Stacey Hines - life interrupted
In 2009, Stacey Hines led a very busy life. She had recently relocated to Jamaica from Atlanta with her husband and three children, to help head a start-up software company that, shortly after, was acquired by a Canadian firm. This meant that once again Hines had to uproot her family and move. This time, to Canada.
With all she had going on, breast cancer was not something she even thought about. But soon it would dominate her world. “My best friend was diagnosed with melanoma, but nothing in my circle or conversations had (anything to do with) breast cancer,” she told Flair in a very revealing interview.
Hines noted that she had been fairly diligent with her health in sticking to her annual full check-ups. She had one in October of 2009 and everything was fine. But then her world changed in the most unusual way in March 2010. Hines and her younger sister were getting ready to go out and she was trying on various outfits and putting on a mini fashion show. After getting into a strapless dress, she walked by the bathroom door and in her reflection in the bathroom mirror, she saw what looked like a lump above her left breast.
She went to take a closer look but it was not very visible head-on, so she began feeling around for it. "I felt something and asked my sister who was a med student at the time, and she suggested I get it checked out. There was just something in my gut. It just didn't make sense. The following week I went to the doctor. When she felt it she said it didn't feel like anything major. I was only 34 - too young to do a mammogram so she recommended me to do an ultra sound which revealed lumps in the actual breast,” said Hines.
Even at this point Hines revealed that she never thought cancer. “I was not thinking breast cancer. I have lumps in my breast that needed to be checked out. I have three children, I have breast fed them all, lead an active lifestyle and pretty good diet and no history in my family. No place in me thought I had breast cancer.”
Her doctor wanted the lumps removed as they did not look healthy so Hines was referred to another physician who ordered a biopsy. By the time she got to see him, the lumps had become more pronounced. Hines recalled that the experience of getting the biopsy was very emotional because she knew she would have to do sugery and that would mean time off from work - putting on pause the trazillion things she had going on. “I was emotional in that I was going to interrupt work. I wasn't trying to be distracted.”
On April 28, almost a month after she first noticed the lump, she got the diagnosis that would change her life. “The day I was supposed to get the results, I scheduled it in a time when I didn't have any meetings so I would go get it and return to the office. A friend asked if I was going alone, and accompanied me. I wasn't feeling worried even after seeing the lumps get bigger.”
In his office, the doctor told her the lumps were malignant - she had breast cancer. “Honestly, I was numb. I was just sitting there like a brick. My mind didn't start racing; my mind was just blank. The bottom of my stomach fell out and I had no question. My friend had all the questions. I just kind of sat there. I remember walking out of Medical Associates and not talking. I didn't cry. Then I was saying that I had to go back to work, but my friend took me home. I remember being helped inside the house. When the kids came home was when it hit me."
Hines was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She waited five days before sharing the news with her mother. “She was travelling and I didn't know how to tell her. I was just thinking I don't want to die. My oldest child at the time was 11.”
During that time, Hines was experiencing many of the things that can plunge someone into clinical depression. She had to make the drastic move with her family again; she was now diagnosed with cancer; and she was trying to work on her marriage that was in trouble.
“By the time I did surgery on May 26, the lumps had taken over my breast. I wanted to keep my nipples, but I couldn’t. When they took it off it looked like a carcass - I had a radical macestomy.” How did she get through it all? “I got through by having laser-sharp focus. My focus was providing for my kids, making sure I was available to create life for them; making sure they had a home. Work didn't stop as that kept me sane. I had to get work permits and everything needed to relocate the family.”
She was also busy researching treatment options. The recommended course of treatment was chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy - in that order. But Hines knew in her heart of hearts that she didn’t want to do chemotherapy. "I tried some really crazy options. Chemotherapy scared me. When it came to radiation and chemotherapy I was really afraid of them. I decided I didn't want to do chemo. I was going to do radiation and hormone treatment."
One day during a conversation with her brother, he recommended Hines speak with nutritionist Jahman J.
"I had worked with him in Atlanta when I was having my third daughter. I was talking to him (Jahman J), but didn't think he would help me. Jahman helped me to stop the weight loss. By the time I saw him I was 93 pounds - down from 130. He helped me to clean out the toxins, fed me herbs and other stuff that were high in antioxidants, anticarcenogenics. My diet became liquid vegan for three months.”
During all this she made the move to Canada with her family - minus her husband with whom the relationship had fallen apart. “It was a new self. It was the first time I was alone with the children having married my high school sweetheart. In January 2011 by myself with the children in Canada was the first time by myself - no family. Life kicked in. I had to be up at 4:30 in the morning to do two types of cooking - I was on my vegan diet so everything was organic. It was crazy.”
These days Hines is a bundle of positivity. “I have no regrets at all in that battle ground experience - I became my brand. I would not be the woman I am today if I had not gone through that. It put me on the path of transforming my life. It was almost like a rebirth. I deliberately chose life transformation. You can create anything for yourself and future.”
Hines has since resettled in Jamaica and is writing a book about her experience. She shared with Flair the main lesson that her ordeal has taught her. “Your health starts with you. It’s our responsibility to take care of ourselves before sickness. Look at what we are putting in our body. Look for the signs in your body - losing sleep, getting more headaches and things that are out of the natural rhythm of your body.”
Find out more about her journey on Facebook @staceyhines