On her birthday this year, Celeste was diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Metastatic breast cancer. Even while undergoing treatment, Celeste is raising funds for the DC MORE THAN PINK Walk.
Celeste understand firsthand how the funds that are raised help women today and into the future. Celeste has received a huge amount of support from her friends and family. And is currently one of the top fundraisers of the Walk this year.
Q: Please tell us about your personal background and life?
A: Who ever knows where to begin with a question like this? I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a goddaughter, a godmother, and a friend. I am an avid traveler, a protector, a worshipper, a dreamer. I am fierce, passionate, loving, and grounded. I am the one who still throws her arm out in front of a passenger, despite a seatbelt, to protect them against a hard stop; the one who finds tranquility in reading and good music; and the one who has a heart for people and is an ear for everyone, even strangers.
I am the fifth of nine- four brothers and four sisters. My eldest brother is deceased, which was a huge trauma for my family. We were already close, but his death has drawn us closer and more protective of each other. The love I have for my family is indescribable.
I have taken time to understand my purpose in this life. Since accepting my assignment, I have been intentional about the way I live. I have taken the time to self-evaluate, and I do it daily, to be the best version of me possible. I fail miserably some days, but on those days, I pick myself up and move on. I have learned to be forgiving and gentle.
Q: Please tell us about your background as a breast cancer survivor?
A: I hesitate to call myself a survivor, but I will venture to call myself a fighter. I have a long way to go before I am at the end of this journey; I was just diagnosed in January, on my birthday as a matter of fact. I remember receiving the MRI results while having breakfast with my friend. We read the results together and decided that cancer would not steal my 41st birthday. We gave cancer 10 minutes and moved on. In the beginning, that is how it was. I felt so strong and incredibly brave, and cancer was just a thing that would take up space in my life for a period, then I would move on from it. It was just a chapter in my book. I was ready to don my cape and take on cancer.
By mid to late February, my cape was at the cleaners for an indefinite stay. I began to feel human and overwhelmed, especially after I learned that the cancer had spread further to include my vertebrae. I felt many times as if I were standing on the outside of my body watching myself lose control of all the things I never fully controlled anyway. I wanted to do cancer with grace, but every day I felt like a failure. I failed to handle cancer like a superhero. I was utterly and hopelessly human with amazing frailties. February was when it hit me: this is real and it’s happening whether I want it to or not, whether I agree or not, whether I have the strength enough to fight or not… Cancer took ahold of my 41 year young body and started to spread around like it belonged there. It did not call first and ask permission. It did not tell me a joke first to break the ice. Cancer showed up like unwanted company, with suitcases in tow, and moved into my body. Boldly. Rudely. Inconsiderately.
Presently, I am in my fifth month of chemotherapy. I will not lie that this journey has been easy, but my faith and supports have kept me grounded. Through each stage, each moment, all the pain, all the grief- they have held me up. Cancer is only as strong as the team you bring to the fight and I have some heavy hitters! I am in the game for the long haul and I will not give up. Cancer does not get to win. I win, every single day that I choose to get up, every day that I choose to be an active participant in this life. Is it hard? Some days it is grueling, but my will to live outweighs any pain I experience. I am determined to take back what cancer has stolen. Cancer is still just a chapter in my book; it can never be my entire book.
Q: Do you have a family history of breast cancer? If so, who in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer?
A: Yes, I have a family history of cancer, but no gene. My maternal grandmother and aunt, along with my mother were all diagnosed with breast cancer. My aunt succumbed to the disease. My grandmother transitioned, but due to other health challenges. My mother, who is a warrior all her own, is a two-time survivor.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your fundraising efforts this year as a newly diagnosed survivor.
A: It took me several months to decide to go public with my diagnosis. For me, silence was a defense mechanism. Later, I decided that instead, it was a disservice to those also fighting this disease. It became difficult to think so much about me when there are so many women who do not have access to treatment or know how to advocate for themselves. Once I decided to go public, the support poured in. I am humbled by the love received and the people willing to donate to finding a cure.
Q: What can those at a higher risk of infection do to stay safe?
A: Follow your doctor’s orders! If I could offer any advice: isolate from others. Remain home and only leave when you are going to an appointment; groceries and medications can be delivered to your home. Do not hug anyone or shake hands. Wash your hands often. Sanitize common areas daily. Limit any traffic to your home. Carry additional masks. Stay abreast of the news in your area. Remain hydrated, especially if you are receiving chemotherapy. Take all prescribed medication and do as your doctor suggests.
Q: Any final thoughts or comments to add?
A: Educate yourself on your diagnosis and encourage your family members/supports to do the same. Then they may have a better idea of how to support you. Understand your options. Get to know your physicians. Write down your questions for discussion at your visits; there are no stupid questions. Lean heavily on your supports; this is not a one-woman (or man) fight. I have learned to embrace myself for who and what I look like on this journey (bald is beautiful!), and being gentle with myself, as it is the beginning of acceptance and can define how this experience will look for me. Remember that.