Arlenna Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer while caring for her 11-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, who's been a quadriplegic after a high school football accident. She's also a special education teacher's assistant which really didn't give her much time to worry about herself.
"Once I found out, it wasn't a death sentence to me. I never thought I was going to die," Arlenna said. "If I did shed a tear, I was more worried about my kids. It made it easy. I never doubted one time that I wasn't going to be ok. Not one time."
Arlenna found her lump while doing a self-exam in August 2012. She recalls feeling nothing there in July, but something the size of the gumball less than a month later.
"When I found it, I said this doesn't feel right. I knew it," she recalled before her concerns were confirmed that the cells were cancerous.
"My experience at Medical City has been nothing but a true blessing," she said. "Dr. Laidley was so pleasant. She made my experience good because you could tell her spirit was good. There wasn't any doubt in her mind I was going to be ok."
A few weeks later Arlenna began chemotherapy. She considers her diagnosis a test of her faith, but is thankful she hasn't been sick or missed work. With one more cycle scheduled in early 2013, she said the only side effect has been losing her hair.
Arlenna appreciates that every time Dr. Laidley sees her, she embraces her— something most doctors don't do. She is also grateful for how wonderfully the nurses treated her and explained everything. And she appreciates the other patients in chemotherapy too.
"It's kind of like a sisterhood when you walk in there because everyone is going through the same thing," Arlenna said. "I didn't know I'd feel this way, enjoying laughter while talking to them and their families."
Now Arlenna is determined to help others. She is participating in a clinical trial for the next 10 years. The study is looking at whether a two drug chemotherapy regimen is just as good as regimens that contain three drugs. Researchers are also trying to determine the side effects of the different chemotherapy regimens and comparing how well they work in treating women with non-metastatic breast cancer.
"I just think if my lump can help them figure out how to cure this horrible disease, why not? Whatever I can do to help; how selfish am I not to want to help other people?