I vividly recall my mommy slipping away. Yes, I said "mommy" for the little girl in me will always miss her deeply. Mid-morning October 10th her body could fight the cancer no more. As I reflect on that moment in time, I remember feeling alone but more importantly, helpless. It didn't matter how may people or loved ones shared a kind word, they could never understand the gut wrenching pain I felt knowing I could do nothing to save my mother's life. She was dying and I had no choice but to muster the strength to live life without her.
In retrospect, the flood of emotions was all across the spectrum, from sadness to anger to even guilt. Questions swarmed, could I have done more? What could I have done differently? Is there anyone out there who understands? I wished I didn't feel so alone. We sometimes forget how much of an emotional responsibility it is and often feel guilty for needing a break. The Tita Project was born out of a dire need for those families and individuals who care for their loved ones in need to feel like they are not on this journey alone.
Meet Our Recipient Michell
He said I was to young to have Breast Cancer
My name is Michell Lyons and I'm from Virginia. In January 2018, I went to the doctor for my yearly exam and was told everything was okay, like always. In February, my breast was hurting so bad, it felt like something was stabbing me in my nipple. I felt my breast and found a lump the size of a golf ball and at first, I paid it no mind. In March, the lump felt like it was getting bigger. I asked my daughter’s grandma Barbara Tyler to check it out since she was a nurse. She said it felt like it could be a cyst and I needed to call the doctor. I said, “okay” and went on about my day. Days went by, and I asked my step-mother Nicky Allen, also a nurse, about the lump and she told me the same thing. I called and made an appointment with my OB/GYN. Because of my age, I couldn't just get a mammogram. My OB/GYN referred me for a mammogram, but he stated I was “too young” to have breast cancer and breast cancer “doesn't hurt.” I called the hospital several times to get an appointment and got the runaround. I spoke to one person who told me I had to wait a whole three weeks to get a mammogram. I was in so much pain for the entire week I was calling trying to get an appointment. One day, I couldn't take it anymore. I called and told the hospital I was going to the ER because I was in a lot of pain and finally, I got an appointment the next day.
April comes around and I'm sitting in this dressing room with a gown on to get my breast checked out. I'm scared at this point. My heart is beating fast and my palms are sweating and all. The nurse comes to get me for the mammogram and ultrasound. The doctor told me she couldn't see anything. I grabbed the area so she could see it better. She stated one side of my breast looked like it could have cancer and then the other side showed a shadow. I started to cry and the nurse ran to get my aunt. As she walked in, she came right over and hugged me and the doctor began to tell her what she told me. The doctor then told us I had to get a biopsy done on my breast to get samples of the lump I felt. After my breast biopsy samples were taken and sent to the lab for testing, my results came back. April 24, 2018 I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. This kind of cancer is about 65%-80% of breast cancer cases. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma starts in the milk passages, grows through the walls of the ducts and into the surrounding tissue of the breast. When I heard those words I broke down and cried like a baby. I cried because I felt like I was too young to be going through, having turned 31 in April 2018. I had so many questions and I couldn't even ask them because once they told me I had cancer, I blocked out everything else my doctor said. I was so hurt.
I sat down with two nurses to talk about my next steps. They already had me scheduled to see a surgeon the next day. April 25, 2018, I met with my surgeon and she told me I was at stage 1 and I had to get a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, but before that I had to get an MRI. May 10, 2018, I had my first surgery to remove the cancer, but later found out the cancer was bigger than what the doctor initially thought. So at my post-op appointment she told me she didn't get all the cancer out and I had three choices: get another lumpectomy, get a unilateral mastectomy or get a bilateral mastectomy. I also found out my MammaPrint came back high risk.
Since the cancer was still in my body, I had to start chemotherapy as soon as I healed from my surgery. I met with my plastic surgeon May 23, 2018 and with my oncologist June 1, 2018. My oncologist told me my hair would fall out and I would be bald. Since I had hair, the best thing to do was to cut it all off.
I had to have Taxotere, Cytoxan chemotherapy for three months. My sessions were about 3 1/2 hours long. It made me so weak, all I wanted to do was sleep. I had a good support team and I would like to thank my Aunt Alice Matthews that was there every step of the way, the bad the good she was there, to wipe my tears away, to tell me everything was gone be ok, to tell me I'm strong, I'm still beautiful and we will not let cancer win. My Uncle Sterling Matthews, my Husband Christopher Lyons, my kids Aaliyah Easter, Caleb Lyons, Jaylen Lyons, Christopher Lyons Jr., my cousin Keytia Myers, my sisters Tracy Ferrell and Alexis Clanton, my parents Roscoe Allen, Nicky Allen, Barbara Clanton, my grandparents Gloria and Sterling Matthews and the rest of my family that was there.
While chemotherapy is killing your bad cells, it also kills your good cells and damages your insides. You’re supposed to get a shot 24 hours after chemo called Granix for five days to get your good cells back up. Due to my age, my insurance told me they would not cover it because I was young enough to get my good cells back on my own -- the shots were around $1,300.
Chemotherapy almost killed me. I couldn't work, walk or sit down. It felt like my legs were broken. It felt like all my bones were broken. I had a fever of 105.8 I called my doctor and she told me to come in the office to get some blood work done just to find 0's on my blood work. I was admitted to the hospital after that for about 1 week because my fever wouldn’t break and I was in a lot of pain.
I was so blessed to be able to leave the hospital when I did because I was so scared I wasn't going to make it, but I knew I had to make it for my kids and family. So I fought everyday to get better. I was finally discharged from the hospital and I was so happy to be back home with my family.
Then the insurance agreed to pay for my shots. Every time I had to get it one, the insurance gave me the runaround and it was so stressful and depressing.I lost all my hair after my first treatment and I didn't take that too well, but I had a lot of people telling me how pretty I was and that hair doesn't define me and my bald head grew on me.
After all that crying, I loved my bald head. I thought I was going to look like a boy, but I was so pretty. All the crying came to an end and the smiles came out. I went to my chemo treatments every two to three weeks. I said a prayer every time I walked through those doors. I prayed my body would be ok after the treatment; that I didn't get sent to the hospital again; that everything will be over soon.
I was so happy the day I rang the bell in August. l thanked the man upstairs for allowing me to win the battle and praised His name. Since I was finished with my treatment, I had to get a nipple delay at the end of October to save my nipples because cancer didn't affect them.
Then, I had to get a double mastectomy in November. November 15, 2018, I had my surgery to remove all the cancer that was left in my breast. My plastic surgeon put expanders in so that my skin can stretch for my implant. This process really hurt. The expanders were very painful and I couldn't wait for the surgery for my implants because I was in so much pain behind those things.
April 29, 2019 -- new year, new me. I was scheduled for my implant surgery and I'm telling you, you can feel a difference right away. Even though I'm in pain now I know things will be better when I heal. I had a very supporting family that was there for me every step of the way. Without them I would not have made it, but I stayed strong and I continued to fight to win this battle.
At the age of 32, I'm now cancer free and done with all my surgery. I just praise the lord for all He has done for me, allowing me to have another chance at life