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Breast Cancer Survivor: Vickie Williams-Cullins

Vickie, post chemo. Breast cancer survivor.
Photo courtesy of Vickie Williams-Cullins

Vickie Williams-Cullins is The Empowered Mocha Patient’s 1st featured Person of the Month. She captured my attention while interacting with her on FaceBook. She’s a passionate, determined woman, with a persevering spirit in the face of adversity. 2008 was a significant year for both of us, in that we both experienced the great loss of our Mothers, in the midst of other personal challenges. Her personal challenge was being diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been gracious enough to share her journey of how she navigated the health care system to beat breast cancer, so that you may be inspired, encouraged and EMPOWERED.

EMP: How did you react to the diagnosis?
VW-C: I got mad and said what the f*&% are we going to do now? Then I said I need the best surgeons and oncologists you’ve got. I also met with a nurse navigator who assessed my personality and got me a great team, who understood that I was in charge.
EMP: When did you decide you would be a survivor?
VW-C: I am a past survivor. At that moment I dubbed myself the breast cancer anhli8tor. I was determined to b*tch slap cancer into submission.
EMP: How did your support system help you cope?
VW-C: My boyfriend who became my hubby was my rock. My brothers, my sistah girls, my Sorors, my late Mommy and my glorious dog Bootsy, all played a part. But it truly was the memory of my Daddy who died of cancer, who pushed me & gave me courage. He stood up to cancer and its brutal chemo treatment until it killed him. He died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma on January 3, 1996. He told me, “if I die trying to live it is my choice.” I never forgot that.
EMP: How did you decide what treatment option was best for you?
VW-C: Counseled with my team, researched and prayed for discernment. Then I made the decision.
EMP: How long does it take to recover from treatment?
VW-C: I am still recovering. I had 5 surgeries in 8 weeks, 6 rounds of chemo, and then 3 more surgeries. I have chemo brain still. Body aches, sexual dysfunction, no motivation, depression, and I live with the possibility that I am never cured, it can come back.  However, I refuse to succumb to this! My motto is: “Faith, Tenacity and Purpose.” I have a strong faith in God and I move on.
EMP: Do you have any other family members that have been diagnosed with
breast cancer?
VW-C: My Aunts, both paternal and maternal.
EMP: What advice would you share with others now that you have battled this disease?
VW-C: Have faith in a higher power, research, have good trustworthy friends and family, a pet, a good medical team, a notebook [for journaling, asking questions of your doctor & to take notes at medical visits]. Take someone with you to the appointment and ask questions. Ask [the doctor] to explain [anything you don’t understand]. Question your doctor’s advice, if they have a problem get a new doctor. Most importantly, you are the project manager of your care. Know it, own it.

Special thanks to Vickie for sharing her awesomely inspiring survivors story! May she forever walk victoriously in healing. Blessings and good health! ~Meredith

Check out: How to Build a Better Relationship with Your Provider.

About October 2012’s Empowered Mocha Patient: Vickie Williams-Cullins serves as a Hearing Officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is also a small business owner of OpN-Door Communications, offering services as a certified alternative dispute professional and mediator. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is an active volunteer in her community. She has been a breast cancer survivor for over 3 years and is proof positive that early detection is the key to claiming victory over this dreaded disease. One of Vickie’s proudest achievements is the creation of the award winning Restoration of Rights Clinics for convicted felons.
In her spare time, Vickie enjoys spending time with her husband Terry and their miniature schnauzer, Bootsy. Speaking of her husband Terry, there is an awesome story behind their nuptials. When Vickie was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, 2008, she & her then boyfriend Terry had hit a rough patch. She told him he could leave, but he decided to stay. She subsequently endured 5 surgeries and was scheduled for 6 rounds of chemotherapy. After the 2nd round, she was so sick that Terry quit his job to take care of her. At that time, it dawned on her how much they loved each other and how much he was willing to sacrifice; she decided she wanted to marry him. So after her 3rd chemotherapy treatment, she told him they were getting married on October 12, 2008. He said, OK and the rest was history. Terry & Vickie have had there share of challenges since her diagnosis on 2/26/08, but they know that their love and faith in God will bring them through it all. They truly believe that they are in it to win, till death do them part.

Vickie and Terry Cullins
Photo courtesy of Vickie Williams-Cullins

To read more about Vickie’s battle with breast cancer, please check out her blog, where she chronicles her treatment and shares valuable information about managing time off from work (FMLA).

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