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One woman's intuition lead to her survival - a breast cancer story

photo by Julie Moon Howard
photo by Julie Moon Howard 

Teresa Howard, 52, is one of the most incredible women I have met.  We sit in The Singin' Bean  Coffeehouse after having a vigorous yoga session at Miracles of Massage Wellness Center , both facilities located in the up and coming New Lawrenceville, GA  We choose a nice, quiet space near a window that gives us a beautiful view of the town's square. The coffeehouse is quiet and makes the best backdrop for the purpose of our visit.  In honor of Breast Cancer Month, Teresa has agreed to share her story with me for the Examiner.  As we nestle into our chairs and take a sip of our drinks, Teresa is calm and ready to share her experience.  

Teresa Howard is originally  from the Triangle area of North Carolina (Durham). She presently resides in Lawrenceville, GA with her husband Dallas Howard. They have been married for 32 years with 3 kids and 4 grandchildren.  Teresa is the President and Owner of Labor of Love Doula and Childbirth Services, .  Teresa story starts long before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  During our interview, I found throughout her story that she has always had a knowing inside herself about what she would face years later.  Although she does have a family history of breast cancer, this one fact was not the motivation behind Teresa's pursuit  of what she felt was truth within herself. 

In June 2007, Teresa's annual mammogram discovered a lump in her breast.  Of course she had testing done, but the test came back with a benign lump.  An MRI was taken and it too showed no present signs of cancer.  In July 2007, the doctors had her take a BRCA gene ( blood test).  A breast cancer (BRCA) gene test is a blood test to check for specific changes (mutations) in genes that help control normal cell growth. Finding changes in these genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, can help determine your chance of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  Teresa's test came back with  an 87% chance of breast cancer and a 45% chance of ovarian cancer.   But before Teresa knew these results from the doctors, she knew this within herself.  Teresa explains that when she went to the doctor and found no signs of breast cancer in the beginning stages of her journey, she cried.  It was  not from joy of not having breast cancer, but she was disappointed that she was wrong.  She was so sure that she did have breast cancer, she felt this truth very deeply within herself.  Before this lump was found in her breast, she joined a group called FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) two years prior to be educated, especially since her mother also battled breast cancer twice and survived both times. 

After all her education, prayer and trusting her knowing, Teresa had a bilateral mastectomy on November 15, 2007, even though her pathology test had not come back.  She went with her education and intuition to have the bilateral mastectomy.  She chose this date because it was also the date of her daughter Julie' s birthday. She explains, "the first day I put my baby to my breast will be the day I have them removed."  On November 20, 2007, days after her surgery, Teresa was getting ready to see her doctors because her pathology report came back.  As she was in the bathroom getting ready, she stared in the mirror at her nakedness and began to sob.  She turned to her daughter who was there to assist her after surgery, and said,  "never do this surgery."  She felt she had made a mistake.  Teresa pulled herself together and went to her doctor visit.  He said to her, "if you ever wondered if you had made a mistake doing this surgery, I just want you to know you had breast cancer."  In that moment, she felt vindicated.  She had done for herself the right thing, listening to that whisper inside that tells us our truth. 

Listening to the truth has saved  her life and her children's lives as well, since they also share the same gene.  Teresa Howard is a very powerful and strong woman.  She faced one of her toughest journeys by listening to her truth, knowing that gentle whisper from her God.  She had walked in two Breast Cancer Walks and each time they have come with adversity for her, but this has not stopped her.  It has empowered her even more.  

Teresa believes that when she is walking 250 miles by herself, each step is healing the earth, healing her  woundedness, and making her strong. On her blog and  tattooed body is this beautiful saying I would like to leave you: The warrior within me emerged, and I knew just what to do.

To read more about Teresa Howard and her journey, please visit her website and check out her blog .