By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The most shocking news of her life, Latanglia “Shay” Douglas had to find a reason to fight.
The battle for her life, Douglas found out in April she had Stage 2 Breast Cancer. Immediately seven inspirations hit her mind with her children Kordell, Juwan, Tara, Mia’, Kelly, Cornelius and Ziara.
But fear started to overcome her mind, body and soul. Then Douglas drew courage from her brothers Thomas, Cordarous and Carlos.
That courage was tested by the treatments, surgery and medicine making her tired and sick. Wanting to give up, Douglas’ ultimate weapon in her fight against breast cancer is her mother Alma Sellers coaching and motivating her.
“In February of this year I went to Methodist,” Douglas recalled. “My breast were hurting and I didn’t know why they started hurting. It wasn’t a routine check up. It was hurting more than normal when a woman comes onto that time of the month.
“So I went to the doctor to see what was going on,” she continued. “They did an ultrasound. They told me they would call me if they saw anything wrong. That was in February. I didn’t get a letter until April saying that I needed to go to Baptist to get a further examination.”
The trip to Baptist humbled Douglas and she anticipated the worst news. First she got a mammogram and it picked up two spots. Next was a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous.
“Once I did the biopsy they went in there and said I had four masses,” Douglas recalled. “Two of those masses were infected in my lymph nodes and two were cancerous.
“I looked at the doctor like ‘huh?’ I was in denial,” she added. “I didn’t believe what she was saying to me. ‘What do you mean cancerous?’ In my brain it wasn’t catching that this woman was saying I have cancer. She told me, ‘Don’t feel alarm Ms. Douglas. That’s why we did the biopsy so we can test everything.’”
Douglas received a call two weeks later with the doctor offering good news and bad news.
“I said give me the bad news first,” Douglas said. “She said ‘You do have cancer, Stage 2.’ She said, ‘The good news is that it’s not aggressive cancer.’”
Finding very little comfort in the news that her cancer is not aggressive, Douglas had to wrap her 41-year-old mind around the fact she has cancer. Since starting treatment the mass that was 30cm is down to 20cm. The other 15cm has been reduced to 7 cm by the end of September.
“As far as the sickness and throwing up, somedays I’m like, ‘Lord I am tired,” she acknowledged. “That chemo takes a toll on your body. You’re OK some days but others. I go twice a week and the treatments last four hours each time. They give you four different types of medicines each time.”
Douglas’ treatments feature chemo pills. She is happy not to be undergoing radiation. Her cancer is still in Stage 2.
“On the outside I went on with life as usual,”she said. “But when I am at home alone in my room, I sit there and cry. I didn’t want anybody to worry or treat me different. I am the same Shay. I don’t want y’all to worry. I understand why people keep this type of information to themselves. People talk about Chadwick Boseman and him not telling anybody.
“This is something that a person goes through and they don’t want everybody to have pity for them,” Douglas continued. “I understand where he was coming from. It’s not that I was being funny, it was a process you have to grasp. I was in denial at first and at some points now I am still in denial that it’s there. But when that pain hits, it’s frequent reminder that it is there.”
Her cancer exist in her right breast. And the team at the West Cancer Center located in Germantown monitors Douglas’ progress and give her addition encouragement.
“When you go through those doors, color does not matter,” she said. “We all fight one battle and that’s cancer. When you go through that door, they treat you with respect and they give you the most support and care.
“My biggest joy is when I hear that bell ring,” Douglas continued. “That means somebody is cancer free. A joy goes all over my body and it give me hope. On one side you have the pictures of the women who survived and on the other wall, I don’t like that wall. It’s pictures of the ones who didn’t make it. That scares me too.”
Douglas is using her fear to teach her teenage daughters Tara and Mia’. Her research on breast cancer has Douglas concerned for all women of all ages.
“I talk to my girls a lot as a women,” she said. “I tell them it is a scary thing. It’s like they understand but they don’t sometimes. Tara understand better and you know how Mia’ is. When I am in there and she’ll be like ‘Mom are you alright.’ I’ll tell I am OK. The other night she came in there and said, ‘Mom I know you don’t be alright in there. I saw it in your eyes.’
“Mom thought she had it,” Douglas added. “She saw the pus and stuff coming out. That would scare any women because you don’t know. Thank God it wasn’t there. Mom told me to get my regular check ups but to me personally they are giving us the age of starting your mammograms at 35 or 40. But us women are starting a campaign for awareness starting as early as 20. On that wall there were a lot of women 21, 22, 25 years old with breast cancer. Women we need to start when you’re 20.”
Douglas acknowledged prior to February she wasn’t concern with mammograms or regular check ups.
“I was one of the ones not taking it serious,” she said. “’They not going to squeeze my breasts.’ I was just like that until this. The Lord will show you in His way and make you listen. This was a big wakeup.”
Now she limits her stress and listens to her mother’s advice. Oldest son Kordell calls from North Dakota routinely to keep his mother motivated. Meanwhile Juwan keeps her mind distracted with good news from his mechanic business. And her three youngest children Kelly, Cornelius and Ziara bring her joy when the medicine takes over her body.
“I want to beat it,” Douglas said. “And my kids tell me I’m going to beat. And although people give me support in the back of my head I feel like I’m not going to beat it. I’m not going to lie, I want to give up. I say, ‘Lord take me away because it hurts.’ I really wasn’t hurting until the chemo.
“And that’s a pain worse than labor,” she concluded. “I wouldn’t wish this on my enemy. I hope I’m going to beat it. I hear the people around me telling me I can. But like the doctor told me, ‘You have to believe it myself.’”