Raquell Williams is very careful about her monthly self breast exams. So, on the last Saturday of May 2011 when she felt a lump at the six-o-clock position of her right breast, she wasted no time. On Monday she visited her primary care physician. The mass had not been there during her well-woman check-up two months earlier.
Her medical team quickly scheduled a mammogram and biopsy. The results were positive. Raquell was enrolled in a clinical trial at Ben Taub Hospital that involved a series of chemotherapy before and after surgery and a 12-month course of Herceptin.
“I considered myself a survivor in December when I had the mastectomy,” Raquell says.
Her only emotionally negative times were the days following the diagnosis. She had lost her mother to breast cancer and her father to throat cancer. “I thought I was doomed. My care team told me to be around positive people and to stay away from stress.
“At first, I had a hard time getting a grip. For 30 days, my mind raced, and I couldn’t eat or sleep. I prayed and prayed. One day I prayed for peaceful sleep. That night, I slept. The next morning when I woke up, I thought, ‘You know what? I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me. Whatever comes my way, I can deal with it.’ That was my last pity party.
“I have been truly blessed. I have the best at-home care possible – my two sisters care for me on the days right after my infusions when I don’t feel well. And the people at Ben Taub are wonderful. Like so many people, I thought Ben Taub was just for trauma. Once I got there I saw it wasn’t true. My experience has been great. It’s not your average clinic or hospital.”
Raquell is “ready to get back out there.” A financial contract administrator for nine years, she recently completed an associate degree in business administration and wants to be involved in a fulfilling career.
“I’ve learned you can’t take life for granted. Before my cancer, I was a different person; I was more aggressive. Now I’m milder because you never know what the other person is dealing with. Everyone’s journey is different. I plan to help other cancer survivors walk the journey, to make it easier for them.”