Georgia's Online Cancer Information Center

Felicia Mahone: First Family Survivor Makes Fighting Breast Cancer Her Passion


I’m a Georgia native. In my first ten years of life, my mother was my everything; the epitome of what a mother should be.  We were inseparable, always going to museums, the festival of trees, Broadway plays, five star restaurants, and many vacations.  Maybe she subconsciously knew that she wouldn’t see me grow up.  She died when I was ten and my world came to an end. Through her fight with breast cancer, she never showed any fear.  I attended her chemo and radiation appointments, and she was always encouraging other patients and lending a helping hand. Despite her affliction, she was more concerned for others than herself.  As a child, I often mimicked her while playing with my baby dolls. She inspired me to want to be a mother and take care of people and taught me that what you do for others is more important than what they can do for you.

I have a long family history of breast cancer. I lost not only my mother, but also two maternal aunts, and one maternal cousin who was my very best friend at age 25.  She was young, vibrant, and pretty.  She was me:  we were the same age; enjoyed the same places, people, and hobbies; practically joined at the hip.  I remember her phone call like it was yesterday.  She had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy.   She called and said the doctor felt a large mass in one of her breasts.  They told her she needed a biopsy to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. But, sure enough, it was breast cancer.  Stage four. I remember picking her up from the hospital.  She got in the car very upset.  I asked her what was wrong.  She looked at me and said, “The doctor told me that it is a strong possibility I wouldn’t see my son grow up, and I needed to get my stuff in order.”   My heart was in my throat.  I couldn’t imagine facing death at age 24.  I can vividly see the day she died.  I sat next to her hospital bed.  She could no longer speak. The look of fear and desperation on her face stills haunts me to this day.  

Who knew that two years later, I would be face the same thing?  On October 18, 2007, my life changed forever when the doctor said, “You have cancer.” It was at that moment I was determined that I would survive, even though cancer had been a death sentence for my family.  If my family was cursed, I was determined that the curse stopped with me. I took a step back and thought, “this is just one more thing I have to survive.” I had been through my mother’s death, two rapes, and a home invasion, and if that didn’t kill me, then clearly, I wasn’t about to let breast cancer break my spirit. 

I thought, what better person could God use to beat this disease, show people that cancer isn’t always a death sentence, and work to find a cure for it?  It is for this reason why I’m so passionate about aiding any cause to fight breast cancer.  I truly believe in the American Cancer Society’s slogan, “Creating a World with more Birthdays.” It is because of this belief and their help with advancement in cancer research that I’m alive today. Being a survivor lets me know that hope is alive!  

My experience with breast cancer didn’t go the way I expected.  I assumed that family would take care of me.  Clearly after losing so many people to this disease, I thought they be very sympathetic.  But, except for my father and my sister and her boyfriend, they were very absent. There were many times when I was alone and scared.  I was always told that I was destined for great things, and God was going to use me in a mighty way.  I thought maybe God was trying to show me that at the end of the day, all I have is him. And whatever he had in store for me, he was just getting me ready for it.  As I lay there in the hospital bed ,I remembered that when all else forsakes me, then the Lord will take me up.  From that they day forth, I made a promise that I didn’t want any other breast cancer patients to feel that they were alone in this battle.  I vowed that I would do whatever I could to make their journey less painful.   Just call me Ms. Breast Cancer.  My niece Makalah often says, “Auntie, you love breast cancer.”    I really am passionate in the fight against this disease. I’m a team captain for Relay for Life and Making Strides against Breast Cancer, a peer mentor for cancer patients at Emory, a state leader for the Young Survival Collation, a patient navigator for Grady, an ambassador for the American Cancer Society, a motivational speaker, an Advisory board member for Georgia CORE.  I was also featured in my local newspaper, Ebony online, Women’s Day magazine, Good Enough Mother blog, Tiger Lily, Avon's All About Breasts, and an Atlanta Braves 2015 Diamond of Hope Award recipient.  

I’m proud to say, I broke the curse.  I’m the first survivor in my family in 20 years.  My only advice is to live every day as if it was your last.  I try not to do anything that I don’t want to or that doesn’t bring me joy, and surround myself with positive people.  My faith and believing in Jesus is the only way I got through this.  Even if you don’t believe in what I believe, Believe in something; if only yourself.  Remember:  “If it didn’t rain, nothing would ever grow.”

 

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Rebecca Palpant Shimkets is a two-time cancer survivor with an over two-decade career in mental health specializing in media depictions of mental illnesses and building programs in the U.S. and internationally. The LLL is a beautifully written, bi-weekly email that explores mental health and post-treatment cancer survivorship.

9/19/2019

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