No shame, no fear

Sherie Holder-Olutayo,

Added 17 October 2012

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“IF YOU LOOK AT CANCER like a death sentence, that’s what you’ll get.” This statement comes from Shorma James, who has been battling breast cancer since she was first diagnosed in 2003. For Shorma, the cancer has resurfaced now for the third time, but her resolve to beat the disease still remains steadfast. “The first time I had a lumpectomy. Then in 2008 I had this reoccurrence where I felt this tiny lump, and when the doctors checked there were tiny tumours that were forming together, so we decided to take the left breast off,” Shorma said. “I was home for about a year and three months. I had chemo, radiation, the works. I had chemo in 2003. Now I have a reoccurrence again. I just had surgery last Thursday. What happened is that there were lumps that came up in the area of the scar. So I had surgery and now I’m waiting on them to figure out what will be my next step.” Many women who have had one bout of cancer are rattled by the experience, but nor Shorma. She possesses an unshakeable faith and a determination to fight that have brought her thus far. “My thing is I am not taking chemo this time around,” Shorma says adamantly. “I refuse to take it. Not because I’m afraid, but it’s too much of a harsh effect on your body. What chemo does is kill the good cells and the bad cells. I had my head bald twice, but it’s too harsh on your organs, and for that reason I’m not taking it ever again. If I can do radiation treatment, that I will take.” Shorma says that she can handle the radiation treatment. She recalled how her skin turned black, but it cleared up after the treatment. One thing Shorma doesn’t have when discussing her cancer is a desire to hide anything. She eagerly showed the EASY team her scar, which she wears as a badge of courage, and boldly proclaimed: “I have nothing to hide”. “See, this is a nice, lovely scar, compliments of Dr Ferdinand, who is wonderful,” she said, singing his praises. “I am so proud of this scar. “I am fine and happy with my scar. It doesn’t make me feel less than a woman. I have no shame.” Shorma’s story is no different from that of many other women who are simply going along with their lives and discover a tiny lump that changes their entire world. “I had no family history, nor was I aware that there was anyone else battling with it,” she said. “I had problems with the breast from my teenage years. Once I had an abscess in the breast and then my nipple bled at some point. They said one of the ducts was blocked and they went in and corrected that problem. But where the scar was I kept feeling a lump. They kept telling me it was scar tissue and it was going to heal after a while, but it never did and a lump actually formed in that area.” Shorma did admit that because the doctors told her it was scar tissue, she didn’t act on it immediately. But it was in 2003 that they found the first cancer tumour. “There’s an inner strength and a peace where nothing affects me,” she said. “Most people hear cancer and they think death. I don’t. I refuse to bow to this thing called cancer. I think it has to do a lot with your frame of mind. I love to laugh and I have no desire to die.” That inner strength and love of life are what keep Shorma going, especially as this is her third time with the disease. “You know, my doctor told me this lump doesn’t feel good. She told me my cancers tend to be invasive and slow-release into my body. So she said that this particular cancer could end up in your bones or your lungs,” she said. “I strongly believe in God and his healing power. I said to her my Bible tells me I have threescore and ten years to live. I am 49; therefore, I have 21 more years to go.” Shorma says her attitude even gives her daughter strength. “If she thinks I’m happy and not worried, she won’t worry,” Shorma said. “I just want to give people strength and courage with my story.” Encouraging other women who are battling this disease is something that Shorma does daily. “It’s not about me; it’s about helping other women out there,” she said. “I’m a part of this group called Victorious Ladies with Cancer Support Services, and it’s such a joy to be part of that. “If you look at cancer as a death sentence, that is what you will get. But if you have a will to live, that is what will happen. I have a will to live.”

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