By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
IT did not matter how much pain she experienced, or how many operations she underwent, Olive Collie made up in her mind that breast cancer was not going to kill her.
It was this mindset and an unmovable faith that enabled Ms Collie to beat cancer twice.
In 1970 at age 29, Ms Collie was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, four months after giving birth to her third child. Thirty three years later, doctors discovered a mass growing above her left breast, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Being diagnosed with cancer a second time did not phase Ms Collie, because she defeated it once before and losing the battle was not an option.
“I was a strong young Christian woman, I grew up knowing God, so I was not fearful or worried about what the doctors had said. I knew God loved me and because he loved me he healed me.
In May 1970 I underwent surgery. A few day after the surgery I fell out in the bathroom. When I woke up the next morning, I told the nurse I had a dream. I saw a plaque at the end of my bed with the words ‘the lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The lord is the strength of my life of whom shall I be afraid’. Many prayers brought me through this first challenge,” she said.
At age 61, Ms Collie was in the third stage of breast cancer. When she went to see her doctor, he told her bluntly “we do not save breasts, we cut them off”. On learning that she would need to have a mastectomy, friends and family members were distraught and terrified especially considering her age. But when her family members became weak, Ms Collie who is 72 years old today, remained strong. If not, she would have never made it through that challenging ordeal, she said
“The doctor told me I had to have immediate surgery and my family members were scared. They started crying. I asked them what were they crying for and I told them that this does not mean I am going to die. I thought about the outcome of the surgery but I never thought about death and dying. I had to remain strong,” she said.
After having her left breast removed, doctors recommended Ms Collie to begin chemotherapy. She said her time undergoing chemotherapy treatment was another battle she had to fight. Ms Collie’s body rejected the treatment, which resulted in many sick days, in and out of the hospital.
“Unfortunately, my body rejected the chemo and my white blood cell count kept dropping. The oncologist reduced the dosage, but it did not work. At that time I was very weak and the chemo had given me many complications. My body was breaking down, because that is what chemotherapy does. I had diarrhoea, I was weak, I could not walk, and by that time my hair had fallen out. It was just a horrible experience.”
After undergoing chemotherapy in 2005, Ms Collie felt a hardness under her arm. And although she was told “nothing was wrong”, she felt differently.
“The doctor sent me back home with tablets and an appointment to see him again in six months. I walked out of his office with tears filling my eyes, and Jesus on my side. I went back to the clinic six months later for my mammography report and was told that I was in good health. But I knew I was not. I went to see another physician right away. He knew something was wrong, and referred me back to the theatre for a biopsy. The test results showed that my cancer had recurred, so he sent me to another oncologist. She recommended chemotherapy again in 2006. That went well, with few complications,” she said.
Even after having several operations, it never crossed her mind once that she was going to die.
And although she kept a positive mind set, Ms Collie said there were days, when she really felt down.
Ms Collie said her experience is one that many women, who are struggling with breast cancer can gain inspiration from. She said now that she has survived cancer twice, she evangelizes more, to let other women know they too can overcome.
“Anyone can beat cancer, because being victorious is not just about being cured. Do not ever doubt it. God has many ways to heal us. I am a firm believer and scientific studies agree that cancer patients tend to live longer and better when they regularly attend support meetings.”