Breast cancer survivor Cecille White continues to give God thanks

Cecille White during Cancer Survivor Celebration on Sunday at Fenimore Street United Church.
Cecille White during Cancer Survivor Celebration on Sunday at Fenimore Street United Church.
Patricia Senhouse

After diagnosed with breast cancer seven years and six months ago, Barbadian Cecille White continues to give God thanks for being among the many survivors.
“Although the thought crosses my mind sometimes that it can return, I still refuse to give up on enjoying life,” White told Caribbean Life on Friday. “I’m still working, of which I plan to retire next year.
“I maintain my doctor’s visits of every six months and my mammograms, along with ultrasounds,” added the Brooklyn resident. “To anyone out there who has been in this position or has been diagnosed with the dreaded ‘C’, as they refer to it, my advice to you is to stay positive, believe in yourself and follow the advice of your doctor, and exercise.”
White, 65, said she tries to stay as active as she possibly can by getting involved with several organizations.
“Don’t allow fear to creep in, although it can and it will,” she urged. “So, find positive friends that you can call on.”
White said she maintains her family bond and support from her church family.
“Most importantly, put God first in everything you do, for without him all will be in vain,” she further advised. “I look forward to many more great years ahead, as I move into my 8th year of being cancer free.”
White, who was diagnosed in February 2015 with breast cancer, first told her story to Caribbean Life three years ago.
In quoting Dave Pelzer, an American author, of several autobiographical and self-help books, White said: “You can be a victim of cancer or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.”
With this mindset, she said that she was determined to beat the odds, with the help of family and close friends.
“It was very difficult to process, and even harder to treat,” said White, stating that treatment included 45 “long rounds” of radiation therapy, as well as “many lifestyle adjustments.”
She said it was “a battle” for her, but, with the support of her children, family and friends, she was “continuing on.”
White is an active member of Fenimore Street United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, where she serves as a Certified Lay Servant, United Methodist Women member, choir member and all-round “helping hand.”
“To be told you have cancer should not be a death sentence,” she emphasized. “I’ve truly learned to put God first in everything. He has been my nurse, doctor and all-round healer.”
White — currently a rehab assistant at Palm Garden Rehabilitation Center in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, and has been working there since 1986 – said the road to recovery has been eased with the help of close friends, family and church sisters, “some of whom were there for me from the diagnosis to this very moment.”
She identified retired, Trinidadian-born, Registered Nurse Marlene Ferguson, a former nursing administrator at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and University Hospital of Brooklyn, as one of those persons.
“From the day of my diagnosis, she helped me through making all the tough decisions, took me to appointments and was there for me when I woke up from surgery,” said White about Ferguson, who had initiated and coordinated an annual Breast Cancer Survivors’ Day celebration at Downstate Hospital, and who also worships with White at Fenimore Street United Methodist Church.
White said her daughter, Candice, who lives with her, helped prepare meals “to abide by the many dietary changes one has to make when they are diagnosed with cancer.”
In addition, she said her sister Harriet Griffith, as well as retired Jamaican-born Registered Nurses Glenner Strachan and Doreen Thomas — both members of Fenimore Street United Methodist Church and United Methodist women — “have also been a constant source of care and concern.”
 A month after diagnosis, White said she had a partial mastectomy on her right breast at Brookdale Medical Center and University Hospital, and continued treatment, through radiation therapy, at Brookdale Medical Center.
Throughout her life and through all her struggles, White stressed that God has been her “main stay.”
Before breast cancer diagnosis, in 2008, she said he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, “followed by a total knee replacement surgery in 2011, which was very brutal.”
“I take one day at a time,” said White, referring to the arthritis. “It’s painful sometimes, especially in the mornings. But I take my medication as prescribed, and, again, I stay positive.”
Regarding left knee surgery, at the then Methodist Hospital, renamed New York Presbyterian Hospital, she said it was “tough, because I had to learn to re-use my own muscles with this artificial component now implanted into my body.”
Her message to others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer: “Be true to yourself; be positive. Put Christ first, and follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

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