Hey, It’s Olivia, I am from Atlanta, Georgia, and this is my story. It’s about the journey which has led me to where I am today, where I look at my life so differently, no less than a blessing, and wake up every single day with gratitude, thanking the almighty for another beautiful day.
Before diving into the story, I will tell you about my life before cancer. I grew up as a professional dancer, was very active, went to performing art schools, was an artist, was highly creative. I’m speaking about this matter because I think back then, I identified myself as my body, and I was highly physical. Everything was going perfectly, and I was doing pretty well in my career. I remember I was doing projects with Madonna, named The heart candy, and it was a workout video series.
I vividly remember that I was wearing a white shirt at some point in the shoot, and when I looked down, there was blood inside my shirt, which was very strange. I ran to the washroom and washed it off. It was coming from my nipple and ran right back outside, and kept dancing.
That night I went home and experienced something extraordinary. I woke up amid the night and found my whole body drenched with sweat. But I thought it was all because I’ve been dancing so much. I was completely unaware of the signs my body was giving and after three more days encountering these signs, I told myself, this is not usual. So, I went to the doctor.
The doctor asked me a few things.
How old are you? I said 26.
Do you smoke? I said no.
Do you have any family history and anything like this? I denied it.
Hence, they did not want to give me a mammogram, instead they gave me a Biopsy and found I only had stage zero Breast Cancer. But it didn’t feel right, and It was something inside me that was telling, don’t leave the hospital. There’s something wrong!
So I went back to the same doctor and explained my situation and explained what I’ve been experiencing the past three days. I said, I really want you guys to diagnose me further, and then finally, they ordered the mammogram. The reading was taken three times in a row as my breast tissues were very dense back then.
After the third time, the radiologist came out of her office and asked, do you have someone here with you? As soon as I heard this, I felt as if my heart stopped, and I said no. She asked to call someone, and I got my mom. My mom came and just held my hand and said, are you okay? I just whispered, no. I knew there was something wrong.
We both went inside the radiologist office where they said, and I have TCIS. At that time, I didn’t know anything about it. Next, I remember being called for so many appointments, where I had a team of 5 doctors, and they told me, my left side is completely covered, but the right one is clear. Still, they recommended a double mastectomy.
It was supposed to be a 5-hour long surgery, but they found a tumor on the right breast and found cancer cells in the lymph. After the surgery, I woke up and had severe Pain in my throat. I had a few drains coming out of my body. I remember waking up and saying, well, at least, I’ve my hair.
And a week later, I came to know that I have to go through Chemotherapy because they were worried about it getting spread. All this happened between August 2015 to November 2015. Everything was so quick, one after another. I wonder how life has suddenly changed. A few days back, I was doing projects with Madonna, the dancing studio and stage were my life. Now talking about 2015 is like a trip back to these days. I remember back then, and I used to look at this colossal mountain, questioning how I would carry those mountains in my hand?
I guess you need to be good at speaking to that mountain every single day. Being a Christian, I believe that you can think whatever gives you peace and strength. So, the bible talks about speaking to your mountains and the mountains will move. I would talk about life over myself, like saying love, hope. And after two Chemotherapy sessions, I started losing my hair, and it may seem silly, but back then, I googled about any young woman going bald, but I couldn’t find one.
I thought it was so unfair. The world must see how a young woman going through cancer looks like.
Eventually, I called a friend of mine and told her about it, and I was able to shave my head on the Nash Dag Billboard in NewYork Times Square.
By this time, my self-identification was evolving. As a woman losing breast was like losing your identity as it is a part of your womanhood and the idea of being a mother. Maybe one day, I would like to have kids. I had lost my hair, was losing my eyelashes and eyebrows, and there came a time when I was unable to dance. I was not a dancer anymore. So, this time I started asking myself, Who am I? I don’t have my hair, I don’t have my breast, and I am not a dancer. Who am I?
I remember one thing my pastor always said to me, and it’s not the human having the spiritual experience; it’s the spirit having the human experience. And this was the first time in my adult life I understood that. It’s silly, but there was a time when I would hug myself and cry and say sorry to my body for the things that we are going through.
It was the time when my spirit was growing, but my body was failing. I learned Anxiety comes to you when you are too focused on yourself and your problems. It would help if you changed your mind. I would try to keep myself busy. I felt you have to go through this once in your life. After being cancer-free for four years, I wrote about it.
One of the things that helped me, apart from working out and praying, was writing journals.
Finally, I decided to publish it, and three days after posting it, I felt a lump inside my armpit. I said no, not again, but this time I knew what to do. I was yelling at my body, telling the lump that it needs to get out. Crazy, right! I talk to my body all the time.
I went to the doctor, and after diagnosis,a few days later, he called me and said, do you have someone with you? Oh god, not again!
I went with my mom, but this time I was prepared and was mentally healthy. We learned that cancer has spread. It has metastasized all over my bone, in my armpit, pelvis, chest region, and there was an 11cm long tumor inside my spine.
I was frozen. It was the first time in years I felt overwhelmed. I looked at my mom and said, I did not receive this. Let’s go. She was like, what do you mean? I know God never made me cross one mountain to bring me in front of another. I said, according to the facts, there is cancer all over my body, and my life expectancy is 3 yrs. But the books I read, it has never said that I have cancer or I will die, but what it said was the opposite of it, it said I would live. I said this is my truth.
Eventually, we both decided on that, ripped the reports off, and threw it in the trash. I said that it does not mean I won’t be obedient to the doctors, but let’s get this clear there’s a natural world and a supernatural world. I went back to the doctor and asked them to do what they wanted to do. They did and said I would be on a life long treatment plan.
After three months, I went to Israel, my church took me on a trip, after 5 yrs, I went outside for the first time. In January, I went to Jerusalem, Israel. I prayed and read some scriptures about forgiveness and learned I have not yet forgiven myself for putting myself through it. I sat under a tree and cried for about 20 minutes, and I felt something. I stood up and ran to my pastor and said, I’m healed.
We flew back, months later, they did the scan, and it was all gone. My scans were clean, and the doctor said it’s a miracle. To this date, I am still on preservative treatment and get diagnosed every three months, and that’s pretty much me right now. I conclude that we must be open to God. He wants to have a relationship with us, and for me, it’s never been about religion but about a personal relationship with God.