After my step-mother Marilyn Sizemore-Jones lost her 25-year battle with breast cancer in July I wanted to find a way to give back and make her proud. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month I felt this is the time to do it. I reached out to Michelle Tindal of Columbia, SC. I have known for a while and asked her if she would like to share her story in exchange for a portrait session. She immediately agreed and stated she would love to share her story. We choose to have the portrait session on the campus of the University of South Carolina at the Horseshoe. We discussed her experience with dealing with breast cancer, her treatments and how she is thriving after cancer.
The year 2007 was a year of many events that still have an impact on how things are today. Some good events that came from that year was Steve Jobs announcing that Apple was going to release the iPhone and Barack Obama announced he was running for President of the United States of America. Some of the bad that came that year was the Mortgage Crisis which caused thousands of foreclosures and who could forget that a college student went on a killing spree at Virginia Tech University which lead to the death of 33 innocent people.
For Michelle, the year 2007 also had good and bad events or her. While performing a self-breast examination she noticed a lump on her breast. After a mammogram and biopsy, it was determined she had Stage 1 Breast Cancer. It was good that she was conducting her self-exams and caught the lump at an early stage. The American Cancer Society states that finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully.
When she received the news of the cancerous lump she was devastated and shocked. Without any prior family history of breast cancer, she couldn’t understand how this happened to her. Thankfully, she has a strong support group by her side which consist of her family and friends. They were with her through every step of the way.
Michelle had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy treatments for 4 months. She went for treatment every 2 weeks and had followup appointments in between her treatments. “The side effects and days after is one of the worst feelings ever. It’s tough and my heart goes out to those with long treatment plans,” she said.
Her self-esteem took a huge hit since she felt horrible and believed that she was ugly. “I didn't feel like my normal self and it took me a long time to be ok with myself and get back to loving me. It took me several years to become comfortable sharing my story. I'm glad that I gained confidence and can now share with others. I've realized that this journey not only helped me grow emotionally and spiritually but is helping me encourage others.”
HEALING, FAITH & THRIVING
“My faith got me through it all. I knew that I was going to be ok. I had my tough days, but I had family and friends that kept me encouraged. When my faith was struggling, they filled in the gap for me. My grandmother would send me cards in the mail that included scriptures for me to recite. They were always right on time. Now, my faith still keeps me going and I know that because of my faith I am capable of anything. I'm not just a survivor, I'm a conqueror. I'm victorious.”
In 2010, she met and starting dating Eric. It wasn’t easy for her to date knowing what she has been through 3 years prior. “When I tell you that was the most difficult thing I had to tell my husband! I told him while we were dating and I was so scared. I feared being judged. I wanted to be totally transparent with him about my health because there's always that risk of cancer returning. I wanted him to know that I also still dealing with the after effects of chemo and how the effects could impact our future. Plus I knew he would eventually see my surgery scars and I knew he'd have questions.” Michelle and Eric have been married since 2011.
“You're stronger than you think! If you're determined to make it, then you will!”
WHAT'S NEXT FOR MICHELLE?
Michelle continues to be dedicated to her health and well being by exercising faithfully. She also keeps her faith in God which is fed at The Brook in Columbia where she is a faithful servant. Attending her annual oncology visits to receive blood work and scans will ensure her well being. Michelle is cancer free and encourages women to conduct regular breast cancer exams. Early detection is a major key to beating cancer. Michelle also recommends supporting small local groups like Alala Cancer Society. Alala provides post-surgery resources such as mastectomy bras, breast prosthetics and other items that women may need during their treatment.
“We tend to take things for granted until we're faced with the risk of it being taken away. We only get one body and I want to make sure that I'm around for a long time. I don't have kids yet, but when I do have kids I want to be here for them and future generations. I want a long AND healthy life!”
I would like to thank Michelle for her courage and sharing her story with me. After living with a parent with breast cancer I saw first hand how it can be challenging. It can make you question your faith in God and make you feel isolated from everyone. I do know that keeping your faith in God and having a support group will help you get through it all.
Please like the blog post, comment and share it on your social media pages with your friends. If you want me to capture your story please email me at email@example.com so we can discuss documenting your life story.