By Aneesah Dryver
Etta Lundy has been a cancer survivor for over 15 years. Her strength lies in her unwavering mission to educate herself and her family about cancer. In 1995, Etta was diagnosed with breast cancer after insisting to her doctor that there were abnormalities in her breasts. “At first my doctor was very nonchalant. He said ‘yeah, whatever’ and assumed it was nothing serious,” she said. But Etta convinced her doctor by maintaining the belief that she could possibly have cancer and demanding that she be thoroughly examined. “It pays us women to be proactive about our health,” Etta said. Her persistence is what saved her life.
Perhaps Etta’s diligence comes from dealing with her daughter’s diagnosis of Reyes syndrome, in which the doctors gave her daughter three weeks to live and then later said that she wouldn’t be able to walk to talk. “I brought my daughter back to life,” Etta said. “I never believed what the doctors said.” Etta accredits working hard to pay for her daughter’s medical bills and learning about child psychology and sociology. Her daughter is alive and well today.
When Etta was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was not worried. She took a year off of work at Pacific Bell, bought medical books and learned about cancer procedures. She called the Cancer Society and they sent her all the information that she requested, including lists of terminology that she mailed to her family individually. She put one list under her son’s pillow, one on her husband’s nightstand, slid one under her daughter’s door. It was her way of letting them find out on their own time. Etta wanted her family to read and digest it, and then come to her with questions.
Andriamycin is a chemotherapy drug that causes hair to fall out. To show support, Etta’s son shaved his head and told her, “We’ll be bald together.” She said that her family was more scared for her than she was about all the procedures and surgery. But Etta has always known what she would be getting into because she educated herself.
Etta said that African-Americans don’t talk about cancer but there is a high mortality rate linking Black women to cancer. She is a part of a calendar filled with mostly Black women who have survived cancer. The calendar gives Black women who are dealing with cancer a voice that stresses the importance of being hands-on about their health.
“If it’s something that you can control, change it. If it’s something that you can’t control, work with it,” she said. “Hesitation will cause you more stress. Commit to something and deal with it.”
On Saturday August 20th, Etta will be participating in the 7th Annual Faith Fancher Breast Cancer Challenge held at Lake Merritt.