A NOTE FROM DENIKA
I was told about Breastless and Beautiful by my good friends Jasmine Kean and Shirley Hong, within 2 days of each other. I decided to send in my request to be involved in the calendar and here I am! I have done the photo shoot as a dark and light ballerina which was very introspective for me. I have fund-raised for this amazing project and I will continue to do so. Just a couple weeks ago I posed for "The Bare Truth" aspect of this interactive calendar and I was so impressed with the way Amanda Dinn brought out the best - physically, in me. This, as someone who has many, many scars, is a gift. This project will remain very close to my heart for a very long time. Also, look for me on the NTV news in an interview with Glen Carter about this wonderful project and my book.
Contact me for support via my Blog: https://journeywithdenika.wordpress.com/
In March while recovering from my double mastectomy I decided to write a book. This journey I was on was hard yes without a doubt but there were also many miracles that happened along the way that I wanted people to know about.
Overcomer will bring you through my journey through battling breast cancer. You will hear the desperation and fear as I lay terrified on the radiation table. You will read about my fight to be heard and how I fought to still be here today.
Check out my book Overcomer: http://facebook.com/overcomingcancer/
The minute I was told those 3 words, YOU HAVE CANCER, I was gripped by fear. Fear is so raw and so powerful it can crush you. This was my first reaction upon hearing my diagnosis, Stage 3 breast cancer with a tumour measuring 14 x 15 centimeters. When you think to yourself “I can’t imagine how I would be if someone told me those words”, well, I used to say the same thing. But all of a sudden, I didn’t have a choice. Here I am being told those words that everyone dreads to hear. Fear of leaving my family behind was breathtaking and not in a good way. I was not ready to leave my children, my husband, may parents. I wanted to see my children graduate high school, I wanted to LIVE!
The cancer was so aggressive I didn’t have time for the shock to wear off before I had to start aggressive chemotherapy treatment. The day I sat in my Surgeon’s office, he said “we have to go through 6 rounds of chemo first because you’re a mess in there. We HAVE to shrink it because if we go ahead with surgery first, I can guarantee we won’t get it all.”
That was when the seriousness of this disease really hit me. I had to have chemo! I never expected this for a minute.
Then would come a double mastectomy, radiation and a complete hysterectomy. All this was to take place in 9 months. I kept thinking how on earth will I ever get through this? What or who will sustain me? The pain, not just physical but mental and emotional, was massive. My tolerance for physical pain is quite high but cancer had broken me. I remember for months sobbing straight from my gut. I would sob for everything I was losing but also for the changes that were going to happen in my life – and for the unknown. Me, 41 years old, I have a family, so much life left to live!! I was not ready to die.
During these 9 months there were many days when I would find myself in a deep pit; very cold, dark and wet. This absolutely terrified me. I felt my life was crumbling around me and I felt defenseless to fight. After chemo #2 I had to have my head shaved. There are a few people here who knew me before cancer. I had long, gorgeous, naturally wavy hair with these vibrant colours going through – I have THE best hair stylist on the Rock might I add! So to have to shed my crown to make way for granny hats to wear at night due to how tender my head was from chemo, to head scarves during the day, this really hit me hard.
Then my husband would wrap his arms around me, my Mom would show up, my daughter would paint me a special piece of artwork or my son would make me a cup of tea. As I looked around I decided that in order to climb out of this hole, I had to be ALL IN! HERE is where I found a portion of that strength.
I’m not a gambler. I knew I had to beat this awful disease yet when most of the cards were revealed it seemed I had the losing hand. This is when pure faith and strong determination (also known as stubbornness) came into play. I would get up every morning, look in the mirror and demand that cancer be gone and pray for God to help me through this even though I had no idea how my journey would end. I had a playlist of about 20 songs that I would listen to every single morning – those songs were my prayer, my meditation and my source of strength that would carry me through that day.
Every day I became emotionally stronger and more determined. Now don’t get me wrong. I had days where I had complete meltdowns – I would sob, wail, sulk, not want to see anyone. BUT would I stay there? NO way. I would put my lipstick on, adorn myself with big hoop earrings and go to Chapters to immerse myself in my favorite things, books. When the rigors of chemo would send me to bed, the minute I felt better, I would “Get up, Get dressed and Get out”…that was my motto for months.
Early in my journey going through cancer, I labeled cancer as coming straight from the devil, evil, hell, whatever you want to call it. I was very fond of this quote during my fight: “The devil whispers, “You can’t withstand the storm.” The warrior replied, “I AM the storm!”
I would repeat this often with such passion that people around me would nervously giggle. I don’t think some realized how real this fight for my life actually was. I had pulled on my armour – every gift brought to me, every prayer lifted up, every message in hope and uplifting was my shield, my helmet and my sword. With the heart of a lion, I fought! Not only did I have a strong faith in God to help me through this but I also had to believe it for myself – I WOULD beat this, cancer would NOT take me.
I claimed victory over my life! I would envision my family and me traveling together, celebrating birthdays, Christmases. I would picture me with hair again, whole, healthy and happy. I would repeat over and over, God has a purpose for my life, I am not done here and I will NOT give up!
So let’s fast forward 9 months after my diagnosis. I had endured 6 rounds of chemotherapy that has all kinds of weird side effects, a double mastectomy, 25 rounds of intense radiation where I was one of the worst burned they’d ever seen and a complete hysterectomy which sent me into surgical menopause – another “not fun place to be”.
