Marquita Bass: Faith Helped Her Get Through the Treatment Process
Marquita Bass is an emerging writer who lives in Decatur, Georgia. In her book, Orange is the New Pink: My Battle with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer, Ms. Bass provides Hope, Insight, Resources, and Support to women who have been affected by breast cancer. She also provides recommendations to women to possibly avoid a cancer diagnosis.
On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, I was anxiously waiting for the doctor to call me with my breast cancer biopsy results. When she called around 2 p.m., my heart started beating rapidly. I asked the doctor if I could put her on hold while I walked to a private area. As I rushed down three flights of stairs to the
mother’s room in the building where I worked, I almost slipped and fell. Out of breath, I sat down in a chair, took the doctor off hold, and nervously asked, “Do you have the biopsy results?”
I’ll never forget what the doctor replied, “Ms. Bass, It’s a C A N C E R.”
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) showed up in my life like a meteor from out of space. Although my aunt was battling metastatic TNBC when I was diagnosed, I thought, "There is no way I have triple-negative breast cancer like my Aunt Addie.” Why did I think I was exempt from getting an aggressive type of breast cancer? My breast surgeon uttered the words I dreaded: “Ms. Bass you have triple-negative breast cancer in your right breast.” “What did you say?” I thought. I was speechless. There was a sudden sharp pain in my chest, and I almost started hyperventilating. Instead, I looked over at my niece, who pretended to write in a notebook. She avoided eye contact and kept her head down. My niece was trying to be strong for her Auntie Quita, but I knew she was distraught. If we had made eye contact, both of us would have become unglued. So, we tried to remain calm by avoiding eye contact and not speaking. For a moment, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Then, my surgeon assured me that because my tumor was small and I was healthy otherwise, there was a good chance that I would be okay.
All breast cancer is a serious disease, but some TNBC subtypes can be very aggressive and deadly. TNBC is not supported by female hormones, or by the over-expression of HER2 receptors. Moreover, TNBC is an aggressive breast cancer subtype that disproportionately affects BRCA1 mutation carriers and African-American women.
Fortunately, I had awesome physicians and care, and I didn't face any obstacles in getting treatment. Three days after I had a bilateral mastectomy, my aunt died from TNBC. It typically recurs in 2 to 3 years despite aggressive treatment. Thank Goodness, most women survive. I am a seven-year survivor.
I was able to get through the treatment process because of my faith. Also, I was determined to live for my son's sake. He was 13 years old when I was diagnosed, and I wanted to see him graduate from high school and grow into an adult. My mom had died at age 49 from pancreatic cancer, and I was 48. I didn't want to die. However, I later shifted from "trying not to die" to "trying to live."
After a breast cancer patient finishes treatment, she transitions into survivorship mode. For me, attending a TNBC support group and meeting my friend Mary DeHaye helped me to continue to recover mentally and spiritually. She and I talked often and we attended conferences together. Unfortunately, she died from beast cancer in 2016.
If you are newly diagnosed with cancer, please try to remain positive. I have noticed that patients who remain positive tend to experience better outcomes. And, please make sure you understand the biology of your cancer, along with the short and long-term ramifications of your treatments.
Cancer has taught me that life is short, and I need to be patient and live day by day. The Serenity Prayer, "God grant me the serenity to Accept the things I can't change, Change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference," has a new and more purposeful meaning for my life.
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