In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I sat down with my friend/soror/professional cancer slayer Deniece to chat about her breast cancer diagnosis. She opened up about her fears, her journey and how she overcame them.
Over the past four years, I’ve experienced two breast cancer scares, and both were traumatizing. Today I am chatting with Deniece S. Style, a 33-year-old Breast Cancer-Slaying Queen. Deniece not only opens up about her journey, but she is also sharing her new project #SLAYCancer and advising young women in her position.
Nory: First of all, Thank you so much for chatting with me and opening up about your breast cancer diagnose. Over the past four years, I’ve experienced two breast cancer scares, and both were traumatizing. I hope this interview will demystify some myths around breast cancer particularly for younger women. Why don’t we get started? Tell me a little bit about yourself and your life before the diagnosis?
Deniece: My name is Deniece Mitchell, and I am 33-year-old Visual Merchandiser and Wardrobe Stylist. Life before cancer was pretty “normal.” A few months before my diagnosis, I reconnected with the boyfriend I had at 17, and we began seriously dating.
My career was blossoming as a visual merchandiser with plans of relocating to another state with my job. I had an overall clean bill of health for 32 years and was somewhat active (does taking ‘brukwine’ classes count as exercise? lol). I loved attending church (was just recently baptized!) and just enjoyed spending quality time with my family, friends, and Sorors. Life was good!
Nory: Any “wine” class counts as exercise lol. Congratulations on getting baptized and YASS to a new love! Let’s shift gears a little and let us talk about your diagnosis. What was that like?
Deniece: I found a lump in my breast from self-examination ( E A R L Y D E T E C T I O N ) around this time last year. Before this, there was always a “dark cloud of cancer” looming over me. You see, my mom is a proud 11-year breast cancer survivor. I never wanted to utter the words “I could have cancer one day” because I’m a firm believer that what comes out of your mouth will eventually come to pass.
Doctors told me I was “too young” to worry about cancer now and that I should start getting yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. So when I found the lump, I was in denial for a few weeks- until it began to grow and become painful and I could no longer ignore it. In December, a sonogram and biopsy were performed.
At first, the doctor rudely and abruptly called and told me I had stage 0 breast cancer (the abnormal cells were just found in the lining of the breast milk duct and had not yet spread to the surrounding breast tissue) I was in shock but totally RELIEVED it was caught before it spread.
I asked my chapter Sorority sister to come along with me to have my first visit with the breast surgeon because she is a nurse and both of my parents were away. The doctor broke the news that I had stage 2 breast cancer and not stage 0. Immediately, I felt like I floated outside of my body and every word spoken afterward was in a foreign language (Thank God Linda was there to write down the boat load of info I just received).
This was SIX days before my 33rd birthday. After being consoled by Linda, I sat in my car for about an hour thinking. I thought about-about how I would break my parents’ hearts with this tragic news. Then I worried about never being able to get married and have children. I was utterly depressed for a few days…but then God stepped in…..
Nory: I can’t imagine what that must’ve felt like. When I had my first breast cancer scare, I panicked, and borderline began planning my funeral. I am eager to know, how is a 33-year-old woman dealing with all of this? I know you are a woman of strong faith. How is your faith helping you fight back? Tell me about your testimony.
Deniece: JEREMIAH 29: 11 is how I’m fighting. After the initial shock, denial, and dismay, I relied and still depend on the Lord because he has “plans to prosper me and not to harm me…plans to give me hope and a future”.
After diagnosis, everything went at lightning speed. I had iron intravenously administered to me for five days because of anemia, surgically had a mediport placed in my chest and finally began four months of chemotherapy. I dramatically changed my eating habits/ diet which was a lifestyle shock (I didn’t realize just how important it is to carefully watch what I ingest).
After my 2nd treatment and BEFORE chemo robbed me of my shoulder length locs, I stole back my power and organized a ” Cut-It Party” – a beauty makeover experience where my friends, family, and Sorors gathered to see me transition from full locs to a beautiful baldie. The event included a live DJ, cocktails and some friends even displayed solidarity with me by shaving/cutting their hair.
This was the beginning of my TESTimony (please remember that this is my Jesus year!); taking a tragedy and turning it into triumph all while giving God all the praise. I made it my mission to redefine the image of the typical “cancer patient,” not only with a positive mindset but also with boldness and style.
I began blogging about this whole new cancer world that I was now a member off. Soon after, I started the #SLAYCancer fashion/ cancer lifestyle brand as a movement to destroy the disease using fashion fierceness to inspire awareness. I want my chic merchandise to spark conversation about the importance of early detection and the fact that young black women CAN and DO get breast cancer.
My hope is that the #SLAYCancer brand inspires, uplifts and encourages at least one person to be proactive about their health. Bridging my love of fashion with my new found passion for encouraging young black/latina women to check their breasts regularly has grown from a simple idea to my purpose. Yes! Breast cancer gave me a sense of purpose. There cannot be a TESTimony without the TEST…and I am a living example of that!
Nory: You are simply amazing. I love how you’ve taken this challenging and life changing situation and turned it into something positive and uplifting. I’ve spotted some of the #SLAYCancer pieces on Instagram; I need to get with the program and grab one before they are all gone. Many women under 40 think they are too young to worry about breast cancer. What advice would you give to a young lady who was recently diagnosed?
Deniece: I would advise women to remain positive, prayerful and to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I realize now that I was afraid of cancer and chemo before it even started. I was scared of the unknown. Allow yourself to physically, mentally and emotionally go through the process.
It is okay to grieve your hair or your breasts or the way your life USED to be. Just know there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Always remain grateful and thankful! Remember although things may seem bad now, things could always be worse. Also please KNOW you can SLAY without hair or eyebrows! You can SLAY without even having breasts. Your beauty will shine from the inside out- no need for hair, eyebrows or breasts!
Nory: “Your beauty will shine from the inside out- no need for hair, eyebrows or breasts!” I love that! How can we support you and #SLAYCancer?
Deniece: Of course, I MUST say you can support me by visiting my site reading my blog to find out more about my breast cancer journey (which is NOT over) and by purchasing some #SLAYCancer merchandise so that you can say “Eff Cancer” and spark healthy conversation all while looking fly!
More importantly, however, you can support me by telling a friend to tell a friend to CHECK THEIR BREASTS because young ‘normal” black women and men can and do get cancer. EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES….and I firmly believed it saved mine.
Can’t thank Deniece C. Styles enough for chatting with me and sharing her testimony. Be sure to stop by her site and check out her look book. More importantly do not forget to encourage the women in your life to check their breast, regularly!