When Chantiay Howard was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she was shocked.
“I had no idea of anyone in my family having it. Once I was diagnosed, I learned about some of my aunts who were older,” said Howard, who found the tumor during a self-breast check and underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation in 2005.
Another surprise was the tumor was Stage 4 when it was removed. Subsequent testing revealed Howard had the BRCA II gene, so she opted for a double mastectomy in 2014 as a preventative measure.
Howard, who has worked at University Hospital for eight years, said she wished she’d known her family history and was checked for the gene to allow other relatives to be aware of the risk. She wants others to know their risk as well.
While the diagnosis stunned her, she wasn’t surprised by her faith, which she said helped her make it through the chemotherapy, radiation and her later surgery. She also relied on her family. Howard has been married for 20 years, has four children and six grandchildren.
“I had a lot of family support and a lot of church support,” she said. “It boosted my faith up, and I found strength when I was weak. I knew I could beat it.”
And to those who profess faith, she encourages them to tap into it.
“Never give up. Always pray. Whatever’s thrown at you, whether good or bad, always remember God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear. The strong always win,” she said.
As each October comes round, Howard said she’s happy that the focus is on breast cancer awareness and hopes women will take charge of their health.
“It gives me joy that I have another year to celebrate,” she said. “I hope a cure will be found.”