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Breast Cancer Affects Us All. On this Mother’s Day, a young woman shares memories of her mom. Written by Guest Blogger Brandi Proctor.

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Shelia Martin Proctor… was born to overcome adversity… she had some struggles early in life… her biggest battle became the one she had with cancer. Unlike those early detection commercials… she did everything right. Shelia was high risk, she was cystic and complained of breast pain since puberty. she went ti breast specialist every 6 months, got a mammogram every year, ate right and exercised, but somehow…they missed it. An attentive nurse was the one who noticed that the lump, “felt different” From that moment on, life was never the same…

It was Election Day , 1994. Shelia was just 37, her children were 11 and 6. The rest is a whirlwind, by Friday she was in a New York Hospital, having a mastectomy. Her daughter had moved in with her father, her son went to stay with her family in Philadelphia. Shelia said when she asked the doctor how long she had they told her the life expectancy for the advanced stage cancer she had, that spread to 27 lymph nodes, was 1 to 3 years, but her children would make the difference. She said as she sat in that recovery room, staring out of the window feeling very, woe is me…she saw a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. The girl was also a cancer patient and recovering from surgery, she had once little curl of hair left on her otherwise bald head… At that moment, Shelia said, “If she can do it, I can do it…” After a few weeks of recovery, she started her first chemo with a doctor who told her, not to listen to those other doctors when it came to putting an expiration date on her life because, “Doctors are not God…” Shelia wore gold knee boots to her first chemotherapy treatment. What else would she wear? When her hair fell out, she adorned it with temporary tattoos and the most fabulous headwraps and scarves. Wigs weren’t her thing because it wasn’t her intention to hide the fact that she was bald. She’d say they itched and irritated her, but she had to admit that it was nice to be a “flaming mammie” or have “more fun” as a blonde within moments. She’d always giggle about the time she got pulled over and snatched the wig off in front of the officer…she said he emphatically replied, “Ma’am you go RIGHT home!” lol She was still working as an educator in Baltimore City Schools, driving herself back and forth to chemo treatments in Philly every Friday. She would bring her nurses crabs from bmore and celebrated everyday like it was her birthday. She’d say when you’re a patient, a birthday is a celebration of life. After a year of chemo, she went into remission, her hair came back curlier and fuller, things went back to normal. Except the fact that she never got reconstructive surgery. She wore her mastectomy scar and radiation burns as a badge of honor. She’d wear her prosthetic breast that she called a “falsey” but the second it shifted or tormented her, out it came. She’d say, “That’s other people’s problem. I only have one tittie, so…. it doesn’t make me any less of a woman and any man that thinks so….eff him!”

She was the den mother to her daughter’s friends, being a listening ear and always gave out a wealth of advice on how the be “nicety” instead of nasty and how to always keep your cool when dealing with men! To this day they joke “WWSD” What would Shelia do? In 2002, as her daughter was preparing to graduate college (she was only in 7th grade when Shelia was diagnosed, what a difference a few years makes!) she started to have some health issues… She had trouble seeing, the doctors said it was diabetes, a result of all the meds over the years. But Shelia wasn’t so sure, after feeling dizzy and seeing black spots, she went to a specialist who ordered a cat scan….she wasn’t ready for the results. A tumor was back, she’d had a hysterectomy back in 95 to stop the estrogen which was feeding her cancer… now the cancer was trying to attack her pituitary. She went in for outpatient surgery but what they found when they operated was more serious than anticipated. As a result of the tumor and where it was sitting, a part of her skull had to be cut out and replaced with plastic. This was the beginning of a journey where she showed true courage in the face of fear. She had to retire from the school system, this time her doctor warned against it. She was touched by her fellow educators who gave up months of paid leave through the sick bank. She’d still strut around her chemo sessions “dancing around her pole” She became a mentor and a counselor to some of he younger women who came in for treatment, she’d make care packages and “new patient” packets for the people in her doc’s office. She celebrated EVERY holiday to the max, that includes having Easter egg hunts for the neighborhood. Doing everything green for St. Patty’s day even though she’s not a lick Irish, and going in full Mrs. Clause gear for Christmas. Shelia just loved life and everything it had to offer! She made the most of every day! Just like most cancer patents, she had her days where she felt, blah, she described as a “wet dishrag”… but even those days she still managed to cook for her kids (who were practically grown:)). The other days she made a fashion statement! Her kids would often ask where she was going, she’d reply, to GIANT!!!! Or A.J. Wright… she bought little trinkets for everyone around her, all the time…

In 2010 a routine surgery caused her to be hospitalized. it was a turn of events that would snowball. A medical mistake caused her to go into renal failure. She fought and told the doctor’s take the word “hospice” out of their vocabulary when they spoke to her…everywhere she went she told everybody, “I’m going to live…” She was a firm believer hat you didn’t have to look sick… she and her daughter would do makeup and scarves daily, she was the most fashionable patient! After a courageous battle…she peacefully traded in her boxing gloves for angel wings on June 12, 2010. Shelia was a miracle, and she knew it! They told her 1-3 years… she showed them that you can’t put a time limit on life…18 is a whole heck of a lot more than 1!

She fought and fought and her kids passionately tell people, it wasn’t the cancer, she beat that! She did not lose her battle, she WON! Her legacy lives on in her kids and all those whose lives she touched…

She was laid to rest in true Shelia style, in a pink casket, with her signature head tats (under a blond wig) and her infamous gold boots! (what else would she wear:)) She could never be forgotten, her memory is alive and her legacy is forever…

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