THE news of a breast cancer diagnosis tends to throw women out of balance.
For breast cancer survivor Dr Elorine Turner Pryce, this happened to be true in more ways than one. The 55-year-old remembers feeling as though she had been hit by a Trojan horse seven years ago.
Turner Pryce had finally fitted together all the puzzles in her life and believed it was almost impossible for anything or anyone to rain on her parade. She had started law school, was pursuing her dream job as lecturer in the Department of Criminology and Justice at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, and was finally being able to gloat in the success of her thriving whole food business.
But, on the cusp of her celebrations she came face-to-face with one of her greatest fears – she discovered a lump in her breast.
” I had felt a lump in my breast from June 2014, but I ignored it and refused to believe I could ever have cancer. I was in complete denial. Then, in October, my husband started to make arrangements for me to get tested because of his concern. Then in November late, it was confirmed. I had my surgery in December,” Turner Pryce said.
She, however, could not shake the gut feeling that she was on the verge of entering one of the greatest tests of her life, and she was right.
“It was a frightening experience. I trusted my family support to help me get through, I spent a long time in prayer daily. I distanced myself from the situation and that also helped me. I changed my lifestyle and much more of my regular routines. I desired to live and help others do the same. I trusted my doctors and followed their instructions,” Turner Pryce said.
This year, the breast cancer support system organiser, wellness coach, and health food store owner, celebrates seven years being cancer-free. She sat down with Your Health Your Wealth answering several questions about navigating the breast cancer journey.
YHYW: What was your biggest self-discovery or revelation after you were diagnosed?
Dr ETP: I realised that, although I was not exceptionally open to people, I was now at a very vulnerable place and so I had to entrust my care to others. I also realised how important it is to place emphasis on your rest and care. I realised my personal strength as an individual.
YHYW: What was the most difficult part of your journey and how did you overcome it?
Dr ETP: It was also difficult to watch my husband and children hurting and having to make schedules to care for me every day. It was difficult letting go of the things I had built and not being able to do them, such as going to my mission, daily, at Eden Joy. It was also difficult to stay positive and hopeful when so many people were dying around me. I overcame my difficulties by writing my book and listening to gospel music. I also deepened my study of the Bible and my prayer life. I even began to laugh at myself for silly things.
YHYW: Certainly on your journey you would have experienced many different emotions. Was fear one of them? If yes, tell me how you were able to work through or overcome it.
Dr ETP: It was difficult not knowing what was really going on in your body at any given time and not knowing if this will be your last day in the sunlight. I experienced much fear thinking if it is going to return and if it has gone to other parts of my body. I got through my fears by just letting go and taking things daily – one day at a time. I prayed for God to send positive people around me and I started to write. I wrote down the emotion that I felt. I gave them a name while journalling about the advantages and disadvantages of being here. I trusted God to take me into the future.
YHYW: What advice would you give on how to best support a loved one going through breast cancer?
Dr ETP: Never tell them you understand what they are feeling. No one can ever understand if they have not been there. Give the loved one freedom to still think and have opinions on things relating to their care. Be honest and open about the illness and, if you are not able to assist say so. If you are unable to assist, be honest. If you are not able to manage the situation and cannot offer positive, hopeful thoughts, do not offer negative advice. The individual is carrying a heavy burden, don’t make it any worse. If the person is at the end of their journey, try to help them to get their affairs in order. Do it lovingly and patiently. Be realistic.
YHYW: What advice would you like to provide women in the community?
Dr ETP: I encourage women to get themselves in order and do their breast self-examination. This is about you and your body so take pride in it. Think health and live holistically. Enjoy the eight laws of health – nutrition (plant-based), exercise, water, sunlight, temperance (no stress), fresh air, rest, and trust in God. In the final analysis of things, you are alone – think wisely and think for yourself. Do what is right for you and if you have children, think of them too and talk to them about their bodies too – especially the girls.
YHYW: What message would you like to provide women in the community?
Dr ETP: You only live once. Live well, live positively, and be the blessing to every life you touch.
Are you celebrating a cancerversary? Whether you want to sit in reflection and support other women in the breast cancer community like Dr Turner-Pryce, or you want to shout from the rooftop, host a family dinner, plan a fun-filled weekend – the way you choose to show your gratitude for kicking cancer is a personal choice. You’ve earned it! Happy cancerversary!