I rushed myself to the emergency room, that it finally struck me that I was in bad shape and needed help. It was in that dark, cold emergency room that I found out I had breast cancer.
A week later, I was unemployed. I couldn’t afford the $500 upfront fee that the doctor wanted just to see me, so I ended at a public hospital in Houma, LA. The first appointment I had was with a surgeon that told me if I didn’t have a mastectomy within the next 2 days I could die from septic shock. He then proceeded to tell me that I could die just from the surgery itself and since the skin of my breast was affected they would have to take that too, but they couldn’t perform a skin graph. They didn’t do skin graphs at that hospital. The only hospital that did skin graphs was Charity in New Orleans (which was destroyed by Katrina), so I
would have an open wound on my chest and just let it heal naturally. Being a single mom and knowing that I had never made any kind of arrangements for my daughter, I asked if I could take a couple of days to get my affairs in order. Two days later I went back to Houma and was told that the doctor was a little too aggressive and that I was to see an oncologist. Finally I could breath again. When the new doctor, a Dr. Schweitzer walked in, the first thing I told him was “What do we have to do? Let’s do it! Whatever it takes, I am ready for it!”
From that point on the next week was a whirlwind of surgery to have a porta-cath placed and two different kinds of chemotherapy. I was so thankful that I was able to find Dr. Schweitzer, my chemo nurses told me that if he didn’t think he would help me, he would recommend me go to MD Anderson. That really put me at ease, because I knew he could help me.
I went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, then a mastectomy which included a skin graph and then two months of radiation. I raised my daughter (who was 14 years old at the time and just starting high school), watched my dad pass away within four weeks of being diagnosed with lung cancer, worked at the Superdome in a concession stand at every Saints home game and even chaperoned my daughter’s high school band when they marched in parades (I walked right along side of them). People say that I’ve been through a lot, and I have, but every single little bump in the road has made me stronger. I’m not saying that I have never asked “why me?” or blamed myself for getting breast cancer or wondered if there was something that I could have done different; we have all asked those same questions at some point in our lives. My advice is to not dwell on them. There was nothing that I could have done different that would have prevented me from getting breast cancer so the best thing for me to do is fight…… Fight Like a Girl!!!