RICHMOND, Va. -- Through the testimony and the tears, it’s Dr. Taleshia Chandler’s unshakable faith that gets her through her toughest days.
“God has not failed me,” said Chandler. “He answers me every time I call. He answers.”
Last Sunday in front of her church family at Cedar Street Baptist Church, her personal story replaced the usual Sunday sermon. It’s a story five years in the making for the First Lady of the church.
"Feeling a little depressed. Like God was picking on me,” Chandler said.
Those are words from 2016 during a Buddy Check 6 story when Chandler told CBS 6 about her breast cancer journey. She says something didn't feel right with one of her breasts. In 2015, she had a mammogram and an ultrasound. Both tests came back negative, but her intense back pain wouldn't go away.
"I was going to the chiropractor, physical therapist, whoever could give me some relief from the back pain,” Chandler said.
An MRI of her back revealed Stage 4 breast cancer.
"Four years after diagnosis, I'm still trusting him. I'm leaning on him to get me through each day,” Chandler said.
And most days have been rough. In 2018, Chandler would go in for another MRI after feeling tingling in her hands. The results came five days before her 45th birthday.
"The MRI showed the cancer has spread to my brain. I had three lesions on the back of my brain especially one near my neck,” Chandler told the church crowd.
The scary diagnosis meant more chemotherapy every three weeks and radiation to her brain.
"What they actually had to do is drill 4 holes in my head,” Chandler said.
She ended up receiving some positive news from her follow up in May.
"The three legions they saw in the back of my brain are gone,” Chandler said.
There’s plenty of love for the First Lady also known as Lady C.
Dozens stood in line to get Lady C’s latest book signed. “Sparkling Through Adversity” is a "how-to book" on having grace under pressure.
"A lot of time people ask me ‘how do you look like that and you have cancer?’ I want people to know just because you have cancer or going through something you don't have to look like what you're going through,” Chandler said.
“Sparkling Through Adversity” can be found at places like Amazon.com
Chandler’s doctors told her she has dense breast tissue and that can make it more difficult to detect small tumors. Chandler did not receive her treatment at VCU Massey Cancer Center. However, Dr. Priti Shah, Director of VCU Health Breast Imaging offers some mammography advice for women.
Dr. Shah said that mammography is the gold standard for all women at average risk aged 40 plus, regardless of breast density.
- 3D mammogram- especially helpful for women with dense breast tissue. Regular mammograms are always covered by insurance, and 3D mammograms are covered by most insurance companies, but not all.
- MRI- recommended as supplemental screening for women at high risk of breast cancer regardless of breast tissue density. For women at high risk, MRI is usually covered by insurance.
- Ultrasound- recommended as supplemental screening for women at average risk of breast cancer with dense breast tissue, but it's not always covered by insurance companies.
Dr. Shah notes breast density is subjective. She said that screening should be personalized to the patient, taking into account many personal factors, and discussion between the patient and her doctor.
On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.