An African American Breast Cancer Survivor: Juanita Lyle's Story

Uploaded by NCIcancertopics on 07.10.2011

[ Background music ]
>> When you have an enemy,
you go and you figure
out what the enemy is
and it's harder
because when you have an enemy
within you,
you don't have a vehicle
to escape on.
Hi, my name is Juanita Lyle
and I'm a breast cancer survivor
of 35 years.
I've had breast cancer three
times and I had skin cancer
one time.
So, I have four times
with the Big C. I was diagnosed
at the age of 32 years old
with advanced breast cancer.
Back then they didn't really
stage breast cancer,
but I would say
that I was probably
between the third
and fourth stage
of breast cancer.
I went through chemotherapy
for two years.
I had started the chemotherapy
on my 33rd birthday;
that was my birthday present.
All the stories that you hear
about the horrific things
that you go
through with chemotherapy I
went through.
At age 34 years old here I was
going through menopause.
You can imagine that being young
and having menopause
and being young and going
through all the things that are
supposedly the old woman's
disease was very debilitating
and there was a lot
of uncertainty
and so not knowing whether
you're going to make it or not
because they always tell you
five years is what you do.
You get through five years.
I didn't see five years.
Here I was again facing a
disease that was actually
traveling and was actually the
possibility of real death.
Even the chaplain was already
thinking gloom and doom.
He said are you angry at God?
I looked at him and I said no,
I'm angry at this disease.
I said that's what I'm angry at
and I'm ready to fight.
When I was in my second protocol
of chemotherapy,
my first treatment I lost all
this hair on one side;
not in patches,
one side falling out.
When I lost my hair the first
treatment, I was sitting
on my bed crying
and my son came along
and he looked at me said, well,
mom, what's the matter?
I said, well,
you won't believe this.
Your mother's not a vain woman
but for the first time
in her life I said I'm vain.
I don't have any hair.
And so he looked at me
and he said, mom,
but we still have you.
I had decided in 1977 to get
into clinical trial
at Walter Reed Hospital
and my clinical trial was
with 813 other women; I was 814.
Back then it was really not the
norm for you to get
into a clinical trial especially
African American
in a clinical trial.
That was highly unusual
because the first thing
that my spouse said
to me was why would you do
something like that
and be somebody's guinea pig?
I said why not?
I said this way I can make sure
the doctors are checking me out,
making sure I get all the right
tests, make sure my medication
is monitored,
I said those are the things
that I see about being
in a clinical trial.
Out of an entire clinical trial,
I was the only African American
going through that time.
I thought back
about how they treat this
situation now compared to then.
I remember being in the hospital
and this woman came to me
and she said well here's this
red bowl that you can use
because you need
to get your range
of motion back.
She said here's something you
can stuff in your breast,
in your brassiere,
and I was like, okay.
[laughter] So,
actually in looking back
on how those times were
and how people actually viewed
you when you had breast cancer
was really a time
that was very hush/hush.
Doctors didn't tell you, oh,
well, if you want more
information on this,
call this line.
So, I explored every resource
possible just to make sure
that I was aware
of the fact what this whole
thing about cancer was.
I needed to get an understanding
of what I was going to fight.
So I felt that the more research
I did that was what I needed
to do.
[ Background music ]
This disease is one
that there's no rhyme
or reason to it.
I had a very clean lifestyle
and I was probably the most
unlikely person in the world
to get breast cancer according
to the profile.
My life was always built
around eating right, exercising,
keeping myself fit in mind,
body and spirit.
Unfortunately, what happens
in our community particularly is
that we get later diagnosis
and so you really need
to be aware of early detection.
Don't wait until too late
if you feel
like there's something
out there that's going
on with you.
Don't wait.
You can survive in spite
of what your diagnosis is.
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