I was diagnosed with stage II bCancer has shaped my life and influenced positive interaction with others, making me a persevering individual filled with hope and unconditional regard for others. I was raised in Northeast Houston. My parents serve as a tremendous blessing in my life. Their values reflect hard work and perseverance through all obstacles. In addition to my parents, my older sister and brother have always been patient and supportive of me. I have acquired much love from extended family members, childhood friends and a wealth of friendship in sorority sisters some who are survivors from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Anderson Network and Sisters Network Houston Chapter.
I thought the personal challenges in my life were going from a seasoned high school over-achiever to the adjustments of college education that began at Texas Tech University. I was able to obtain a bachelors degree and masters degree from Texas Southern University and an MBA from Texas Women’s University.
But, obtaining three degrees had nothing on the challenges of fighting cancer and wanting to live beyond my thirties. It was my education that allowed me to land a position at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and to come to know cancer as an employee there. As a Senior Research Coordinator at Anderson, I coordinate psychosocial studies that improve the quality of life for survivors after cancer. To truly experience the help given to others as they rebuild their quality of life after cancer is a tremendous deed. I have been with Anderson for five years and I love my work and more importantly, being recognized as a volunteer who gives back. I have been featured in several hospital publications depositing by story as both a co-worker and survivor. My face appears on the Volunteer Services Anderson Network Program brochures. I currently serve as Chair of the Anderson Network Steering Committee.
But let me remind that five years ago, on my birthday, I was laid off from United Health Group as an EAP Counselor in 2005. I was the last employee within my group to land a new job. And until this day, former co-workers say, “How did you get a job at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center?” I simply say it was God’s plan!
After endless late nights crying at the computer as part of my daily ritual in fervently looking for a job, I stumbled upon my current position. I started with Anderson in July, 2005 as a Research Coordinator for SPIRIT a national study for African American breast cancer survivors. I was in such awe to learn of the many young African American women dying of this disease. I decided three months later I should get a baseline mammogram. Three months thereafter, I was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer.
I know you can tell how meaningful my education and career are to me. But, I was about to meet cancer. Would they still be meaningful to my life?
While I thought getting my education was my biggest challenge in life, cancer proved to be bigger. I remember feeling numb as l learned the news while working in my cubicle. I remember going home and screaming to God, “You are taking me out of here this early?!?” But what I did not recognize was the reason for the season. Had I not obtained a position at M. D. Anderson and arrived here as an employee, I would not be alive to today! I would not have had the knowledge about the devastation of breast cancer and how it has impacted so many women. I would not have learned the need to receive a baseline.
When I was initially diagnosed, I told the counselor on my project who is the Houston Chapter President for Sisters Network and my close friend who is a young survivor, “Do not tell anyone!” It is through this cancer journey I have learned not to keep silent, but to share my story, struggle, and survival so that it can strengthen others. I’m honored to serve others as an active volunteer with Anderson Network and serve as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense and assist other organizations when time permits. Employees who read my stories in the Anderson employee publications have e-mailed and called saying, “Thank you for recognizing and breaking the silence of our challenges as an employee and cancer survivor.”
I’m excited and truly appreciative in approaching my fifth anniversary in being cancer free! I advise others to seek the necessary support and find your strength within.
My name is Pamela Lewis and I am a five-year-survivor of stage I breast cancer.
Category: Faces of Cancer