Gwendolyn Stewart has battled cancer for more than a decade. Her first bout with the disease was for herself, but the latest fight is for her young live-in granddaughter.
Stewart was first diagnosed with cancer in 2005 when she noticed a suspicious lump in her breast. She had a mammogram, biopsy and lumpectomy at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital and thought she was done with cancer.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. In 2013, doctors discovered cancerous cells in the margins of her first surgery. She had another lumpectomy and started six weeks of radiation at Harris Health’s Smith Clinic. Today, she’s taking Tamoxifen and returns to the clinic every six months, and shows no signs of complications. “At first, I was scared to death,” she says. “I thank God I had no side effects. I’m different now. I take my health seriously. I make all my appointments, watch what I eat, maintain a healthy weight and watch my blood pressure and cholesterol.”
However, cancer stays on her mind constantly.
“It’s especially true around the time I get my mammograms. ‘Will it come back?’” she says. “The worry never truly goes away. It’s always in the back of my mind. It can affect my attitude.”
Stewart has the perfect attitude adjuster—her 4-year-old granddaughter who lives with her.
“This beautiful, spirited little girl keeps me active,” she says. “She’s busy until it’s time for bed. I love dressing and taking care of her. She’s my pride and joy.” Stewart uses her experience to encourage women to do regular breast self-exams and be diligent about getting mammograms.
“Pay attention to your body,” she warns. “I wasn’t taught to pay attention to my breasts. I knew that lump was there two years before I did anything about it. I’ve met women who are in worse situations than me. I try to encourage them and tell them that God has them.”