A typically cold day in December showed up a cause for concern when Lewanna Harrison discovered a lump in her left breast. This led to a diagnosis of breast cancer a few months later.
At the time, the anomaly proved to be neither painful nor alarming. Chalking up the change to her pending period, she never made much of her findings. But then her menstrual cycle came and went, and the lump remained present. After confirming the lump with her mother, Harrison made a doctor’s appointment with her gynaecologist for her annual check-up. She brought up the matter to the medical professional, and was assured that she was young and had nothing to worry about. He did, however, schedule an ultrasound, just to be sure.
The ultrasound was followed by a biopsy, where it was revealed that there were characteristics of cancer. She was diagnosed on February 21 of last year. At that time, she was 26 years old, two months shy of her 27th birthday. Still fresh in her mind, Harrison confessed to “feeling disappointed, guilty, like my body betrayed me. I felt like all my dreams were cut [short] and I was facing the possibility of death”.
Her doctor immediately started her on an aggressive treatment. The meant attacking her stage-2A prognosis with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. She went through 16 rounds of chemo from March to July of last year. “I had to mentally prepare myself for each, because they all were different and affected your body in different ways. Chemo being the hardest,” she added.
DRASTIC LIFE CHANGES
Her life has gone through the most drastic of changes with this traumatising illness. Before breast cancer, Harrison was always on the go, working nine to five, running a small events company and having a leadership role in the church. She always kept busy. The treatment, paired with the global pandemic, forced her to be confined at home. “During treatment, due to the pandemic, I was on total lockdown. I only went out for treatment or doctor visits. Events weren’t happening, and I was not actively working (nine to five), so life was a little different.” In the mayhem, she found new interests, incorporating writing, reading and designing living spaces as part of her own personal therapy.
She was also grateful that her loved ones stayed by her side through the test of time. “My circle was super supportive, very encouraging and always by my side, taking turns at chemo when necessary,” she said. While going through the biggest adjustments physically with changing her diet, becoming more health-conscious, and mentally in overcoming fear and anxiety, her biggest breakthrough was finding new beauty in her unfortunate circumstance. “I started to love myself more as I lost my hair and nails and normal appearance. I started to love the skin I’m in and embrace its raw beauty.”
Today, Harrison is happy to be breast cancer-free. The survivor, warrior and champion said her road to recovery would not have been possible without God. She is a firm believer in doing all things through Jesus Christ, who gave her all the strength when she needed it the most. “I know for a fact breast cancer is not a death sentence, and I need everyone to know that. No matter what stage it is, it is treatable. We’ve learnt that prevention is better than cure. So, early detection is key. Know your family history. Know your body. Identify changes. Alert your doctor quickly,” she added.
Back in the groove of her career, she provides daily and weekly affirmations via social media, giving insight into her journey while encouraging persons to stay positive in the face of adversity and understand that they are never alone in the fight against breast cancer. “I had Tuesday night lives on Instagram, and created a support community that was able to share all of life’s situations and learn about breast cancer.”
On another note, Harrison is gearing up to be Mrs Hayles in the coming weeks.