Letrise Carter: My Breast Cancer Story

My name is Letrise Carter. I am mother, published author, media influencer, and podcast hostess of Sistah’s Conversations. I am the CEO to Sistah’s Place magazine that focus on empowering, inspiring, encouraging, and motivation women to walk in their dreams. I strive on helping others share their testimony and stories to empower others. I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s in accounting and Financial Management where I have worked for the last thirty years in various roles that have lead me to Associate Director. I walk by faith and discover my purpose about 8 years ago.

breast cancer stories

How did I find out about my cancer?

Every year I always get my annual mammogram and it was a lump discovered on my visit in June 2019 that required further tests that resulted to a biopsy in July that confirmed I had stage 1 Invasive ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer. The lump was so small that the doctors informed me that I would have never discovered the lump until it was much bigger and different stage of cancer. I didn’t have any symptoms for Breast Cancer the first diagnosis. I always examined my breast in the shower so there was nothing out of the ordinary. I was diagnoised for the right breast on July 15, 2019.  

For my first diagnosis, when the nurse and doctor said, you have Breast Cancer. I was completely numb and felt like I was in the cartoon Charlie Brown where all you hear and see their lips moving was the “wah-wah’.. sound. I looked across the table at my beautiful daughter sitting there in shock at the news. My mind went into protect mode immediately because now I have to be strong for my daughter and not cry.  There was a sense of peace in the room as I heard this voice say, “you are going to be okay.” I will never leave your side; I am with you at all times. You Will get through this.” My faith is extremely strong so I knew in my heart the Holy Spirit was present with me. They handed me a book that was over 150 pages long that went into detail about Breast Cancer and the next steps to take. The nurse had already made my appointment with the Breast Surgeon to discuss my options as well as the Oncologist to discuss chemotherapy and Radiation treatments. It was a LOT to take in. I was in information overload at the same time as state of shock.  

"The first diagnosis of Breast Cancer at the age 49, I did not handle this very well mentally, emotionally, or physically."

It took me a about two months to process that I had Breast Cancer. I did research online, asked questions, requested a second opinion, and then I just sat in disbelief that I had Breast Cancer. In my mind, they got my biopsy results mixed up with someone else. However, It was the first day of chemotherapy that I realized I have Breast Cancer. I still had not allow my emotions to come out as I had not cried or screamed until two instances that would occur. The first being about 3 days after my first chemotherapy treatment my hair would literarily turn to wool like and slide off my head in the shower causing me to scream and cry because the doctor said that my hair would not come out until after the second treatment. My hair was down my back and I had scheduled an appointment to happen the following week to cut my hair down really low so that my experience would not be so traumatic. Instead, I was traumatizing by how my hair turned to wool and slide off the top of my head to a complete bald head. Cancer had invaded my mind, body, and spirit which made me feel ugly, worthless, and lost. The second instance, was at a Breast Cancer event where I was one of the honorees and I cried while totally strangers hugged me, prayed over me, said encouraging words, connected me with another Breast Cancer sister who we are friends to this day fighting together as survivors.  

The first diagnosis of Breast Cancer at the age 49, I did not handle this very well mentally, emotionally, or physically. I did take steps with the doctor to discover how I could have such disease given I don’t have the family history and I did do the genetic testing to determine if I have the gene and I didn’t have none of the genes. It was mind blowing because no one knew anything about women in my family with Breast Cancer. Most importantly, I didn’t have the gene so no doctor could tell me how I got breast cancer. I completed 8 rounds of chemotherapy (9/27/19-1/13/20) and went onto 20 sessions of radiation. I got through chemotherapy with the help of some amazing women in my support group that went to chemotherapy with me and my daughter. I call these women my tribe because they sat with me at each session, brought food, cooked for me and my daughter, went to grocery store for us, and went to doctor visits with me. Even when I walked into Chemotherapy on the 2nd treatment and told my doctor I quit. They stood by me, and my doctor allowed me to go get another opinion to give me peace that the treatment plan and diagnosis was correct. After visiting Northwester Hospital, I went back to my local hospital to continue treatment after their review was the same treatment with an added drug for chemotherapy. I didn’t understand why my treatment plan was so invasive for someone with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. It took the Northwestern doctor to explain each variable so that I could understand the aggressive treatment plan because my grade was type 3 which was a aggressive cancer that grows fast.  

breast cancer survivor

"I was reading said, “Black and Brown women die at a higher rate of Breast cancer than their counter parts” or “Black women experience worser side affects from chemo drugs.”"

