Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes with a diagnosis for one woman
“It’s definitely going to be life-changing. It doesn’t have to be life-stopping.”
Chanda Cleggett says that her breast cancer diagnosis was “kind of a fluke.” A skin infection prompted her to see her doctor in 2021.
Her mammogram was due soon, so when the doctor suggested they go ahead and do the screening, she agreed.
But then “the nurse comes out and says she needs to get a couple more images,” says Chanda, a truancy specialist for MNPS. Then they needed a closer look by ultrasound. A biopsy was next.
Diagnosis and treatment
Chanda was diagnosed with breast cancer on Oct. 2, the second day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She vividly remembers getting the news. The single mother of three called her own mother, who was on her way to a funeral. Her mother immediately turned back to support her shaken daughter.
Chanda had a lumpectomy that month, followed by 13 rounds of radiation.
The value of family support
Early on, emotional struggles were difficult to escape. She moved in with her mother for a couple of months. “I did go through a short bout of depression,” Chanda says.
“My mom was definitely worried,” she says. “We’re spiritual people. I said, look, it’s out of my hands.”
To make life easier, other family members called or came by, often bringing meals. The diagnosis came shortly before Chanda’s 50th birthday, which was not forgotten. Her family organized a surprise drive-by party. Friends and family drove by, dropping off cards and gifts, and waving and honking cheerily.
“It was really uplifting,” Chanda says.
Bouncing back and helping others
Chanda has bounced back, although she has moments of shaken confidence over the change in the appearance of her breast. But Chanda recognizes that she is a survivor, one of the lucky ones. She wants other women to be among the lucky ones, especially Black women who may not feel as supported in the medical system.
“It’s hard for us to talk to doctors,” she says. “I tell people, if something feels off with your body, go get it looked at. Don’t wait. Don’t ignore anything.”
She also has advice for those who receive a cancer diagnosis: “Live your life. It’s definitely going to be life-changing. It doesn’t have to be life-stopping.”
Truancy specialist for MNPS