Patricia Henry: A Story About Breast Cancer, Resurfaced Childhood Trauma, and Maintaining a Positive AttitudeNov 01, 2021 02:00PM ● By Candice Stewart
Imagine being at the top of your game with massive future plans and dreams unfolding only to find that your life’s journey is about to shift into a direction that you had no plans for. Transitioning from an amazing job at KBP Foods managing a number of stores, providing training, being a consistent top performer, and representing your company across media, to then being led into the darkness of a breast cancer diagnosis, re-traumatization, and PTSD from childhood experiences is part of the story that Patricia Henry so freely and willingly shared with FunTimes Magazine in a recent interview.
Henry is a mother, wife, and aspiring restaurateur. She is a Jamaican situated in upstate New York who lives by the ever-powerful adage that says, “wi likkle but wi tallawah”, which essentially means that nothing can break us as a people despite our size in a very big and overwhelming world. Patricia’s ‘can do’ positive attitude gets her through her roughest days in addition to the love and support from her husband, best friend, and a few others she holds near and dear to her heart.
“It started in 2016 when I had a bloody nipple discharge from my left breast. I went to the doctor and had a mammogram done. They told me that it was a clogged duct. They said I could do surgery to have the clogged duct rectified but it usually goes away so I opted to wait it out,” She tells FunTimes Magazine.
She ignored it and sure enough, the bloody discharge went away and seemingly was resolved on its own. Life continued as usual where Patricia saw success in her career, met the love of her life, and gave birth to her son.
Fast forward to 2020, she felt heaviness about her. She was depressed with no explanation or inclination of what could be causing it. Despite those feelings, Henry tried to carry on with life but everything felt exceptionally difficult to manage.
“I was at the peak of my career and I had just come back from a trip from Mexico for work-related matters. I was doing exceptionally well and a promotion was around the corner for me. Life was good,” she says.
“I was superwoman and could do it all, even if I was having a bad day. That’s what most people thought when I had begun to act unlike myself,” she continues.
However, after that work trip, Patricia walked out of her job and resigned. The weight of her depression was just about getting in the way of her to process her day-to-day situations. She couldn’t take it anymore and chose to walk away to spend more time with her husband and child.
“Soon after quitting my job (on February 24th), the COVID-19 pandemic became a great threat, so I stayed home with my son. However, I still did not feel like myself. I put the façade up because I had to be a good mother and wife – you know, the one who didn’t show any weakness and was there for everyone. I continued to ignore the feelings and not address them,” she tells FunTimes.
In July of 2020, she decided with her husband that it was time for another child. Three years prior, she had birth control implanted in her arm but now felt it was time to have the contraceptive removed so they could work on expanding their little family.
Patricia embarked on this journey to have her second child, had the implant removed, and two weeks later, she noticed that both her breasts began lactating. It came as a shocker because she “hadn’t breastfed in two years!”
The mother of one went back to the doctor she visited in 2016 to have some checks done and they told her that it was probably just the hormones in her body realigning after the contraceptive was taken out.
“I took them at their word because they’re the doctors who you’d expect to take every measure necessary to find out what may be wrong,” Patricia expresses.
“However, not long after, the phenomenon of bloody discharge from my left breast began again. It was at that point that I knew something had to be wrong because this very thing happened five years ago,” she continues.
A series of other tests were done and the medical staff took samples of the discharge and concluded again that there was nothing wrong and everything was okay. Patricia accepted those conclusions.
“Then one day, I woke up with an unexplained bruise on my breast. It did not hurt but I started to think of how I could’ve gotten the bruise and nothing came to mind. I revisited the doctor and the same set of tests were repeated. I did a mammogram and a sonogram and the doctors came back to tell me that it was just a hematoma and that I should return in three months so that they could measure the size and see if it goes down. Initially I obliged, but after speaking with my best friend about it and having that gut feeling that something may be terribly wrong, I called them back 2 weeks later and asked them for a referral to a specialist,” she shares.
Unfortunately, the medical staff tried to convince her that she was overreacting and that there was no need for panic or a second opinion.
“It boiled down to me behaving like the stereotypical “angry Black woman” in order to be taken seriously. I literally had to curse them out to get what I wanted. Ultimately, I got the referral and soon after, I was sitting with the specialist who knew what to look for and the right questions to ask,” she tells FunTimes.
Patricia was soon after initially diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer on October 24, 2020. The specialist told her that a lumpectomy was necessary with the possibility of radiation treatments but no chemotherapy after the surgery.
“That was no problem for me. I have enough breast, they could take a little piece of it,” she says jokingly.
