Have you ever met someone and an instant bond is formed? It feels safe. There is only room for you to be who you are and you are loved and accepted because of it— not in spite of it. Mama Sharon, as I affectionately call her, is one of those people in my life. She smiles from the inside out and is full of light. She has a little laugh that is layered with present joy, inside jokes and past experiences. Over the years, we have become family. She has taught me how to eat Maryland crabs the right way and be ok with not being ok on a first road trip as a new breastfeeding mother with a 2-month-old. We have created priceless memories and I cherish them all.
Sharon Foster is a Baltimore, MD native who loves reading, walking, helping others and spending time with family. She is a faithful church member and loves the Christmas holiday. She is also a breast cancer survivor. This month, in acknowledgment of October being about supporting Breast Cancer Awareness, I wanted to use my blog to share her story.
Tiffany Reneé: When did you receive your diagnosis?
Sharon Foster: I was first diagnosed with stage 1b breast cancer in July 2018; this was a very emotional day for me. I couldn’t bring myself to understand the words that were just spoken to me. It was like everything stopped.
Tiffany: What were your first thoughts after receiving your diagnosis?
Foster: I have to be honest, when the doctor told me that I had breast cancer, the very first thing that came to my mind was “I am not going to see my family anymore.” But, I thank God for the Holy Spirit, which quickened me and removed negativity from my mind and my thoughts. I knew from that point on that I was going to make it through. I was going to fight back and not allow this disease to take over my mind or my body. I remember asking God, “what is it I am not doing for you? What is it that you want me to do?” One thing I told myself is that I would not question God about what I was going through. I just thought God was trying to get my attention.
Tiffany: Did you get regular mammograms?
Foster: I was a person who got regular mammograms every year— I was there. That’s why it made it a little difficult for me to accept the diagnosis, how this [breast cancer] could happen from one year to the next was unbelievable.
Tiffany: During treatment, did you practice self-care? How did you handle stress?
Foster: Treatment was a little frightening because I had to be very concerned about getting infections. I couldn’t be around many people because my white cell count was low. My port that was put in for the chemotherapy got infected once which caused me to be hospitalized and I had to have the port taken out and replaced, and my port was located in my chest which wasn’t a good feeling. Once, while taking chemo I had a bad reaction to the drug and that was very scary. That day I thought that I was truly going to die, that’s how bad it was. It was an awful feeling. My treatment that day had to be put on hold. Even with all of that, the worst thing for me that day was that my son was there. He had to see me go through that terrible ordeal. But God stepped in and brought me through it. These are just a few things that made me take extra precautions when being around people. Even with all this, I would not allow myself to become stressed about my situation, and one way I handled stress was listening to spiritual music to calm me. Losing my hair made me a little stressed— I wore hats and scarves seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. I would not allow anyone to see me without hair. Then I began telling myself that I came into the world bald-headed and I repeatedly said that [to myself]. Then that day came when I freed myself from the hats and scarves. I refused to let losing my hair affect me out anymore.
Tiffany: What brought your heart joy on your worst days?
Foster: All the love and support I received from family and friends. Just to be able to express myself was wonderful. They allowed me to talk about what I was feeling and just being able to sit down with my family at the dinner table eating and talking, it was priceless. Most of all the feeling of knowing God loved me that much to comfort me and allow me to feel his love.
Tiffany: How has life changed for you? Or has it?
Foster: It has definitely been a life-changing experience. I take nothing for granted, not that I did before, but it has made me realize how precious life really is. I appreciate each and every day and everyone that’s in my life. I don’t think I could get through the challenges that I faced with breast cancer and it not change my life all the way down to the way I think now. I want to be sure anything I do and any decisions that I make are in the very best interest for me.
Tiffany: What advice would you give to someone who is battling breast cancer?
Foster: Stay strong. Most of the time we have to be strong for our families. Most times, it’s harder for others to accept our diagnosis- especially those that are the closest to us. Usually, when they know that we accept what’s happening with us, it gives them a sense of comfort. Never think your cancer is a death sentence. Surround yourself with positive people. You never want someone telling you “oh you don’t look good.” That is unacceptable from anyone. As hard as it may seem some days, you have to push and encourage yourself. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. Speak life each and every day and try to do as much as you can for yourself unless you just can’t do it. Do not distance yourself from family and friends. Talk about your situation. Don’t hold it, you will find it’s good to be able to talk.
Tiffany: What advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now as a breast cancer survivor?
Foster: Live life to the fullest. Enjoy everything God has for me. We never know when life will throw us a curve ball. I take time now to do some of the things I have been putting off, even something as simple as taking time to read a book. I don’t use my time debating with others, disagreeing or partaking in nonsense and foolishness. My focus is on growing spiritually and trying to help others.
Tiffany: When you rang the bell for your last treatment, in one word how did you feel?
Tiffany: What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
Foster: I am much stronger than I thought and I am a very determined person. I am not just going to throw in the towel easily. I have learned to love me. Even though I enjoy doing for everyone else, it is time for me to put myself first.
Tiffany Reneé is a writer, poet, mother, wife, activist and Ohio native, based in New York. She is a free spirit who loves to truly connect with others.
She believes that life gives us opportunities to learn and grow daily if we are open to see the beauty in the expansion. Family time, deep conversation, wine, cooking, music, laughter, and travel are a few of her favorite things. She’s a soulful dreamer from the Midwest who has always been drawn to the city lights and the possibility of choosing “more”.