You don’t get to choose when your cancer journey happens, but you can choose the ways you grow from it.
You think life is going great until you get side swiped out of nowhere. It could be relationships or an illness or just life in general. Life has different paths that you will go down in certain times of your life. These different paths will either make you stronger or break you.
My name is Kenesha, but I go by Bella. I’m 33 years old, I have a 4-year-old daughter and I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It definitely was a hard pill to swallow. When you first hear those words, the first thing that comes to mind is, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I going to die?
My journey began one morning. When I woke up and felt my breast, there it was: a huge lump that came out of nowhere and seemingly overnight. It was the size of a golf ball. I automatically panicked, immediately called the doctor and made an appointment to get checked. It was January 22, 2020. Little did I know that this would be the start of a new journey and new path for me.
That day, Dr. Dianne Elaine Hunter tried to ease my mind by stating it could just be extra fatty tissue or a cyst and not to worry because I had no other symptoms of breast cancer and that was a good sign. I was scheduled right away for a biopsy and mammogram. After the biopsy and mammogram, I was told it would take a week or so to get results back so I just prayed and continued to stay positive. But on February 19, 2020, I got a call at work that drastically changed my life.
I will never forget the call.
“Hi, can I speak to Kenesha Hunter?” a voice said on the phone.
“This is her speaking,” I replied.
“This is Jacqueline Redeemer, a RN nurse from Kaiser with the results of your recent breast biopsy results,” she said. “Would you like to know now or come in for the results?”
“I would like to know now,” I said.
“We found cancer in the right breast.”
I got quiet and my heart dropped. She kept saying ‘Hello,’ but I couldn’t answer. I was in shock, I was hurt, I was scared, and I felt lost. I didn’t want to die. I had my daughter to take care of and she needs me. It felt like I was stabbed in the chest. I couldn’t breathe, but I had to keep it together because I was still at work and I didnt want anyone to know.
That day, I realized my journey was about to start whether I was ready or not.
I can’t lie. I was scared. I left work early after receiving that phone call. When I made it home, I went walking for hours with no place in mind. I felt alone, but not physically. I had to mentally prepare myself for this journey I was about to go down because there was no turning back.
I was known for being tough, but this both broke me and made me stronger. At that moment, I felt weak and powerless and lost. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel.
I also didn’t know how to control my emotions anymore. I was angry a lot. I became a different person. I would snap at anyone because of the pain I was enduring inside no one knew about. No one understood because they were healthy. I was jealous and I became insecure. Enduring this life-changing journey alone, I hated hearing, “You’ll be okay,” because I wasn’t okay. I lost my happy joyful spirit.
I eventually had surgery on my right breast right before Mother’s Day to remove the mass. My mass was 4.5 centimeters and, luckily, my cancer didn’t spread. I had stage II invasive carcinoma with mucinous features. My cancer was determined to be hereditary because they found the NBN mutation after genetic testing. That test changed everything. Now, I have to get the left breast done as well so the cancer doesn’t have a chance of returning.
My treatment also included six rounds of taxotere and cytoxan chemotherapy. The experience was depressing and draining. I was weak, nauseous and just tired of getting poked every other week.
Later, I received a bone marrow biopsy because my white blood cell counts consistently got lower after my chemo sessions. That was a different type of pain. It felt as if someone had a sharp knife and was scraping my bone. Because they have to go deep into your hip bone, the pain got worse. I cried because of the pain and began praying for God to get me through this. Luckily, my test results were good, so I didn’t need a bone marrow transplant.
People that have never been diagnosed with cancer will never know how it feels—especially as a woman. You get insecure. People might not want to admit it, but it’s true. You lose your self-confidence. We lose a lot as women when battling cancer. As your physical appearance changes, you want nothing more than to be the same as ever. It’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m glad I knew God and got closer to him because I wouldn’t have made it without him.
When battling cancer, you also need a good support circle. I was so blessed to have good friends and family that helped me during this whole process. I learned a lot about life these last couple of months. I sustained an enormous amount of growth during this journey. I value my peace and appreciate what I have. When you’re moving fast in life like we all tend to do, God will slow you down to appreciate what is in front of you.
That’s when gratitude comes in. I thank God for this journey because it has made me stronger and not codependent on others. I had to depend on myself. I had to be strong within myself and have faith.
I encourage women my age and younger to take care of yourselves. Sometimes we become so selfless in life that we tend to forget to take care of ourselves first.You have to learn your body and listen to your body. It will let you know when something is wrong. I ignored my body when it was talking to me. You can be the most beautiful individual, but if you are not right within, it will show. You match the frequency you are on.
After finally accepting my diagnosis, I regained my happiness and my peace. My soul was happy and free. I didn’t feel the weight on my shoulders anymore. People noticed my glow and I started to put myself first. I felt great!
It’s not easy, but as women, we are built strong and resilient. It might seem like we go through a lot, but God built us to endure all obstacles and make it through it all. Everyone’s journey is different, but you will make it! Have faith! Keep faith! And always do things you love and things to make you smile and make you happy despite the circumstances you’re going through.
I know it’s easier said than done, but just remember you are beautiful. You are strong! Always be yourself because everyone else is already taken. Even though my breasts tried to kill me, I am still here and still standing. I, Kenesha Tena’e Hunter, am a breast cancer survivor!