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Sisters’ Journey Survivor of the Month – BERNADINE OLIVIA CHARLES
Read her story (thanks www.sistersjourney.org)
My name is Bernadine Olivia Charles and my life has been a journey that has taken me on dissimilar highways, routes, and backroads. In February 2021, I was lying in bed thinking of my son Todd whose funeral service was only a month earlier. I turned over on my left side and I felt a pain in my left breast. After checking, there seemed to be a red pimple under my skin.
After a few days, I kept feeling the pain. So, I decided to call my doctor and she immediately ordered a mammogram and ultrasound for February 12, 2021. Two weeks later I received a letter in the mail to schedule an appointment with a breast surgeon, which I did. After meeting with her, she suggested that I have a biopsy of both breasts.
In the back of my mind, I was thinking this can’t be too important, it was just going to be a routine preventive care procedure to make sure everything is ok. I’d had a breast exam just six months before, how could this be happening? Besides, I had cysts removed many years ago from my right breast and there was no issue. Was I in denial?
When I spoke to my daughter, she said it didn’t sound routine. So, I had the procedure done and found out that the left breast showed two pimples. I then saw the breast surgeon and she said that the two pimples were on an angle, which is unusual. On February 23, at the age of 74, the doctor confirmed that I had breast cancer. She suggested strongly having the beast removed because of how the pimples were situated. I said, “You must be kidding?” I scheduled an appointment for a consultation for breast reconstruction. My daughter was with me. I was told the procedure I would have to go through. After listening to the doctor, I decided not to have this procedure. I was not emotionally or mentally ready for it – too much was going on in my life. My surgeon told me my insurance covered a six-month window for my surgery, so I thought I would have time to get some things done in my house. I told her I would have the surgery in June. She didn’t want to wait that long and scheduled the surgery for March 26, 2021. Everything was moving fast.
I called my pastor and he prayed and gave me words of encouragement through this journey. So many emotions were running through my mind. My mother had passed in August 2019. My sister, four years younger than I, was diagnosed with cancer in June 2019. My oldest sister passed from Covid on November 9, 2020. That same week, my son was hospitalized with Covid and passed on December 22, 2020.
I asked God: “What is going on? I need your help for healing, strength and courage. I just don’t understand.” All I could do was pray, pray, pray. I was on my knees in prayer and the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said to pray and fast. And that’s what I did for two weeks until the morning of surgery.
During my praying, a peace came over me that can’t be explained. I knew God was working on my behalf. On the morning of my surgery, March 26, 2021, I had a procedure at 11:00 to navigate the dyes through my breast to the sentinel node, and at 2:00 p.m. the mastectomy of the left breast. After surgery, while in the recovery room, I was awakened by an asthmatic attack.
After three treatments, it was under control with oxygen. This was a most scary experience. Later that afternoon I was taken to my room and both the 2nd and 3rd shift nurses said, “Let me close the drapes so the sun won’t be in your eyes in the morning.” I said, “No, leave them as they were.” At the time, I didn’t think about why I made that statement.
After surgery, I still had not gone to sleep by 2 a.m. I was watching TV and started drifting off to sleep. Suddenly everything in the room turned white and I went into a sweat. I rang and yelled for the nurse. The next thing I remembered, the room and the hallway were filled with doctors and nurses. I was told they were the emergency medical response team. They told me that I had lost consciousness and that my blood pressure had dropped to 65/50 and my body went into shock.
I heard the doctor say, “She didn’t have a heart attack.” Meanwhile, the nurses were trying to get blood and failed after six attempts. I then looked out the window where the drapes were left open by my request and, glancing at the sky, said, “God, I need help. The devil is a liar. In the Name of Jesus Christ, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” My help came from the Lord in that hospital room. Then the nurse said, “I got it, I got a vein.” After three days in the hospital, I spend two weeks recovering with my daughter Dawn, who took care of me in so many ways. I thanked God for her and all the medical help and attention she gave me. She was with me every step of this journey.
When I visited with the oncologist, I was very nervous. He confirmed that the cancer was Stage 1. Thankfully, my lab test results showed no cancer in my lymph node. My Breast Recurrence Score Report showed my numbers were too low to go through chemotherapy or radiation. Even though I had a breast exam six months prior to this journey, you never know what is going on in your body. I’m so thankful that this happened the way it did. It could have been different if I ignored the situation.
I prayed and praised God before surgery and after and will continue to honor Him. I give Him all the praise and glory for all he has done for me. God is faithful and He is excellent. I could not have gone through this journey without the help of my daughter Dawn, my friend Jannish, my prayer partner Georgia, and the Rev. Sandra V. Hadland, but mostly from my Heavenly Father.
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