Chemotherapy was extremely hard for me. I caught the flu during my first round of chemo in 2019. I experienced depression and withdrawal from everything that I loved including writing and reading. I lost a relationship during chemotherapy as not everyone can deal with seeing someone they love go through such illness. I discovered who my real friends and family members were when it came to helping me and my daughter. I treasured the tribe of women who stood by myside (Dilshad, Diane, Gina, Stephanie, Alyssa, Debra, Renee, Pam, Marcie, Aretha, Barbara, Kaye, and my work family). I did attend support groups, but the groups did not have many women who looked like me (African American) so not all could understand how some of the side affects to chemotherapy was affecting me. I had to seek outside resources to connect to women who looked like me give the fact just about ever article that I was reading said, “Black and Brown women die at a higher rate of Breast cancer than their counter parts” or “Black women experience worser side affects from chemo drugs.” It was very discouraging and at times heartbreaking.  

I had researched supplements to take during chemotherapy, but my Oncologist then did not agree as she felt they would interfere with chemo. My oncologist could not assure me that chemotherapy was working as she didn’t want to run Pet Scan, or MRI, or whatever else test can be done to see that the treatment plan was indeed working and not destroying my body for nothing. It was not like I didn’t have good insurance, but I was beginning to feel as thought it was all about profitability. My breast cancer was not as far along so in my opinion to be given fair and equal treatment of any woman my age but different race. 

"It would be my 50th birthday month when I got my 2nd diagnosis that on the anniversary July 15, 2020 for the right Breast that I would be get diagnoised with Breast Cancer on the left at stage 2."

This was not how I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday which was before the diagnosis. I know I should have been excited that the right breast was clear, but the left breast had a new cancer that was deeper and bigger. How the hell was this missed? I was extremely anger at my Oncologist that I left my local hospital at the advice of my brother to get second opinion with new tests done by Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA). This is where I would learn that I was vitamin D deficient to the point that my body could not fight off cancer. Through Pet Scan and MRI, they examined my mind, body, and advised me spiritually to help me to understand why a new cancer form, how it was missed, what can be done, and the treatment plan. I made the decision same day to transfer to CTCA for my new road to recovery. I only had to do 4 more chemotherapy treatments with assignment to a Naturopathy doctor, nutritionist, therapist, chiropractor, and a host of other doctors on the team that would go on this new journey with me so that I can become cancer free. First thing was a Vitamin D3 boost to get my levels from deficient 10 to normal. Normal range for Vitamin D is 30 that is recommended. What I love about CTCA is that they truly stand behind their mission.  

They focus on finding the “Why” and helping you to better understand your health, empower you mentally, physically, and emotional wellness. It was decided to do the 4 rounds of chemotherapy using drugs Carboplatin and Taxol together which meant I would be in chemo from 6-8 hours once a month from September through November 2020.  Now, here I am going through Chemotherapy during a pandemic. I thought this was over when I finished radiation in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. I was very concerned about the virus now and how CTCA would keep their patients safe. It was unfortunate that with the Covid-19 restrictions that you can now only have one family member or caregiver attend chemotherapy with you. My tribe was still strong and supportive. Because of my faith and the fact, I just completed chemotherapy less than a year from my first diagnosis I knew what to expect. But this time I was prepared and ready. I had taken on a warrior attitude and was prayed up and had my tribe with me on this second journey.  

I was determined to beat Breast Cancer mentally, emotionally, and physically this second time around.  I was going to get back to my happy and vibrant self through reading, writing, journaling, and taking some fun classes that ignited a fire in my creative mojo.  This led me to writing a short story series for New Adult Fiction titled Lucy Mason with three parts- Lucy’s Worth, Lucy’s Faith, and Lucy’s Heart set to release on December 7, 2021.  Both Lucy’s Worth and Lucy’s Faith are available on Amazon and autographed copies on my website at www.letrisecarter.com 

After my first diagnosis, I got on this weird self-health kick where I exercised five days a week by power walking then jogging that my end goal was to be running. I trained myself from power walking to jogging 5 days a week every morning at 7am-8am before work and sometimes I would workout twice with friends in evening 2-3 days a week on top of my morning routine.  My body crave my morning jogs it was invigorating to my body and spirit.  But that second diagnosis would kick me in the head so hard that I could not get back to that routine when I got my GREAT news in May 2021.  

breast cancer stories

"On May 3, 2021, I was given the clean billed of health that not only was the right breast still cancer free but the left breast was not cancer free."

