Denise Mullings' 20-year cancer battle
In 20 years, Denise Mullings has beaten breast and sarcoma cancer, had a miracle baby, and now lives a healthy and happy life.
It all started in 1984 when Mullings decided to teach her husband Bosworth to do her self-breast examination. He discovered a lump at the top of the left breast where she said she would not have thought of examining.
"When I felt the lump, I said, 'Yes, this is cancer.' My husband said, 'Remember, not every lump is cancerous', and I said, 'But this one is, so let me just accept the fact that it's cancer,'" Mullings told Flair.
A week later, Mullings had to undergo two surgeries - a needle biopsy, which was unsuccessful because no fluid was found, and then a lumpectomy (real biopsy) to remove the lump, which was then sent for testing. Mullings was then officially diagnosed with breast
Although Mullings remained calm, it was not the same with her husband, Bosworth.
"I remember watching my husband's reaction, and I saw his throat going up and down. At that point, I said, 'ok, so what do we do?' The doctor said we would have to come back to discuss treatment options," Mullings explained.
Mullings said she was greeted by her one-year-old daughter at the time, Cheyenne-Kari, and thought, 'Lord, will I ever live to see this child grow up?'
"I took her up, went inside, and now had to tell my two sons - eight-year-old Rory-Shane and 10-year-old Jason-Craig at the time," Mullings disclosed.
"When I told them about the cancer, my first son just cried. My second son stamped his foot on the ground and said, 'It's that darn Eve's fault. If she didn't eat the apple then you wouldn't have to suffer.' My husband said to them, 'Don't worry. Mommy is not going to die. If God be for us, who can be against us?'" Mullings added.
When Mullings and her husband went back to the doctor, her husband told him, "Take one, take two breasts, I don't care. It's my wife that I want." She said this made her feel very good, knowing that she was not just breasts to him, but a full mind, body, spirit and soul.
"At that point, I wasn't afraid of losing my breasts, especially when my husband told me that he is not looking for just breasts," Mullings said.
The doctor recommended that she take radiation treatment instead of a mastectomy, but the specific one that he wanted her to do was only done overseas.
Being employed to Air Jamaica at the time, the airline company offered to pay for her nine weeks of radiation treatment at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. "I was blessed that I worked at Air Jamaica; that my family could come up and see me. Some nights, I would finish radiation, fly home, spend time with my children and husband, then fly back the next morning in time for radiation; and they would come up on weekends," Mullings explained.
She told Flair that the doctors warned her not to get pregnant, because it would flare up her cancer cells.
"I did everything in my power not to get pregnant except abstinence." But she did become pregnant.
"My doctors in Miami said I should terminate immediately, and my doctor here in Jamaica said as a doctor, I should terminate; but as a Christian and friend, I know what God can do," Mullings shared.
As Mullings weighed her options, she said she had never been to more prayer meetings in her life, because she needed some answers.
"I prayed and prayed, and I said, 'Lord, you know I don't want to die. You know I have all these children here. Show me what I must do'," Mullings expressed.
At the final prayer meeting before Mullings made her appointment for an abortion, a woman there whom she had never met before brought a memory gem that read, 'Lovest thou me?', and she thought to herself, "Suppose the Lord wants me to have this child and die?"
"To me, 'Lovest thou me?' meant 'do you love 'Me' (the Lord) enough to die for me?' And I said, 'No, Lord.' But then I came to a realisation. I said, 'Lord, I can't fight you. Yes, if that is what you want. Once I said that within myself, I was calm and peaceful," Mullings told Flair.
In her distress, Mullings said one of the women in the prayer meeting got up and said, "The Lord said to tell you because you were faithful enough to come and ask what you should do with this child, I am going to give you a healthy and
"At that time, cold sweat washed me, and I said, 'God, you talking to me - a sinner like me. I was just overwhelmed," Mullings expressed.
Although Mullings said that she had a wonderful pregnancy, she found out that a cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, and she had to do an emergency C-section.
"They wheeled me down to the theatre with my husband running behind the stretcher saying, 'Remember to tie off her tubes!'," Mullings shared.
"I woke up to hear that I had a beautiful bouncing baby boy. He
didn't even have to go in the incubator. He was normal, everything was good about him. I said, 'That's my God. Just like he promised - a normal child'. I called him my miracle baby."
Fast-forward to 20 years later (2004), the mother of four was diagnosed with sarcoma - a rare and aggressive cancer. Sarcomas grow in connective tissue cells that support other kinds of tissue in your body. Though these tumours can appear anywhere, they are most common in the bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat, and blood vessels of your arms and legs.
Mullings told Flair that her cancerous cells were found in the tissues in her breast. She was told that there was no treatment and she couldn't do any more radiation, because her cancer might have been related to the radiation treatment done 20 years earlier.
Having fought breast cancer, Mullings was not perturbed by this her second diagnosis. She approached her second battle with an open mind. There was also no chemotherapy for sarcoma, so the only option she was given was to do drastic surgery. A team of four doctors removed the cancerous cells from Mullings' breast.
Mullings has been cancer-free for the past 11 years and is an ambassador for the Jamaica Cancer Society.