When it comes to breast cancer and treatment, it’s never a good idea to make comparisons to someone else, one survivor says.
“Everybody’s journey is different,” said Darlene Williams, a Graniteville, S.C., woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2015 after a routine mammogram. “Don’t compare yourself.”
Williams, who works as a neonatal intensive care nurse, said she had a co-worker who was able to work during her entire treatment for cancer. For Williams, it was much different. When she first found out about her diagnosis, she took some time to process it before telling friends and family, and then she took a medical leave of absence which ended up lasting from Oct. 1, 2015, through July 24.
“I had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction on that side. After that surgery, I had seven more surgeries, including skin grafts, port placement, fat grafting, scar revision and breast reduction on the other side,” she said.
In addition, she had three hospitalizations, including a visit to the intensive care unit after her port became infected and had to be removed. After her surgeries, she had 12 weeks of chemotherapy through IVs, plus she went through physical therapy due to complications with her chemotherapy treatments.
Williams said other advice she’d give anyone dealing with cancer would be to not try to do everything on your own.
“If people ask if they can help, let them,” she said. “If they want to drive you to chemo, let them.”
Oftentimes, people want to help, but they don’t know what to do. Also, she said they often don’t always know what to say to someone with cancer, especially after the initial diagnosis.
“If people don’t say anything, it’s because they don’t know what to say. They kind of ignore the fact. They really just don’t know what to say,” she said. “Tell them what you need. Everyone who loves you is fighting the same battle that you are. They are all affected by your fight.”
Williams said cancer changed her life forever. “I live in the moment because you don’t know when it might change. I have lost some relationships through this and gained some relationships through this. My family has gotten closer. I feel that I am much more spiritual than I used to be. Your life changes on a whim when you have cancer. Life is so much more precious than it used to be,” she said.
Now, Williams and her family give back to the community. One way they do is through her son’s truck club, Palmetto Struttin, which put on the third annual Struttin for a Cause Car and Truck Show on Oct. 21 at Langley Pond.