Darla Jaye’s face was seen across the world after she rang the bell, a symbol she had finished active treatment for breast cancer. In her enthusiasm, she broke the bell. Harris Health staff posted the event on social media, and the video clip went viral.
The blooper turned out to be a wonderful thing, but first, the beginning of the story.
Darla was a successful radio talk-show host and communication director for the sheriff’s office in Kansas City, Missouri. When she lost her job, she decided to move to Tomball. Her brother, a local dentist, had some health issues and needed her help. She thought it was time to move her mom, who also had health problems, from Florida to Texas. That meant leaving her friends behind.
She came to Texas in 2017, just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Harvey. When she went to Florida to move her mom, she was met by another hurricane. It was all too much — finding a home, dodging weather catastrophes, dealing with family health issues — without nearby friends. She became depressed and reached out to Harris Health’s Mental Health Services.
Added to the depression, she just didn’t physically feel well. Referred to a doctor at Aldine Health Center, she had a mammogram as part of her physical and was sent to Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital for another. Doctors saw something that required attention, but Darla’s mother was hospitalized with a broken knee and priorities shifted. Later, a series of biopsies would reveal a lump hiding behind a cyst.
“I was very calm when the call came, but I hung up the phone and lost it,” she says. “You don’t ever think it will happen to you.” When she met with the surgeon, she was emphatic. “Just get it out of me,” Darla recalls saying. The doctor recommended a segmental mastectomy, and she had surgery two weeks later at LBJ Hospital. She says she was in the right place.
“For something incredibly scary, my care has been incredible. I was overwhelmed, and the team took charge. It helped me focus.”
She began six weeks of radiation treatment at Smith Clinic. It’s a long drive from Tomball to Smith Clinic, but she drove alone every day, using the time for prayer and music. “Even though I knew about radiation, I was so scared at my first treatment my heart was pounding. The staff was so reassuring, I knew I could do it. I was tired down to my bones, but I did it.”
She finished treatment in July 2019, and that’s when the video of the broken bell went viral. She was seen on major television networks and on local channels across the world. “It was the best thing that happened to me in a long time,” she says. Darla heard from friends and colleagues near and far — a virtual connection.
Tests indicate Darla has Lynch syndrome, a genetic predisposition to different cancer types, including colon cancer. The news is hard to accept, but she’s depending on Harris Health for direction.
Perhaps the hardest part of her journey was asking for help. “Harris Health is amazing. The fact that this level of help is available to this community is a true blessing.”