Alumnae Profiles: Stacee E. Utsey, C'85
My Story: From Fear to Faith
Nov. 5, 2003, was the beginning of a journey that would change my life forever. I was home alone when I got the call and heard those dreadful three words… "YOU HAVE CANCER." My body went numb. I could not believe what I heard. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer -- Stage 2. Although, my mother, fraternal grandmother and aunt, and a maternal great aunt -- women who I admire -- all had breast cancer, I never thought a commonality between us would be this senseless disease.
On Oct. 31, 2003, I was laid off from my job of 18 years. It was a bittersweet moment. I had just turned 40, and I felt that layoff may be the perfect opportunity to take some time to find my purpose in life. But GOD had a different plan.
Because of my family history, I began my life series of mammograms and monthly self-exams at age 35. Knowing my family history may have saved my life, but it certainly did not prepare me for what was ahead.
In Sept. 2003, I found a lump in my left breast while performing a self-exam. My annual mammogram was scheduled for October. The mammogram detected the lump, so an ultrasound was ordered for a more thorough examination. The ultrasound found two additional masses. The next step was to biopsy the three spots. Within 24 hours, the tests confirmed that all three spots were malignant. I am no doctor, but I believe that the extreme stress in my life, along with my horrible diet, fed my diagnosis. Stress, processed foods, and sugar were my best friends and my worst enemies all at the same time.
In late November 2003, I began the fight of my life with a mastectomy and TRAM Flap reconstruction, eight rounds of chemo and 32 radiation treatments.
I was so blessed to have an awesome support team consisting of family, church members, Spelman sisters, sorority sisters and friends that prayed for me, provided rides to my treatments, brought me meals, and overwhelmed me with kind and encouraging words. It was the most humbling experience of my life, and I am eternally grateful.
During a routine checkup, my ob-gyn recommended I have a comprehensive BRAC analysis. This test would determine my risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). I agreed, and the results were positive. I have a deleterious mutation in the BRCA1 gene or HBOC syndrome. So to decrease my risk, I had my ovaries removed.
Through it all, God has kept me. I also know that "to whom much is given, much is required," so I am committed to continuing the fight through the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, as the chairperson of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities at my church, and simply by sharing my story in hopes that someone will be inspired. What a journey it has been, and I am a stronger, healthier, and happier woman celebrating 10 cancer-free years!