Though Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone, an argument can be made for making every month Breast Cancer Awareness Month for Black women, who contract and die from the disease at a higher rate than any others.
To that point, the Defender spoke with Lashunda Walker, a cancer survivor extraordinaire and current cancer battler who doctors have referred to as a walking miracle. Walker shares her journey, from diagnosis to beating cancer, and then having to continue the battle each successive time the disease re-appeared.
DEFENDER: Can you tell me about the beginning of your cancer journey?
LASHUNDA WALKER: In April of 2020, I felt the lump and I had this before. So, I talked to my doctor, and they gave me an antibiotic, which is what they normally do. They were like, “Oh, it’s just an infection. It’s nothing. So, we’re going to give you this antibiotic.” I was on the antibiotic for two weeks. Two weeks passed. It was still there. I said, “Nah, that antibiotic didn’t work. So, what else do I need to do?” And he was like, “I’m going to put you on another one and we’re going to see if that one works.” That one didn’t work. So, the doctor said, “I have a breast cancer specialist and I need you to go meet with her.” I’m thinking to myself, “Breast cancer? Where did we come from with that?”
DEFENDER: What was your next move?
WALKER: So, I met with the breast cancer doctor. She did a biopsy and she asked me before I left for office, “Do you want to meet a call you or do you want to come in? Because either way, you’re going to cry at home, whether it’s good news or bad news, but you’ll be at home. Which do you want to do?” And I said, “You can just call me on the phone. If it’s bad news I’ll just be at home.” But I wasn’t at home. I actually was at work, passing out Chromebooks to students. And she called me and said it is breast cancer. At that time, I was only diagnosed with breast cancer, but before they got ready to do my surgery, they called me back and said, “You actually have two forms of cancer.” I had breast cancer and ductal carcinoma, which is cancer in your milk ducts.
DEFENDER: What was the prescribed course of action?
WALKER: I had a lumpectomy. I went through about 30 rounds of chemo, and I went through about 10 rounds of radiation, and I beat cancer in March of this year. I rung the bell. I was done. In April, I started to have headaches and I’m thinking it’s just my blood pressure. So, my doctor kept adjusting my blood pressure medication. Until I came to work one day and I was picking up one of my classes and I said, “I just need to sit down for a minute.” [03:43] And they were like, “You want somebody else to take your class?” I said, “Nah. I’m good. I’ll do this class and then I can take a break.” I did my class, took a break and I went up to our front office to pick up my lunch, and passed out. I went to the emergency room and the nurse said, “Ms. Walker, I just want to do a cat scan and an MRI because it’s something that’s driving your blood pressure up to this level.” He did the cat scan, MRI. He came back and said, “We found a tumor.” And I said, “A tumor? No big deal. I got it. I’m not worried. I can beat this.” And that’s how I felt, because I had just conquered (cancer). But my dreams were crushed, to say the least, because the next day, the oncologist came to me and said, “Ms. Walker, I have good news and I have bad news. You have stage four metastatic breast cancer. You don’t have one tumor you have 30 tumors.” So, there were 30 tumors on my brain and my brain was actually swelling, but I had no clue. The only indication I had was the frequent headaches. So, now when people tell me they have frequent headaches and their blood pressure is high, that’s my first thinking. “Hey, you need to go get a cat scan and an MRI so that they can see what’s going on with you.” They found those tumors and then he came back and said, “There’s a tumor right here, where your neck and your head and spine meet.” He said, “I just don’t understand why you are not a quadriplegic because the placement of that tumor in most people, it makes them a quadriplegic instantly. I don’t even know how you still moving around.” I said, “I’m gonna tell you why I’m still moving around. It’s by the grace of God. See, God doesn’t put anything on you that he knows you can’t handle it. I don’t know why he picked me for this assignment, but I’m okay with it. I’m ready. Let’s forge ahead.”
DEFENDER: What did you do next?
WALKER: So, I’ve had gamma knife treatment, the gamma knife radiation, which is where they take a thing and they put it on your head and it looks like four poles and they just stick up out of your head and they put it on you and they screw it in. And the radiation goes directly to the tumors. I’ve had two of those. And then I’ve had regular radiation on my head, as well. And that actually worked. It seriously shrunk all those tumors that I had. It minimized them a lot and it surprised the doctors with how it happened. But when we got over that hurdle, about a week ago, they came back and they said, “Well, we found it on your lungs.” So, now it’s on one of my lungs. So, I’m getting ready to actually start a chemo treatment next week. This one will be 16 rounds of chemo. But I’ve never once stopped working.
DEFENDER: How do you keep such a positive, moving forward attitude?WALKER: I saw my grandmother, Mary Helen Kennedy, when I was younger. She was very active in Houston. And when I saw her resilience, even when she was sick, and she died in 1992, but she used to do a lot of political stuff. And she used to hang with a lot of the movers and the shakers. I saw her resilience when she was sick. So, that was something that she instilled in us at a young age. There’s no quitting. Just because God gives you an obstacle doesn’t mean you have to lay down and die. That’s not what you have to do. And that’s something that I refuse to do. And then I have a motivation because I have two children. So, that’s a lot of my motivation. And the fact that I understand and know that God never gives you anything that he didn’t ordain. And it may sound crazy to people, but everybody on this earth is put here for an assignment. Everybody has an assignment. Whether you want to accept the assignment is your option. But my assignment, I believe is to show other people that you don’t have to just say, “Oh, I quit. I just can’t do it.” Yes, you can. It’s always a motivating factor. And that’s one of the things that [this journey has] shown me.