When Freda White was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease in her 20s, she became diligent about doing breast-self exams. Her diligence paid off when she felt something suspicious that turned out to be aggressive cancer, stage I.
“I had breast cancer in my 30s, and I feel like I’ve been dealing with cancer ever since,” says the 62-year-old. “I’ve never wondered, ‘Why me?’ I think, ‘Why not me?’”
Freda has Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare inherited genetic disorder that greatly increases one's risk of developing cancer. Ten years ago, she turned to Harris Health System for all her medical care, and like her diligence, that paid off too. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer. “It was found early because of the great healthcare at Harris Health,” she says.
Her primary care physician and specialists at Smith Clinic are attentive to any changes in her body. In addition to her gynecologist and oncologist, she has conditions that require a gastroenterologist, neurologist and hematologist. “Thankfully, they all communicate with each other,” she says.
Freda is very matter of fact about dealing with cancer. “If I’m going to live until I’m 99 — and I plan to — I know I’ll probably deal with cancer again. My medical team gives me a lot of emotional support.”
Freda is an active member of the team and encourages women to be involved in their healthcare. “If you listen to your body, you can tell if something isn’t right. Cancer has taught me to stay healthy. Early detection and treatment are the greatest cures. See your doctors regularly and continue follow-up. Harris Health has some of the best doctors in the city who think outside the treatment box. Take advantage of the care here.”
She shares her experience in the oncology support group, and she’s also a breast cancer advocate. Staff connects her with new patients and, she mentors them through treatment. As she encounters other survivors, Freda is always ready to stop and listen and offer an encouraging word and a hug.