Life plans that shift to suit reality:
All this time, Patricia had big plans brewing. She was preparing to open her own restaurant called A Likkle Tups A Jamaica. Being the purposeful woman that she is, Patricia had money saved and equipment already bought to get her Jamaican-style restaurant up and running
What she didn’t realize is that the blessing in disguise continued to overflow for her. About a day before she received her test results indicating the Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis, Henry met with a potential leaser for the location of her restaurant. The gentleman made some disparaging comments that dissuaded the desire to go into a contract with him. So, in the end, the money was not touched.
Though this new development was a monkey wrench in her clearly laid out timeline, it also came in as a saving grace in a time where she was not working and her upcoming health journey would prove to be an expensive one.
Though grateful that there was funding to support upcoming medical expenses, Patricia continuously asked, “What did I do to deserve this diagnosis? I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t eat unhealthily. I have done everything doctors say to avoid items with carcinogens so there should be no plausible explanation as to why this is happening to me. No one in my family has ever had cancer. Why did I pull the short straw here?” she said while speaking with FunTimes Magazine.
“The lead-up to your cancer treatment really doesn’t prepare you for the toll it will take on your physical appearance and your mental health,” she says.
“This is traumatic and I really didn’t understand how heavy it was until I got deep into it through conversations with my doctor about treatment plans as well as still trying to manage my personal life,” she continues.
A few nights before her scheduled lumpectomy, Patricia woke up quite frantic and hyperventilating. She was hit with a hidden part of her past - her childhood. She was able to recall trauma experienced as a child but forced herself to forget.
“I sought confirmation from people who appeared in my memories because in my mind, there was just no way these things had happened to me. It was too unreal! How could I - out of the blue - remember these things when all this time I had no recollection? However, everyone I went to confirmed that the events actually happened,” she says.
The onset of the trauma with her cancer diagnosis was potentially a trigger for her jolt of hidden memories to awaken her PTSD.
Patricia was sexually and physically abused by her mother’s husband for approximately 6-7 years. It started when she was 9 and continued until she was about 15 years of age. She also was not the only child being abused in her family. A majority of her family knew about it and lived in denial, refusing to truly listen to her as a victim because the man was ‘taking home the bacon’.
The re-traumatization sent her mind into a whirlwind. She initially thought it was just stress and thinking about her upcoming lumpectomy and general journey with cancer. But, these things happen. All it takes is one (sometimes unrelated) traumatic experience to trigger the unveiling of the Pandora’s Box that was hidden.
After the lumpectomy:
“After the lumpectomy was done, the diagnosis changed from a stage 1 to a Stage 2A. It has actually become an invasive cancer that has now spread through my lymph nodes. So chemotherapy and radiation became important aspects of my treatment plan. I completed my rounds of radiation and stopped the chemotherapy treatment short because it was taking a heavy toll on my body. Among the side effects for me was neuropathy, damage to my nails, and my bones hurt a great deal,” Patricia shares.
It was revealed that my cancer is 95% estrogen and while I was on birth control, that contraceptive doing one good thing was also feeding the growth of this thing inside me. As a result of this, I was given the option to either suppress my ovaries or have them removed. I opted to suppress because I would still try to have more children in the future.
A positive attitude | Addressing trauma | Thoughts for the future
Despite the struggles of her past and her reality, Patricia tells her story with a smile on her face. She does not seek sympathy and she lives her life to the fullest. She gives love and welcomes love into her life. In her words, “I have no time to hate anyone or be resentful because of the hands I’ve been dealt.”
Patricia has started individual therapy and plans to do couples therapy with her husband so that they can welcome a spirit of healing in their life together. She has forgiven her family for the neglect meted out to her as a child and looks forward to bigger and better things.
Though her restaurant hasn’t gotten the start she envisioned, she from time to time will take orders and have them delivered to her growing clientele. She has begun writing her book entitled, The Blessed Wretch, where she plans to get into detail about her childhood trauma, the trauma of breast cancer, and how she’s dealt with it.
Additionally, Patricia plans to officially start a support group for Black women living with breast cancer called 31Beyond Breast Cancer. Through this support group, she hopes to encourage Black women to stand up for themselves where it comes to their health. “Far too many Black women get overlooked and classified as overreacting and aggressive. We know our bodies and if something is wrong, we often know about it,” she says.
Her next check-up to provide an update on her health status is January 2022.
We wish her all the best!
Candice Stewart is a Jamaican content writer specializing in human interest feature stories. She is a web content writer, blogger, and budding podcaster.
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