Now, one would think I would be jumping for joy and doing cartwheels.  I was not and I knew that was not good. I knew my body had been through so much trauma that I realized so had my emotional and mental wellness. I told my friend who is a therapist that I think I need to talk to someone because I should be happy instead a part of me was scared that this may still come back. I could not find happiness in the good news I just got. I made a phone call to speak to someone because I was not okay and I needed help to help me get on a true road to happiness regarding being cancer free. I have declared 2021 my recovery year physically and mentally. I had to forgive myself for all the pain that I been through in the last two years. 

I am finding my peace and finding my way back to a new woman. I am getting healthier by getting back to my healthy weight that I plan to reach in one year. I am not beating myself up. I gain 38 pounds during this last round of chemotherapy of which could have been more, but I followed the nutrition plan since one of the side affects for Carboplatin is weight gain. It’s a shame, I lost 30 pounds the first year in chemotherapy then second time around gained awful weight which is one of the things I beat myself up. I have NEVER been this big 204 lbs. I am use to my curvaceous 145 lbs. at 5’3. I have accepted it’s not my fault when it comes to Cancer diagnosis that I am bigger than the cancer that attacked my body. I live more conscious now, live more healthier than before, getting back to a new routine that works for me, I am not punishing myself for not loosing the weight in some unrealistic time frame. 

For me changing eating habits and taking more time for self-care as before I was always caring for everyone else but not taking more opportunities to care for myself. Gaining a better understanding of what self-care is and incorporating that into my weekly schedule. For example, massage and facial once a month at Spa Envy.  I log out of social media from Saturday-Sunday every week for a mental break. I never missed annual exams for myself, but I say no more now this time around than I have in two years. I push back and if it’s invading my peace, I say no. Life is too short to allow my peace to be disturbed. 

Let me say this about the affect of Breast Cancer, its devasting to learn you have Breast Cancer. It impacts your relationship, your health, your mental psyche, your emotional wellbeing, and it affects you physically.  Breast Cancer is not fair, and it does not discriminate. But how we are all treated should be equally. I plan to become a Breast Cancer Advocate to bring awareness to the resources and programs available to all women. I learned of so many resources the second time around that I have been sharing the information that CTCA has given me to not just family and friends. In coming days and months, I will share resources in blog posts, podcasts, and magazine issues. I am pushing for Black Women Health Awareness because our fatality rate is extremely high and I know that is a result of educating women about chemotherapy, radiation, genetic testing, and most important vitamin d deficiency role.

How do I feel now? 

I feel a lot better than I did in May. I am healing and on the road to recovery and being healthy. The actions I am taking now is taking putting me first and taking Vitamin D3 everyday for the rest of my life so that my body fights cancer as well as building a strong immune system. I take my Vitamin C with Zinc along with a nice supplement regime for my entire body’s health. I am back to exercising and eating a diet high in protein, vegetables, and fruits.  

"There were no symptoms that I had for Breast Cancer, my advice is get your mammograms every year."

Talk to your doctor about any abnormalities, know your family history, get your genetic testing done so you know if you have the gene to better aid your doctor, don’t be afraid to get 2nd, 3rd, or 4th opinion when you are diagnoised with breast cancer, be your own advocate so that you make sure you are getting fair and equal treatment. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor’s treatment plan, research the drugs, know the side effects of the drugs, and you are not stupid by asking questions. This is your life and you are responsible for fighting for your life. If your doctor is more concern with how much she/he can or will not make off of you then it’s time for you to find a new doctor. I am anchored in Hope now, so I am being a voice for those women to empower them to stand up to Breast Cancer fight to survive. Surviving means not just knowing your numbers, but knowing your genetics, getting healthier, educating yourself about breast cancer, digging into your family history, and making lifestyle changes that will not just benefit you but that will affect your family as well. I am the first in my family to be diagnoised with Breast Cancer and I am fighting to be the last.  

how to go through breast cancer

My website is www.letrisecarter.com 

I am on the cover of Sistah’s Place Magazine – a women owned magazine that empowers, encourage, inspires, informs, and entertain in literary, film, and television.  Quarterly print magazine on Letrise Carter | MagCloud

Duo Issue for October with 10% of sales going to two organizations that helped me during my two year treatment.  Collection Magazines | MagCloud

My magazine website is www.sistahsplace.com 

Blog articles I have written to be informative –

Resources for Breast Cancer Patients & Survivors – Letrise T Carter (letrisecarter.com)

How does the diagnosis of Cancer affects your Mental Health? – Letrise T Carter (letrisecarter.com)

How does Cancer Diagnosis affects your spirit? – Letrise T Carter (letrisecarter.com)

When you accept your obstacles – Letrise T Carter (letrisecarter.com)

Black Women’s Health with Felecia Tucker – Letrise T Carter (letrisecarter.com)