Can you tell us a little about how your cancer journey started?
As a result of my association with the CEO Round-table on Cancer and Shaw University’s Wellness 4 All program, I am a strong proponent for cancer screenings—especially in the black community. So, though I had avoided having a colonoscopy for years (due to a friend’s unfortunate medical experience), I decided that I must lead by example and added colon cancer screening to my standard screenings.
In January 2023, I had my first colonoscopy. I didn’t go because I had symptoms. It was a “routine” process with an unexpected diagnosis: Stage IV colon cancer— which had metastasized to my liver. The response was rapid—medical proce- dures and consultations were scheduled and conducted in record time, insurance non-approvals had to be resolved, lots of information had to be processed. I learned that because of the extent of my disease, surgery was not an option.
I also need to mention that I have a major major major phobia of needles and have never required invasive medical work. As a result, this “introduction to cancer” period was a lot for me to grasp. Between IVs and blood work, needles are an ever-present (though still traumatic) reality for me.
On February 8, I had my first chemotherapy treatment. It was a tough start which resulted in two emergency room visits and my being hospitalized for six days to treat infection and pneumonia. Subsequent treatments were adjusted, and I have faired much better.
What has your University’s and your School’s support meant to you throughout your cancer journey?
I’m literally fighting for my life, but my village of supporters has shown that they won’t let me fight alone. The response from those in the School of Business and Professional Studies has clearly shown that their level of concern goes far beyond a professional academic relationship. It’s personal. The same passion that I have for their welfare is being showered on me by faculty, staff, and students. Even external partners contact me regularly to check on how I’m doing.
Despite my diagnosis, I work every day to continue providing vision, leadership, and solutions while at the same time trying to limit stress which debilitates someone in my condition. It’s not an easy balance, but it is necessary.
I AM NOT ALONE! Those who are providing ongoing support know who they are – and I want to publicly acknowledge and thank them.
What words of wisdom do you have for others who are on their own cancer journeys?
First and foremost – don’t keep the diagnosis a secret. It’s a VERY heavy burden to carry alone. As a result of sharing my diagnosis with those who I believed care about me, I have received so much support, expressions of love and concern, encouragement and, most importantly, prayers. My extensive “village” has buoyed me up throughout this difficult and often overwhelming process. Their proactive involvement in my world has contributed immensely to my current frame of mind.
In addition, I recommend not trying to be a superhero, limiting stress, and enjoying now. For example, being a leader can tempt you to play the superhero role—to be the solution to every problem and to be the one who plants the flag at the top of the mountain—but the toll this takes on the body is high. The key is strategic delegation and planned intervals of work and rest. All stress is not bad, but limiting contact with unresolvable issues is critical. For a leader with vision, doing nothing may be more stressful than overwork. So you have to balance creative planning, relationship building, and personal growth with rest and basic management functions.
How did you feel when you first received the news that you have cancer?
I was stunned, overwhelmed!!! I have been very healthy my entire life. Now I’m in a medical tsunami.
You clearly have a strong support system within your university. Do you have any tips that can help others to find their own support systems?
Support systems need to be built before a crisis arises. Communicating, showing genuine kindness, relishing relationships with people at all levels, sharing your life fearlessly with others—these all lead to great returns of support when crises come.
And do you have any tips to help people support their loved ones who have cancer?
Bring happy conversation and meaningful gifts. Let them know you are praying and send cards that uplift. Ask them to share their journey with you. Be interested in them and focused on bringing life and light, not darkness and doom.
In summary . . .
My cancer journey hasn’t been easy. There has been a lot to deal with, but I’m daily reminded of the Lord’s blessings TO ME . . . and so I smile.