Being born on Christmas Eve has always been a big deal for me and it’s where my story begins. Just before 11PM, the doctor gave my mother the option of waiting until midnight in order to have a Christmas baby. Needless to say, she graciously (or not so graciously) declined. Thus, my grand entrance was etched on that day. I was number two of four kids in our little corner of the world, Youngstown, Ohio.
My mom and dad worked hard, we were raised in church, immersed in gospel music and as a result, I think we turned out to be pretty dope. Both of my brothers are in the music industry and my only sister is a fashionista executive assistant extraordinaire. I have a phenomenal niece and nephew who are making waves and then there are my absolutely amazing twin boys who have completely captured my heart in every way.
My parents have always, and I mean have always been connected to music. They actually met at a gig where my mom was singing and my dad was a musician. Fast forward to their marriage, a house, four kids and three dogs, and we were always, and I mean always connected to music. My brothers are musicians and my sister and I sing. She prefers to stay away from the microphone, but the children’s choir and subsequent girl’s group were where we all cut our musical teeth. My mom tells me my first solo was when I was 2-years old and I must admit – I love it. Singing is oxygen and music is life. If money (or health insurance) weren’t an issue, I would be traveling as a food blogger, songwriting and singing all day, every day. For now, I’m an executive assistant at a local university and I think administrative work is actually fun; but, who knows what the next five years will look like!
Let’s fast forward a bit. July 21, 2016 started as any other day, but my lunch break proved to be the start of quite the adventure. I drove to get something to eat, came back to the parking lot at work and felt a bit “off.” I was going to call a friend, but instead, with the nagging of not feeling the best, I chose to pray – out loud – and that’s when I knew something was really wrong. All of my words were slurred. I knew they were slurred and all I could think about was my father. He had a stroke in 1992. He was 41. I was 41. I realized I wasn’t okay. I went to try and walk back to my building, but when I got out of the car, my right leg wouldn’t move properly and my left leg felt numb. I got back in the car and I remember the voice inside yelling, “you need to call 9-1-1.” By the time the emergency call connected, I was able to speak clearly and I was able to explain what was happening. I called my boss, she called the chief of staff in the president’s office and in a flurry of activity, I was rushed to the hospital and ultimately, a blood clot was found on the right side of my brain. Everything changed. By the grace of God, I got through it and I’m a walking miracle. The doctors couldn’t tell me why. I had some lingering numbness on my left side, but it resolved during my hospital stay. Otherwise, there are no residuals of the stroke.
Let’s fast forward again to mid-September 2020. I noticed a lump in my right breast earlier in the year, but brushed it off. I have a history of fibroid cysts and actually had one removed when I was fourteen, so I didn’t feel like being bothered. However, by the time I got to September 2020, it seemed to be bigger than I remembered. I called my doctor and started the process of getting it checked out. I went through the protocol – mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. September 17, 2020, is when I received a call with the biopsy results. I heard the words, “it’s cancer…invasive ductal carcinoma.” Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I was left speechless and numb. That was the day everything changed again, for real.
Let’s fast forward one last time. By the end of September 2020, I had a treatment plan; mastectomy of the right breast due to the size and grade of the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction. Here we are in April of 2021 and I’ve completed a mastectomy, one chemo infusion (I opted to discontinue due to some intense physical reactions), and I’m finishing up radiation therapy. Reconstruction will be about six months post-radiation and so, you’re up to speed.
Honestly, there are feelings of exhaustion mentally, physically and emotionally. I have moments of feeling completely overwhelmed as a working single mother, cancer patient, daughter, sister and friend. The information overload is real. The periodic apathy is real. The fatigue is real; but, in all of this, there are a few other realities that are evident. God is real. My faith is real. Peace is real. Courage is real. Hope is real. Joy is real (and is definitely an inside job). I choose to continue to hold onto my faith and I refuse to give up. My mantra since day one has been, “Faith UP. Fight UP.” I will not stop and cancer will not win.
Life definitely doesn’t look like I thought it would, but it’s exactly as it should be. Where do we go from here? Only UP. I’m determined to be stronger, more courageous and living life to the fullest! Christmas Eve made way for me to enter the world and make my mark and here I am – simply Davina Joy.
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