Evans Shares Story of Encouragement Despite Ongoing Battle with Cancer
By Kevan Lindsey, Buckley Newspapers General Manager
When Helen Evans was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2017, it came as a surprise, however, Evans has not let the ongoing battle slow her down mentally or physically as she continues to be an encouragement to those around her.
“I was working for Dr. Larry Thomas, the pharmacist, and helped with his mother as a caretaker, so I had to pull on her a lot. One day after working, I felt a knot. I always kept a check on myself and said to myself ‘Something is not right.’ So, I went to the doctor the next week and that’s when I found out,” said Evans.
“Dr. Nikhil Mukhi said I had triple-negative stage four cancer. Anything you could look for in a cancer I had,” continued Evans.
According to the American Cancer Society, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) accounts for about 10-15% of all breast cancers. The term triple-negative breast cancer refers to the fact that the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors (ER or PR) and also don’t make any or too much of the protein called HER2.
“My boss lady, Mrs. Patricia Mitchell, went with me. She started to fall apart, and I thought, ‘You’re supposed to be here for me to keep me from falling apart,’” laughed Evans. “Dr. Mukhi had to tell me three times and he finally said, ‘Do you understand what I told you?’ and I said ‘Yes sir.’ I don’t know if he was waiting on me to fall out or what, because if I did I would still have it when I got back up [laughs]. He told me we would have to start treatments and I just pointed up and said ‘God has got this.’ He had me come in the next month and we started chemo then.”
Evans started chemotherapy in 2019 and continues to take it, along with having taken radiation a few times during the process.
“About a year ago, I started going to chemo but was getting sick afterward. My other doctor said he had a chemo that looked promising. Every time I would go prior, I would have a new lesion. So, we tried that. Every time since I started taking this one, they’ve only found one new spot near my shoulder, but I’ve done radiation five or six times. The past two times I went back and there were no new spots, and each time I said ‘Thank you, Jesus,’” stated Evans.
Growing up, Evans stated that she faced adversity, with her, her sister, and five brothers working at a young age. Evans recalled working in chicken houses as early as seven or eight years old, and that she paid for her class ring by working in chicken houses.
“We had beautiful parents who were hard workers. My grandparents lived ‘across the yard’ as we called it, so we were all right there together. They taught me how to treat people and that you had to treat people the way that you wanted to be treated. We were always raised like that,” said Evans.
Evans discussed that despite good days or bad days, she tries to look at each day as a positive and cling to her faith as a believer.
“There are negative people that will try to come into your life. You have to not let that get to you, though. A lot of people let what people say get to them. The day I finished up my first set of radiation, they gave me a balloon and a shirt that said ‘Congratulations, you made it’ and I was so proud of that shirt and balloon. There was a lady who was walking in as I was walking out and she said, ‘My mom just died of breast cancer.’ And I thought, ‘You just don’t tell people stuff like that’ [coming out of the cancer center]. But, I didn’t let that bother me, and I told her, ‘Bless your heart’ and encouraged her,” said Evans.
“I often get up during the night and I turn on preaching videos or listen to Gospel music. A lot of that got me through when I was real, real down. There are some bad things and good things that happen, but the good things always outweigh the bad. So, I try not to complain. Sometimes, people might say, ‘You sound like you’re complaining’ but I tell them that I have to tell my story because you need to hear it. You never know who might have cancer and needs to get checked,” continued Evans.
Evans has many supporters including her sons, other family members, and members of her church.
“Reverend Anne Clayton and Pastor Bill Harper, oh my goodness, they have been so good to me. They come by and check on me, bring me water and juice, and other things like that. I still go to church every Sunday. One Sunday I was at church and I was so sick that I was laid over [in the pew], and the pastor came by and said “Sister Helen, let’s take you home’ [laughs]. In this life, we don’t realize that we have to press our way. I always believe there is a blessing in your pressing. When you press your way, God will move those mountains,” said Evans.
She also has several hobbies including sewing, singing, and playing the piano, which she said often helps her out by staying busy. Evans also has four great-grandchildren, with one currently on the way.
“They keep me going,” said Evans. “They are my motivation.”
Evans gave words of encouragement and wisdom to those who might have just found out that they’d been diagnosed with cancer.
“I think the biggest thing is just accepting it. First, you have to accept that you do have cancer. It is a life changer and you do have to believe that it is. Don’t get depressed. Get someone positive in your life. You don’t need to be surrounded by negative people or negativity. Negativity is something else when you’re going through cancer. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and get some good Gospel music that is uplifting and helps your spirit,” said Evans.
Dr. Lisa Bond is Evans’ current physician whom she sees at South Central Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center, along with Nurse Practitioner CJ Dennis.
“Both of those ladies are awesome. When my brother was sick, Dr. Bond would come in and sit at his bedside. I had never seen that before. It went a long way with me,” said Evans.
South Central is also opening a new cancer facility inside of its hospital in early 2024. Becky Collins, Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations, stated that the new facility, which will be in the space that held the previous ER section, will offer more space for cancer patients and will offer more chemo chairs. She stated that the infusion area, which plays a large part for patients, will also be at the location.
To learn more about South Central Cancer Center, click here.
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