Black women are affected by breast cancer more than any other ethnic group. Research has shown that Black breast cancer patients have a 31% mortality rate, which is the highest amongst racial groups. While many Black women have succumbed to the deadly disease, there are countless survivors who have an inspirational story and Rebecca Crews is one of them.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S, Crews went for her annual physical exam and insisted that she have an ultrasound done to accompany her mammogram. The ultrasound revealed a small lump in her right breast and a biopsy revealed that she had stage one breast cancer. She opted for a double mastectomy so she could dodge radiation treatment. She was able to undergo her surgery before the country went through a shutdown. Crews had to recover from a life-saving procedure at home while the country was trying to avoid the deadly COVID-19 virus.
MADAMENOIRE caught up with Crews to reflect about her diagnosis and recovery a year late in honor of breast cancer awareness month. Crews spoke about her source of hope, recovering during a pandemic and how being a survivor has changed her outlook on life.
MADAMENOIRE: What was your source of hope while you were going through so many emotions after finding out about your diagnosis? Did you go to therapy or pastoral counseling?
Rebecca Crews: My source of hope was my sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit within me. Prior to getting my diagnosis, I had a sense that something was wrong. I felt that voice within me say to me “Rebecca, if they find anything, be radical. Cut it off and rebuild it, don’t play around.” So, in a sense, I had already been given instructions before my diagnosis. There was a steely calm that came over me when I got the phone call… Just a resolute feeling of pressing forward to battle this disease, expecting to win. I did not flinch, I didn’t waver, and I immediately went into the house and told my husband. In the weeks following, I did ask my prayer chain to pray for me and I did speak with my pastor that I already had made up my mind about the battle plan I was going to execute. Their counsel simply served as reassurance of what I already knew.
MN: Why a double mastectomy? Would you recommend this to other breast cancer patients?
RC: I did the double mastectomy primarily so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the other one for the rest of my life. I thought it seemed silly to chase the left breast for the next 10 years worrying. I figured if I had cancer in one, there would be a good possibility I would get it in the other one. So, I opted for the double. Would I necessarily recommend this? No, I believe each person has to make their own decision, but that was mine.
MN: You went through this during the early days of the COVID pandemic. What was that like? How did it affect your treatment?
RC: Thank goodness I was able to be diagnosed and schedule my surgery two weeks prior to the country shutting down. I am very grateful for the timing of that because I would’ve had to wait probably a year to have surgery. During the time of my surgery and treatment, my son had been casted on his first show. That was part of the reason why I put a little pressure on my surgeons to get me booked. I knew I would be taking him to work soon, so I wanted to be able to be there and recover for my kid. Of course, I had no idea that COVID-19 would come to America. The pandemic did allow me to rest and recuperate because everything shut down, including my son’s production.
MN: How did your breast cancer journey affect your marriage?
RC: It made my husband appreciate me more! He was quite scared when I told him, because his mother struggled with cancer and died from a complication of her chemotherapy. So, I had to hold my husband up a little bit, smack him in the face, and tell him “I need you to be strong.” And he was! He stood by me, he prayed with me, he came with me to surgery, and he was there when I woke up. In the weeks during the shutdown, he cleaned the house, he made the meals, and he did his best to just let me sleep and restore my body. He was a true champ.
MN: How has your lifestyle changed now that you’re a breast cancer survivor?
RC: I eat less meat, I practice something called intermittent fasting every day, I don’t do dairy and I do a lot more juicing to keep nutrients in my system that fight cancer in the body. I also try to keep my stress levels down and rest more. I also don’t take on more than I can handle and I’m better at telling people “no.”
MN: What would you tell women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer who are having trouble coping?
RC: Have faith in God. There is someone out there bigger than you looking out for you and He is available at your very beckon call. He is your father, He loves you supremely and He will help you through your storm. Get support from people who have been through what you’re going through, but don’t necessarily assume that your journey will be like theirs, because yours is unique. Pray and have positive expectations. Imagine yourself well. Even science has proven that positive people recover better.