I had a new body, a whole new ME, inside and out. I felt deformed because of both breasts being gone along with my scoliosis left my right side caved in. I have a second scar on the left side of my chest and a 10 inch scar on my back where I had reconstruction surgery. Unfortunately, I developed an infection which developed into sepsis, clinging to life yet again. I have a belly scar from my hysterectomy and a little “pook” that wasn’t there before!
In embracing the new me, I had to make a few changes including expelling the negative from my life. This meant people, a career, situations, drama, I could go on. This negative energy was so draining and stressful that in order to be HEALTHY in mind, body and spirit – all negative had to go. How many people have stress or unnecessary drama in their life??? How many people are working at a job they dread going to every morning? How many people here have friends, acquaintances, even family members that suck the positive energy from the room just by walking into it? Don’t let people fill your backyard with their garbage. It was a decision I made during this whole transformation and I still hold onto that.
I don’t say this from a heart of bitterness or anger – it’s from a heart of love and self-awareness. For you here who know me, you know how caring, thoughtful and loving I am. Ask my Mom. I would come home from school and my Mom would ask, “What strays did you bring home today?”…she didn’t mean animals. I was a helper then and am now. My passion is to enrich, empower and uplift.
So during my journey I could have taken 2 paths. I could have wallowed in self-pity and hated my body OR embrace this change and learn from it. I hope it’s obvious which path I chose.
I took this opportunity to dig way down deep and when I did, I realized some very important lessons. I tapped into my talents and my skills and began to love myself in a way I never had before! Every morning I remind myself how fortunate I am to be here, (have an attitude of gratitude!) I remind myself how amazing life is! I am so grateful for the gifts I have been given in my life. I am blessed with an amazing family, I am a published author of my book Overcomer! I am head over heels in love with my new career as a Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics and you WILL see me driving a Pink Caddy!!
I took all the lessons I learned during these past 3 years and opened myself up for my purpose – enriching people’s lives is my passion. The company I am with has wrapped its arms around me and has filled my cup to overflowing. My skills and talents have been waiting quite a while to finally find their home – and it feels good!
I remember half lying on my bathroom floor after a particularly tough chemo treatment. I was bald, nauseous to the point of getting sick, with a huge tumour on my chest. I looked around me and for the first time actually felt like a cancer patient. But then I looked up and smiled. I said “Yes, I know Lord, you still have a plan for me”.
This was a quote I had written in my book that I had read online, “When you find yourself in the position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person’s prayer through you. Remember: our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others, so that they may find their way through us.”
A LETTER FROM DENIKA'S HUSBAND, DARRYL
Denika, the love of my life, has given me the honor of writing this reflection for her book. This is a book that I have not only read but lived as well. This is no easy task for me as the thoughts of this past year run through my mind as they do on a day to day basis. The tears are running down my face. Denika and my daughter Laura will appreciate the tears.
Denika said to me from the day she was diagnosed with cancer that no one knows what or how she feels going through this journey—this fight for her life. It took me a while to understand what she meant. All I could see was that “my best friend, my lover, my soul mate, my wife” was being taken over by the one thing that I think we all fear the most: the Big C. As much as I could not feel what she was feeling or take the pain away, I was her biggest fighting fan. I just wanted her to beat this. I prayed many a day and night that she would be OK, overcome, and that it would all disappear. All I wanted was to take it all away. In my heart and soul I knew she would beat this. I know Denika. She is a fighter and a lover of life (some of my favorite qualities about her.)
This book, started as a journal to keep track of everything going on in her life between doctor appointments, chemo, and different types of scans and tests. It turned into a detailed account of her living with cancer and how she dealt with it. Her fight would amaze even the strongest of “men.” (I learned that women are way stronger than men.) Denika is an amazing person who has touched a lot of people’s lives over the years; but, never in a million years would I think that this beautiful person who had so much on her plate would prove to be my Hero. I could only imagine me being half the person she is.
As you read her life in this book you will see the struggles, the pain, the heartache, and the fear of leaving her family behind from a disease that only the devil himself could have invented. But here’s where my amazing wife, the “Overcomer,” puts her amazing touch on it. She decided early in this journey to let the world see inside her fears and her day to day struggles with chemo, radiation, and recovery from surgeries. She did this through social media and talking to what I now call “true friends.” She frequently posted a day to day account of what hurdle she had overcome that day. Over the months she would have countless friends and even strangers show up on her door step with anything from a cooked meal, a hug, a prayer, or just a pop-in cup of tea. As the days went by, people and friends would tell her how she was inspiring them. Her strength in a time when most others would be weakened gave them strength to get through their own personal struggles.
I have said this a lot over the past few years: never has one person amazed me so much! And the best part is I get to share my life with her! This gives me the bragging rights of being the luckiest man alive. She makes me ME. Noah summed it all up one morning as he was getting up for school: “ Mom, I’m just getting out of bed and you with cancer already have clothes in the washer and got bread baked; you’re amazing.” Be prepared to meet my amazing wife and how she kicked cancer to the curb. And yes, I could never use enough “amazing’s” to describe my life partner. Denika, I love you and life without you is not an option. Hubby XO
PS: I wish I could write as good as I could cry, LOL!!