At 39, while many might anticipate their 40th birthday, deciding how best to celebrate – maybe a party or a trip - our March Survivor had bigger decisions to make.
Diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, Carolita Lewis had to choose between a single or double mastectomy.
“I struggled for a few days with the idea of having my breasts removed,” she said. “I thought I would feel like or be less of a woman. I felt like I could never be whole again.”
A few days later, Carolita recalls an overwhelming feeling of clarity.
“All I could think was if they are going to kill me, I want them gone.”
So after an eight-hour surgery, they were, along with all traces of cancer and four lymphnodes. Plus, the cancer hadn’t spread.
“I smiled for the first time in months,” she recalled. “This was my first glimpse of hope.”
Though her double mastectomy was successful, Carolita still had further to go with 10 rounds of chemotherapy and one year of hormone therapy. She also underwent a nearly five-hour reconstruction surgery.
But eventually Carolita did get around to celebrating that birthday. And just in time.
“My 40th birthday, this was my last chemotherapy treatment,” she said. “My birthday and cancer-free anniversary. Double the celebration!”
Throughout her journey, beating breast cancer was one thing but explaining it to her child was another.
“One of my biggest fears was finding the courage to tell my then nine-year-old daughter that her mom has breast cancer,” she remembered. “The first question she asked was, ‘Are you going to die?’”
But Carolita reassured her daughter that everything would be fine, and reassured herself the same.
Two things enabled her to do this - her strong network of love and support, and keeping a positive attitude.
One way she did this was by reciting Dolly Parton’s famous quote, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” (If you’re part of our Instagram-fam, you know we love this quote, too!)
Keeping her eye out for the rainbow after the storm, was how Carolita was able to keep her faith and hope strong, that better days were around the corner. And when she needed to reset, she headed for the closest shore or coast.
“Being by the water has always brought me a sense of peace and calm,” she said.
Today, cancer free, Carolita makes sure she lives on purpose and with purpose.
“Having beat cancer has motivated me to live a free and full life, and to inspire whomever I come into contact with – especially other women faced with the challenge of fighting this disease,” she said. “I hope that I can inspire other women that are facing this challenge.”
Until next time, keep up with us on Instagram (and all our socials) and always keep your Eye on Strength!