CANCER DOES NOT ALWAYS WIN
A review by Yvonne J. Medley
“One in eight women will develop breast cancer. These statistics serve as a reminder of the many mothers, grandmothers, sisters and friends who have endured the words, ‘You have cancer’,” informs Colletta Brabham-Orr in her book, titled, Cancer Does Not Always Win: A Comprehensive Guide to Beating Breast & Ovarian Cancer (Purposely Created Publishing Group, 2015).
As the nation bids goodbye to October, a month notably attached to actively engaging in a united push to public awareness about breast cancer, there are still too many stories of cancer victim memorials to be told—especially in African-American communities. Orr shares her story about losing her maternal grandmother to ovarian cancer, and losing her maternal great-grandmother, whom she’d never got to meet, to breast cancer. But Orr’s story doesn’t stop there, not even close.
Orr learned of her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis, while she was a nineteen-year-old college student. Upon digesting the news, she immediately when into caregiver/advocate mode—running down doctors to glean crystal-clear explanations and encouraging them to invoke aggressive treatment plans to combat the disease. Orr wanted to win.
But the diagnosis had come too late, and her grandmother’s health swiftly deteriorated. The devastating loss shaped Orr’s future and mission to become a cancer awareness activist.
At Voorhees College, an HBCU in South Carolina, where she’s from, she migrated to more math and science courses. And whenever class assignments got tough, she explained, she and other students, “always had a lot of support. So if I hit a bump in the road, the college had resources in place for me.” To her advantage, Orr added, “I’m an analytical thinker.”
Attending graduate school at Georgetown University is what brought her to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. “I came here to really pursue research,” she said, “because it’s the largest research facility in the United States.” Married by that time, she shared how her husband, a criminologist, was in full support of the move.
“I wrote the book because I wanted to create a resource for the people in our community—something that was tangible, something that was easy to read, easy to understand,” she said. “I just feel like if my grandmother would have had at least the basic facts, what the symptoms were for these diseases, she might have been here longer,” Orr added, “Maybe not forever, but for longer than 11 months [after the initial diagnosis was declared].”
About the book, Orr said, “I didn’t want people to get bogged down in scientific jargon. My book is not like that. It has stories of survivors; breast cancer survivors, ovarian cancer survivors, how people would change with the disease, how they’d talk about [and dealt with] life after cancer.”
In her self-help offering, Orr informs about the symptoms of breast and ovarian cancers, its varying stages, and even its genetic links. Orr works to empower women when it comes to asking and/or challenging doctors with informed, thought-provoking questions as well as the boldness to demand second opinions.
Cancer Does Not Always Win also covers preventive healthcare. There are health measures and lifestyle changes, she writes, that can be easily incorporated into one’s daily living habits to lower one’s cancer risk. And should a woman become the recipient of the dreadful diagnosis, Orr wants her to know that the C-word does not have to be a killer.
In April, 2019, she will host her annual Pink and Teal Conference in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The colors represent breast cancer (pink) and ovarian cancer (teal), she informed. Healthcare specialists, survivors, and others will be on-hand to give invaluable resource and more.
When it comes to, “breast cancer, of course, our primary care physicians tell us that we should get a mammogram yearly, but I have known women to have a mammogram, on time, and between the twelve months, they were diagnosed with breast cancer. So that’s why it’s so important to do a self-breast check/exam in between your mammograms.”
“When it comes to ovarian cancer, the symptoms are subtle. The symptoms can mimic a virus.” The researcher rendered an example, “If you can only eat a little bit at a time, that [could be] a tumor taking up the space. And my suggestion to women is that if you have those symptoms for more than two weeks, you should go to your primary care physician to have him or her rule out any other serious possibilities.”
She added, “Your primary care physicians will probably ask you about your family history. If you have a family history of breast cancer—then they’re going to look at ovarian cancer as well. “[In the book] when it comes to ovarian cancer, I talk about how we can protect our young daughters, and how we can even project what their probabilities will be for getting the disease.”
“Because my maternal grandmother had ovarian cancer and her mother had breast cancer there was a genetic link. So I had my mother tested for the genetic mutation.”
She added, “Thankfully, everything was fine. So I didn’t have to be tested. If you have that mutation, it puts you at a very high risk. Something like 80 percent.” If her mother’s test had shown a genetic link,” Orr explained, then, “she [would] have to learn how to manage her health differently.” Orr cautioned, that being a high risk for cancer does not automatically translate into, “a guarantee of getting the disease.” The book goes on to explain all these factors, deeper.
Orr, who in addition to earning her doctorate, working in scientific research, hosting conferences, and facilitating support groups and cancer awareness workshops, decided to put her knowledge in print because she wanted cutting-edge information to be empowering and obtainable, year-round—and not just in October.
She wants women to fight for the freedom to live healthy cancer-free lives!
Colletta Brabham-Orr, MPH is a wife and mother, and lives in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Her book, titled, Cancer Does Not Always Win: A Comprehensive Guide to Beating Breast & Ovarian Cancer can be found on Amazon and purchased, in print or digital download, wherever most books are sold. To find out more or to book a speaking engagement, click on www.collettaorr.com .
Yvonne J. Medley is a feature writer, author, screenwriter and founder of the Life Journeys Writers Guild, Inc. Her novella, turned stage play, titled The Prison Plumb Line, was inspired by her many years, volunteering behind bars. Learn more at www.yvonnejmedley.com .