Story Spotlight: Nila Charles - Breast Cancer in the Black Community
My story was complex with lots of twists and turns but I got through it. My mom who had breast cancer 10 years prior was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late June 2017 and I asked her to stay with me so that I can take care of her. 6 weeks later in Aug 2017, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 ER, PR positive, HER 2 negative breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy, chemo for 5 months, more surgery (an ALND), and 25 sessions of radiation...finished in June 2018.
I had a couple of other surgeries after treatment... a partial nephrectomy in June 2018 because of a tumor seen on my kidney. It turned out to be benign. Then I did a prophylactic oophorectomy and hysterectomy in July 2018 due to my BRCA 2 +ve status. In Oct 2018, the doctors saw a suspicious thyroid nodule so I had a partial thyroidectomy. It turned out to be benign thankfully...so I had a lot of holding breath moments and "what now Lord??!' but all is good now...got a bit of neuropathy in my right hand but other than that I feel great.
I wrote a children's book in response to a gap in the market of books with families of color whose Mom has received a cancer diagnosis "Mama's Afro Is A Soldier Too: Mom's Cancer Diagnosis Explained." See www.nmcharles.com and my IG author page @nmcharlesauthor. It was important to me to help support the mental health of children of color and all children.
Since my diagnosis I do volunteer work including spreading awareness of breast cancer in the African American community. I'm the VP of Sisters Network Inc. NYC chapter. Separately, my IG page @thebreastofus was created because I wanted to see women who looked like me whether they were undergoing treatment or whether they were post treatment. These ladies are from all over the world - mostly from the US but also from the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.
Because of all that I went through and because of the gaps I see in health literacy in the cancer space from the time of receiving a diagnosis, I decided to switch careers to Health Education. In September I will also be starting my Doctorate studies in Health Education to formalize my learning in the field.