I walked my first survivor walk about 12 years ago in memoriam of my great aunt who passed away when I was 12 and other loved ones that had dealt with breast cancer. About 6 years ago, however, things hit a little closer to home when my Aunt Sylvia had to battle breast cancer. Since then, my family has made it a ritual each year to walk in the Annual Cancer Walk.
Three years ago, I interviewed her as part of a blog series, derived mostly from exclusive interviews with key witnesses to the Sun Peeping Through the Clouds. My primary purpose of this series was to keep myself encouraged. The premise? Although at times, our life forecast may seem cloudy, there is always a rainbow to hold on to and a sun beyond the clouds.
Now, that my aunt is a 6-years cancer-free, her story is one full of positive energy, determination, and survival and the faith that she would make it – even when things were not as certain. Here is the 2010 Interview:
Story of Sylvia Bell
Who is Sylvia?
Sylvia Bell, born the youngest of ten children, was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is the mother of two adult children, Bernard and Julia Bell, also of the greater Ann Arbor area. She is fun, family-oriented, and no-nonsense. To describe her in a word…Sassy. Next month she will be celebrating her birthday. Except this is not the one celebrating the day James and Julie Taylor welcomed her to the world, this will be a celebration of three years cancer free! This is significant because each year cancer free greatly reduces the chance of the cancer returning.
Not one to take her health lightly, Sylvia went for her annual mammogram in May, 2007 and, per usual, results were negative. However, as all women should, she performs monthly self-exams. In October, 2007 she went to the doctor after she felt something abnormal during one of these home exams. After a biopsy and another mammogram, they saw a cancerous cloud. Moving quickly, she underwent a mastectomy on December 14, 2007. This was followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy and later radiation.
What’s Her Advice?
“Know Your Body”. Sylvia encourages all women to do the self exams and, at the appropriate age, mammograms. She also stresses the need to not trade one for the other. They are both equally as important. She also participates each year in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Connect. Sylvia found that her kids, family and friends were all supportive. She also mentions the support she received, and still receives from her church family at New Hope Baptist Church. Although she already knew God, she credits this experience as strengthening her “spiritual connection with God”.
“Make Lemons out of Lemonade”. Sylvia encourages women to stay positive if they find themselves in this situation. She describes being diagnosed with cancer as hitting black ice:
“At first you are spinning out of control. You cry. You get mad. But there is nothing you can do. You have to Let Go and Let God. Once you run into something, you realize it didn’t kill you so you straighten up and deal with it. You do what you have to do.”