‘I have faith and I prayed a lot’ – News from southeastern Connecticut – theday.com

Posted: October 22, 2020 at 2:55 am

Yulonda Wilbur remembers precisely the sting of when she was told she had breast cancer.

The news came after a routine physical where her general practitioner did a manual exam, and Wilbur flinched when the doctor touched a tender spot on her left breast. She was already scheduled for her annual mammogram, and her physician added an ultrasound. Wilbur remembers one of the technicians when she had the tests being initially cheerful, and then solemn, and later, the radiologist telling her he didnt like what he was seeing and shed need to undergo a biopsy.

But still, when the call came on Feb. 16, 2019, with news that she had triple-negative breast cancer a cancer that tests negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors and excess HER2 protein and therefore does not respond to normal hormonal therapy medicines or those that target HER2 protein receptors her world metaphorically fell apart.

It was just that moment that changes your life forever, said Wilbur, now 53 and back at work since early this year as a patient care assistant at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where she has been employed for two decades.

That journey from her initial physical in December 2018 would include a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy, then an additional diagnosis of DCIS, or cancer in her milk ducts, and finally a mastectomy in October 2019. This year has been rough with COVID, but for Wilbur, a mother of four grown children, 2019 was the year she battled breast cancer and shes grateful she didnt wage that war during a pandemic.

While shes worked at L+M for 20 years, shes been a patient care assistant for more than three decades and said working in the medical field doesnt make a breast cancer diagnosis any easier.

What shed learn along the way is that theres a higher prevalence of triple-negative breast cancer in African-American women and that friends and family are essential to get you through.

My advice is dont go it alone. Ask for help. You need support, said Wilbur, who lives in Waterford. And ask questions if you dont understand.

After the diagnosis, when one physician came into the room where Wilbur was waiting and started talking at her, Wilbur reminded her that she hadnt introduced herself and asked her to slow down and explain things more thoroughly.

You need to understand what you are going through, and it is a lot to take in, she said.

The lumpectomy was painful, the chemotherapy made her nauseous and left a distasteful film on her tongue, and she developed neuropathy, anemia and fatigue.

I heard a sermon once, said Wilbur, who is active in her church. And what they said was, When you say why me, what you are really saying is why not someone else? So I just accepted it for the most part, and I wasnt happy about it, but I accepted it.

Shes an advocate of regular checkups and mammograms, of all preventive medical care, and marvels that someone who comes from strong stock, like she does, ended up so ill.

Im one of those people who dont get colds, who dont get sick, but I did, she said. There was no history of breast cancer in her family, and shed test negative for the BRCA gene.

When Wilbur was invited to attend a breast cancer support group at Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Waterford, she initially resisted.

I didnt want to sit around with people who were angry, or be depressed, she said. But it wasnt that way, everybody takes a different path, everyone has their own journey.

Not so long ago, when Wilbur found a lump on her right breast, she panicked, but the diagnosis was a benign cyst.

Its not that I cant, but I dont want to go through it again, she said. Later, I thought maybe I should have had both breasts removed.

Shes back at work at L+M and doing the things she enjoys walking, reading and keeping active in her church.

I have faith, and I prayed a lot when I was going through it," she said. "I asked Jesus to get me through it, and He did."

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'I have faith and I prayed a lot' - News from southeastern Connecticut - theday.com

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