“If it comes back a third time, I’m gonna live my life to the fullest and bless as many people as I can until the day He calls me home.”
I’ve never had cancer, but from what I gather, it is one of the scariest things that could ever happen to someone. Most cancer survivors have told me their fear is that the disease will return, and that’s exactly what happened to author Niya Brown Matthews.
She is living proof that you do not have to succumb to your circumstance. She has cheated death on more than one occasion–two, to be exact–and has been declared cancer-free since last summer.
Still, the disease is something you never fully rid yourself of, despite it no longer wreaking havoc on your body.
“Last June, I was declared cancer-free,” Brown Matthews told me in 2015. “Since then, I’ve buried about 10 of my aunts and uncles who died from some form of cancer. It’s one of those things that runs in my family, but I’m gonna trust God.”
Brown Matthews was a young woman, just 27 years old, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 2007. She discovered a lump in one of her breasts during a routine self-examination and followed up with her doctor soon after. There was no prior history of breast cancer in her family.
“I’m a conqueror, but I was never prepared to receive that phone call,” she stated. “It was stage 2, and in all honesty, I couldn’t understand why something like that would happen to me.”
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She described her first doctor’s visit as a scene from The Golden Girls because she was the youngest patient in the waiting room. But in that moment, she found she had to pull herself out of deep depression and shame.
“Here comes the chemo. Here comes the radiation. I’m losing more weight, my hair’s falling out, my skin tone’s changing and I was ashamed. I felt like I was writing a Scarlet Letter, so I told no one.”
But one day after treatment, she decided to no longer be ashamed.
“I said it wasn’t gonna be a death sentence for me. It was not going to change my zest for living … my zest for life.”
Brown Matthews’ second diagnosis was met with tenacity. The cancer had returned, this time to her other breast, but she would not give in to the same negative, defeatist attitude that possessed her spirit in 2007.
This time, she was ready to fight. In fact, she was ready to help others battle. “That process alone was the curse that saved my life,” she says.
She was armed with so much fight that she started Too Fabulous for Cancer, an annual event created to help breast cancer patients currently receiving treatment feel “fabulous” again.
Each year since 2012, Brown Matthews, playing the part of humanitarian, has awarded two breast cancer survivors with a feel-good makeover and a stipend. She says she plans to expand the event in hopes of being able to make a difference in the lives of more women.
“[The event] was birthed when I was getting treatment,” the two-time cancer survivor explained. “After I lost my hair, I was buying wigs … all of that on top of what you’re going through; I just wanted to relieve just a little bit of it. So we ended up having people write a letter about why they should get awarded a makeover, and it kind of grew overnight. It’s just amazing to see something as small as what I went through turn into a blessing for others.”
She also credits the release of her book to her battle with breast cancer. The Boss in You seeks to encourage women and young girls to be their best selves.
“I want readers to understand that regardless of your situation, whatever obstacles they have, you have to get out of your own way to get out of the equation and to be a better you,” the author exclaimed. “Everybody’s destined for greatness in my eyes. I think we sometimes need that extra push to help pull people out, and that’s what I want people to get out of this book.”
For more information on Niya Brown Matthews, visit www.niyabrownmatthews.com.