Survivor Stories 2013:
How did you first find out you had cancer?
I found my first cancerous lump through self examination in 2005. I’ll never forget it because I found it as I was getting dressed to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was the most stressful wedding I ever attended! I tried to be happy and dance the night away with my husband and family. Underneath my happy appearance, I was worried sick! I just knew that it wasn’t going to be good news.
How did you react when you heard the news?
I was in shock, of course. After a very angry cry, I decided to go into champion mode! My mom is also a breast cancer survivor. I remember that she refused to act sick even when she was at her weakest. She fought and won! That was almost 15 years or so before my first diagnosis. I decided that I would try and be a step or two ahead of this…thing! I got an early morning appointment with my husband’s barber. I asked him to shave off my nearly waist length, silky and straightened hair. I knew that I did not want to sit and pull tufts of hair out of my skull like my mom did years before me. It turned out to be very chic! I wore my hair in a low cut for years until I had the courage to begin growing it back 3 years ago.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
In 2005, I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and prescribed chemo without radiation. I also chose mastectomy of my right breast. In 2007, my second breast cancer was found very early through a mammogram. I chose mastectomy for my left breast. No other treatment was needed or prescribed due to very early detection of this cancer.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
I thought that I’d feel violently ill throughout the chemo sessions. I was surprised that the pre-meds actually worked toward helping me feel less nauseous.
What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Do not enter this new journey in fear. Being well involves plenty of mind over matter! I also used mediation techniques like envisioning the end of chemo and what I’d be doing, eating, wearing, where I’d be traveling, etc.”
How long have you been cancer free?
I am recently blessed to be 6 years cancer free from my second cancer!
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
It’s so cliché, but I am indeed stronger than I ever knew. I was so adamant about waking up each day as if nothing was wrong, that I did not realize how much I was actually doing considering the circumstances. Traveling, finishing graduate school and taking on a new career!
If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
I want to especially send a message to all of those almost Good Enough Mothers who, like me, feel they were robbed of the opportunity to be true GEMs because of the drugs needed to save our lives. I will never have a baby naturally. As I hit my 40s, this really became an issue for me. It’s important for me to remember that being breast-less has not made me any less of a woman. I’m probably more girly than ever now. Not being able to have a baby should not affect how I feel about myself either. It’s easier said than done, for sure! With time, it gets better. Having a great husband has helped too!
Also, going into “champion mode” doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to cry or feel sad or mad. Cancer and the treatments prescribed are awful! What’s important is not to remain in these feelings. Now is the time to truly find out what makes you happy. I rediscovered the fun of make-up and fashion. It’s a fun challenge to make an outfit look great without breasts!
Carla Hill is a two time breast cancer survivor and 12 year kidney transplant recipient who resides in Miami, Florida. Carla is the Education and Outreach Manager for South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center where she works to promote arts and culture directly to the community that has helped to define her as a person.
Carla holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Secondary Education from Florida State University. She taught for 9 years in the Miami-Dade County Public School System. This included 7 years at her high school alma mater, New World School of the Arts. During her time as a high school teacher, she earned a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship to Japan for a month-long, intensive cultural exchange between educators from both nations. Carla also earned a master’s of science degree in Mental Health Counseling from Barry University.
Carla is a member of the New World School of the Arts Foundation Board and has served as a Nordstrom national scholarship panelist for the past two years. Her strength and positivity has most recently been recognized by Essence Magazine and Cover Girl Cosmetics. Carla and two other women were chosen from thousands of entries to be featured in Cover Girl’s “Your Cover Girl Moment” two-page ad campaign in the June 2013 issue of Essence Magazine.