Sun | Jan 17, 2021

It has been hell – breast cancer survivor

Published:Wednesday | October 28, 2020 | 12:15 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

“It has been hell!” a confident and defiant Paulette Rennalls-Dawson said as she recalls her challenging and tumultuous journey with stage four breast cancer.

Rennalls-Dawson was diagnosed with the disease in 2009. As a result of the severity of her first chemotherapy treatment, she opted to undertake herbal treatment. Following this treatment, the cancer went into remission, and she was able to live a wholesome life.

“I did one treatment of chemotherapy. It was so horrible that I decided to do herbal treatments and it went into remission for seven years,” Rennalls-Dawson said.

In 2016, she started having bouts of uncontrollable coughing, at times she would cough until she passed out. She went to doctors, did many tests but did not get any plausible results.

“In May, I went to New York to attend my nephew’s wedding. In June, I started to run a fever and I was taken to the emergency room. There they ran some tests and the results came back that the cancer had spread from the breast to both lungs, my lymph nodes and my chest bones. I was then put on to an oncologist,” Rennalls-Dawson said.

Rennalls-Dawson said when she visited the oncologist, she was told she had stage four metastatic breast cancer, but she was not perturbed.

“I always heard people saying they hear God talking to them. That day I had a real encounter with Him when I heard a quiet voice saying, ‘Polly, I am going to walk with you through this, trust me,’ Rennalls-Dawson said.

“Before I left the oncologist’s office, I got Isaiah 41 vs 10,‘ Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed because I am your God. I will strengthen and I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.’ Right there, I started to trust God to walk with me through it, as He said,” she added.

A devout Christian, Rennalls-Dawson says she has been standing on the promise made by God to her. Only God’s grace, she said, has carried her through. “When you have a relationship with God, He will take care of you. You have to trust in God,” she added.

Between June 2016 and May 2017, she did 18 cycles of chemotherapy. “It was a terrible experience. I did one chemotherapy every week for two weeks. I started wearing pampers. I went from size 18 to size 10, and anywhere [I had] hair went. I couldn’t keep anything down. I didn’t even want to pass a mirror, to see the way I looked,” Rennalls-Dawson said.

“Even my finger and toenails turned black and were on the verge of falling out. I had to put them in cold water during the chemotherapy treatment. Just imagine your finger and toenails in cold water for an hour and a half,” she added.

To date, the cancer has been contained and isn’t active. She is grateful that it has not spread to other areas of her body. “It is very expensive treatment per month, so I am happy that it has been contained,” she said.

God, she said, is still walking with her through the process. “I am a product of His grace and mercy. I experience good days and bad days. I continue to trust God for strength. My family, friends and church family have been a tower of strength,” Rennalls-Dawson said.

“God healed my mind so I could deal with this process. I don’t worry about it. I don’t think about it. I speak positive things over my life and I use gardening as a method of therapy,” she added.