Angela Thornton, a quintessential “people person,” has always loved the company of friends and family. She bakes cakes from scratch and cooks old-fashioned soul food recipes, always enjoying entertaining at her home in Washington, D.C.
But Angela, a 55-year-old minister and author, never really knew how much she needed the love of friends and family until last March. That’s when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“As strong as I am, as much faith as I have, I needed somebody else,” Angela says. “And I was blessed and fortunate that I had a group of people who consistently prayed for me, checked in on me, took me to doctor’s appointments, cooked for me, brought me food, believed like I believed, and who said they would follow my lead in that I never wavered in what I believed God was saying as it related to this diagnosis.”
Often the term “ caregiver” seems to refer mainly to a medical professional or someone looking after a handicapped person, child, elderly or sick parent or relative. But Angela quickly learned that caregiver can also mean a friend, family member, even co-worker — anyone who cares enough to help someone through a crisis, whatever the need might be.
Angela says her husband, Daniel, was her chief caregiver through his love, patience and prayers. But she says even his friends would stop by just to take him out to make sure he was all right. They were caring for the caregiver!
Angela has no family history of breast cancer. She got a mammogram after feeling pain in her right breast. Ironically, the cancer was discovered in her left breast. Because she paid attention to her body and got the mammogram quickly, the cancer was not advanced enough to warrant a mastectomy. Her treatment included tissue removal and intense radiation therapy.
She is now happy to be cancer free and recently held a celebration to thank her circle of caregivers. Here is Angela’s advice to women, which jibes with tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- If something is discovered, get two or three opinions, if possible; then decide the best treatment plan for you.
- Pay attention to your body. If anything is unusual, check it out.
- Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who sincerely have your back for whatever you might need, including encouragement.
- If you have a friend going through an illness, be a caregiver in whatever way you can.
- Have your mammograms as often as your doctor advises — even if you have no symptoms.
The Black Women’s Health Imperative reports that black women are less likely than white women to get breast cancer, yet have a higher breast cancer death rate. So it is crucial to seek not only regular health care but also the love and care that you need no matter what the diagnosis.
“I was blessed that we had a whole team of people around us, friends and families, who had decided, hey, we weren’t going to walk this battle alone,” Angela says. “Really, that’s how I made it through this.”
Photo: Courtesy of Daniel and Angela Thornton
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