Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lisa "Sweetluv" Thompson ~ Breast Cancer Survivor

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you". ~ Maori Proverb

When you first meet Lisa aka Sweetluv, you are immediately taken in by her beautiful smile, boundless energy and can-do attitude.  If you didn't know her story, you would never know that she is a breast cancer survivor.  This interview is to raise awareness about breast cancer from a survivor's viewpoint.  You will read about her journey, how she fought the disease and what advice she has for others fighting this disease.

How did you find out you have breast cancer? 
I was suppose to have a mammogram when I turned 40.  I skipped it for two years until a friend convinced me to get one.  It was nothing I could have felt for, only a mammogram could detect it.  I was diagnosed with Stage 3.

Is there a family history of breast cancer?
My grandmother had it.

What were your main concerns after being diagnosed?
 I was afraid of dying and leaving my 8 year old daughter.

How did you did you cope emotionally?
I focused on God and God's purpose for me.  I knew I had to be strong if I wanted to be around for my daughter.

How did you and your family react to the news?  
I was scared.  I thought it was a death sentence.  My family took it as a fight that we were going to win.  If they were scared, they didn't show it.

Did you have a support network?
I had a huge network of friends, family and strangers that just wanted to help.  I felt and still feel truly blessed.

Did you feel apprehensive about chemotherapy?
I saw so many movies and even worked in an oncology clinic.  I saw so many patients get sick from chemo.   I feel like that experience prepared me mentally for the worse.

Why did you decide to cut your hair?

I was told after my first chemo treatment that my hair would start falling out.  I didn't want my diagnosis to control everything, so I cut it before it started falling out.  I had over 75 family and friends crowded into the barbershop to watch as I got my locs cut.  Reality sat in and I cried halfway through the process.  I realized at that moment that I really did have cancer and this was not a dream.  It was going to be a fight.

Describe your treatment process?  Did you face any obstacles during this process?

I had blood drawn weekly before chemo.  I was given the harshest chemotherapy available Adrynmicyn (Red Devil) that was deemed best suited for my aggressive breast cancer.  I had 6 rounds of that and then 15 rounds of chemotherapy (Taxol).  I also endured 5 weeks of radiation that took place every day (except the weekends).  I faced dehydration and low blood cell counts.

What kind of surgery did you undergo?
I had a bi-lateral mastectomy and lymph-nodes removed from my left arm (because the cancer had spread).  Six Days After Surgery

Are you completely recovered?
No.  I struggle every day from fatigue, mental sharpness, strength, eyesight and the aches and pains from chemotherapy still haunt me.

How has your life/outlook on life changed after fighting this disease?
I appreciate the life that God has blessed me with, I really don't sweat the small stuff.  I am living for the now because tomorrow is not promised to me.  I am just grateful and thankful to God for using me to help others.  Live, Love and Laugh is my motto.

What have you learned about yourself throughout this journey?
I have learned that I am a really strong-minded person.  I am not weak and I can overcome/defeat anyone or anything put before me.

What do you wish everyone knew about this disease or something you wish someone had told you?
This journey was Hell for me.  I really didn't  know what Hell is but this was my Hell.  I wish I would have been told about the importance of early detection.  Then maybe, just maybe my cancer would not have grown so fast and my treatment would not have been so harsh.

What message would you like to give to women about breast cancer?
I would tell them that this is a journey that no one wants to take but if you have to face it, fight. FIGHT HARD and never give up!  You can win.  Early detection is everything.  Become an advocate for your own help.

What do you believe was the key to your success?
My mental state was to smile at the devil in the midst of adversity.  Laughter and smiles made a difference.  Having a supportive work environment at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (WFMO) made a huge difference.  There was no stress, they just wanted me to focus on getting better.  My mother was there each and every step of the way.  She was my strength when I didn't have any in me.  She assured me that I wasn't going to die and that I could do it.  She never let me give up even when I wanted too,.  She said "NO, we are going to fight this!"  It was because of her strength that I pushed through the times when I didn't have the strength.

What organizations were the most helpful to you?
John Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health

Does your insurance cover the costs of your treatment?  If not, how do you manage the costs of your treatment?
My health insurance didn't cover everything because I chose to have John Hopkins treat me and they were out of my network.  I don't regret that decision because the staff at John Hopkins saved my life. There is no bill that amounts to my life.  Now I am paying massive medical bills.  I guess this is just another part of my journey.

Why did you choose John Hopkins knowing that they were out of your network?
My close friend who is a doctor, helped me compile a list of providers to choose from.  I visited a few on my list.  I made my decision after visiting John Hopkins.  I was so relieved when I saw how prepared they were for my visit.  That was the main reason I decided to go with them.  When you are fighting for your life you want to feel confident with your treatment center.  I felt that way with them.

What are you doing toward raising awareness about breast cancer? 
I do speaking engagements, I go wherever I am requested.  I communicate through social media.  My main goal is to stress the importance of early detection and living a Healthy Lifestyle.  I started a non-profit organization called Purpose Driven, Lives Saved Inc. to promote healthy lifestyles in our kids We call it, fighting the fight before you have too.  I don't want to see anyone go through what I went through.


Sweetluv's breast cancer journey is filled with courage, strength, determination and faith.  Everyone's journey/story is not the same.  I believe that it is important to know you are not alone.  Lisa's story serves as an inspiration to me. She is a breast cancer survivor who fought this horrible disease 3 years ago and defeated it.  She is now providing help, support and information to breast cancer patients and survivors.  She has written a book "Walking By Faith, The Fight Against Cancer" that depicts the journey of several woman as they described their experience with breast cancer from the diagnoses, surgeries and treatments.  It is a beautifully written book.

Because of mounting medical expenses, a friend of hers suggested she establish a gofundme page.  Lisa created "Sweetluv's Fight" to help offset some of her out-of-pocket expenses.  Sweetluv is a very proud and self-sufficient woman, who is not looking for a handout (but she could use a little help).  As a mother of a child with serious medical issues I can totally relate to drowning in medical bills. Please take a moment and check out her page.  If you can, leave a donation (any amount will be greatly appreciated) and a note of encouragement.  I totally support her in her journey to continue fighting cancer and her fundraising page.

Thank you Sweetluv for sharing your story.   Please click on any of the social media links below to get keep up-to-date news on Lisa and her journey or to drop her message.  She wants all breast cancer survivors to know they are not alone.

Sweetluv's Gofundme Page

God Bless you Sweetluv!  Keep fighting! 

Breast Cancer Survivor – Interview Questions (2012). Susan G. Komen Sacramento Valley. Retrieved from http://komensacramento.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/survivor-questions.pdf

Multiplicityme2too (2013, May 5). Newbirth Wildflower. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oo7ZEfrX90

All photos property of Lisa Thompson, please do not use without her permission.