Anita Parham faced one of the biggest battles of her life in 2012 when she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ stage 0.
“I had a little anxiety when I first heard the news, but because of my faith, I prayed about it. The Holy Spirit said it’s not a death sentence, it's taken care of,” said Parham.
Even as a child growing up in Richmond Hill, Parham had great faith in the Bible and to one day help those in need.
“My favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 30:17 ‘For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds..’ because I choose to believe and trust in Jesus Christ and His Word. He will heal me.”
Hope without effort wasn’t the case for Parham. Years leading up to her diagnosis she took an active role in maintaining good health by having yearly mammograms and doing monthly breast self-exams.
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast that doctors use to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that monthly breast self-exams not only help individuals become familiar with how their breasts look and feel, it can also help in identifying symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern.
It was during Parham’s routine breast self-exam that she first discovered a lump in her breast.
“I found a lump but I kind of put it off. However, when I noticed the lump wasn’t getting smaller nor moving, I made an appointment with my doctor.”
A week after having a biopsy done Parham received the diagnosis.
“The doctor said it was in the early stages and they would go in and remove it. After the removal of cancer was done there was swelling and tenderness in the area for one to two weeks. Restrictions were no lifting of five pounds or more and no strenuous exercising.”
Cancer-free today, Parham is taking even better care of her health by exercising and eating even healthier than she did before her diagnosis.
Registered Dietitian and Culinary Nutritionist Caitlin Lewis said, “A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. The aim should be to consume more than five cups per day and try to limit saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories.”
Lewis continued, “Do your best to limit processed foods, trans fats, and alcohol. It's never too late to start eating healthier. Just remember that no single food or diet can prevent breast cancer, but even a few simple changes can make a difference to your risk of developing breast cancer or your overall well-being while living with breast cancer.”
Parham also promotes breast health awareness to women at Ignite Church in Richmond Hill, where she has been a member for five years.
“I tell everyone in our women's group at church that it’s important to do breast self-exams and get mammograms. Men need to get yearly check-ups as well. If you see little changes in your body, get it checked, don't just push things aside.”
Bishop Curtis L. Curry Jr., Pastor of Ignite Church, said it is very important to be both spiritually healthy and physically healthy in life.
“It is written in the Word of God that our bodies are the temple of God and that our responsibility towards our bodies is of the utmost importance to the Lord. The Church has been assigned to do ministry while on the earth and ministry means service and service means work. Therefore, we must be in both, spiritual shape as well as physical shape.”
Parham is also the overseer of Missions at Ignite Church helping those in need.
“I pass out bottles of water and (food storage) bags with food and hygiene items to the homeless people I see while I’m driving in my car. I give out around 20-25 bags and water per month.”
This year Parham celebrated being cancer-free by attending Ignite Church’s women's retreat in April.
“It was a time for the women of Ignite Church to relax and fellowship at the height of COVID.” said Parham.
First Lady Lavonda Curry of Ignite Church said, “Our women's ministry is a vital part of our church. Women's health is a major part of education within our women's ministry and helps to encourage the importance of maintaining good health for ourselves and others.”
Even though Parham has been cleared of cancer, as recently as this year, she had a mammogram that showed proof of cysts.
“It’s still important to be checked after being cleared from cancer because cysts can appear and may be cancerous as well. I had to get ultrasounds to confirm the size and whether cysts were benign. I did not discover these or feel pain in my self-examinations.”
She continued, “The test results proved to be benign complicated complex cysts at the position from the nipple. It has been requested that I have an ultrasound after each future mammogram to make sure the cysts are not growing in size.”
To those who have a family member or friend with breast cancer Parham has some advice.
“The worst thing you can say to them is I know what you're going through if you have never had breast cancer. Instead, be a sounding board to them by listening to them.”
For information on breast health visit https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/index.htm.