Within a couple weeks of getting her master’s degree, Eliza Black was told she would never be able to lift her arms to hang clothes on the line again. If she survived.
The 86-year-old breast …
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The 86-year-old breast cancer survivor still remembers that time when the fear of death loomed almost 60 years ago perfectly. Fear will do that. So will triumph, faith and love.
“That was the scariest thing I’ve ever felt,” Black said.
She and her son, Randolph Black, remember having to drive to Columbia to the Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital to get cancer treatment in the segregated ‘60s.
She remembers feeling tired. All the time. She remembers thinking it was simply because she had just gone through getting a master’s degree. But she remembers, having been trained, luckily, in what to look and feel for, feeling a lump in her left breast.
She said her doctor thought he got all the cancer out, having had to take the muscle in her breast and left pectoral and arm to get to it. But, when the bandages came off, it was already re-infested.
“Everybody I knew who got it died, so I thought why should I be different,” Black said.
Randolph Black, one of the four children she had at the time, was 13 when his mother was diagnosed. He remembers going to the doctors’ offices and the appointments and the treatment centers.
“I had everyone up and down praying. As far as I was old enough to travel, I would go door to door, saying, ‘Would you pray for my momma?’” That’s all I knew,” he said.
Though the heaviest burden of a cancer diagnosis rests with the patient, his or her entire family and network is also affected.
“It was a family experience. We didn’t know what she was going through, but we were all in this together,” he said.
The doctors gave Eliza Black six months to live. At the most.
Of all the pain and fear she remembers, she also remembers, and knows to this day, that “God is good.”
“I went to church, and it must have been a good service, because God healed me at that church,” she said. “I was trying to take my dress off, and back then you didn’t step into no dress. You put it on over your head. I was pulling it off and they said, ‘Momma, do you realize what you’re doing?’”
She had her arms over her head.
She said she is thankful for the help her doctors gave her and that she knew how to recognize the lump in her breast.
“But, there’s a higher power,” she said, “and God is good.”
Black said though it can seem impossible, those diagnosed with cancer must beat their fear. The fear will incapacitate you.
She remembers being in the hospital and having her sister and her young daughter visit.
“I saw my baby girl. She was 18 months old, and she was about to forget who I was. She was going to be calling her aunt ‘Momma,’” she said. “I took a look at my girl and said, ‘No.’ I want to raise my children.”
She had three more children after going into remission. After getting tested from her doctor, she was able to breastfeed them all.
Today, Eliza Black can raise her arms to the sky.
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