Breast Cancer Survivor Empowers Herself and Others

Written By:Amanda Dobbs

At age 35, Makeda McLune had just made a big change in her life. After years in the workforce, she decided to go back to school to complete her degree, and she enrolled full-time in college. As a new student, she wanted to take advantage of her school’s health care facilities, so she went in for a routine check-up that included a breast exam. She fully expected a clean bill of health.

“That’s when the nurse practitioner did an exam and asked me if I’d noticed a lump that was on my right breast,” says McLune. In that moment, McLune realized that she might be in for another big life change – facing cancer.

Finding the right resources

McLune immediately began talking to her nurse practitioner about the practical aspects of seeking out additional tests and care. “She gave me some recommendations, but before any of that I said, ‘I have no insurance. What is this going to cost?’” says McLune. When her contract job ended a few months earlier, so did her salary and her health insurance coverage, and she was also taking on school-related debt so she could get her degree. The nurse practitioner offered some suggestions, and McLune reached out to the American Cancer Society and other breast cancer organizations to see what services were available.

Eventually, McLune was diagnosed with stage II invasive carcinoma and underwent a mastectomy of her right breast. As she went through treatment, she was pleased to find programs that helped address not only her physical health, but also her quality of life. When the American Cancer Society connected her with Look Good Feel Better, a free program that helps cancer patients manage the appearance-related side effects of treatment, she really loved the environment. “I told people, ‘This is so awesome. You have to go,’” she says. “It made you feel so positive and feminine.”

She found something else that helped her, too: being open with her family and friends about what she was going through as she faced the disease.

Connecting with others reaps rewards

"Opening my life up to others allowed me to face it head on. I didn't stop pursuing my education, my desire to volunteer, and my political activism. I continued to push forward."

Makeda McLune

“For a lot of people of color, talking about being sick can be a real taboo,” says McLune, but she felt strongly that she wanted to communicate with people around her about what was going on with her health. She began posting on social media with updates about her cancer journey. “Opening my life up to others allowed me to face it head on,” she says of her efforts. “I didn’t stop pursuing my education, my desire to volunteer, and my political activism – I continued to push forward.”

As she shared her story, she was amazed by the feedback she got. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” she says, and the effects of sharing what she was going through – and the positive responses she received – have stayed with her. “Doing ‘something’ redirected how I got through my business and personal life. I go into things being as open and as transparent as possible,” she says. “Now, I ask myself, ‘Did you positively impact other people? Did you do something positive for someone else?’”

Today, McLune takes one tamoxifen pill a day to help reduce her chances for recurrence, and she actively seeks out opportunities to tell her story. She has been a guest speaker at multiple American Cancer Society Relay For Life events – which raise money to invest in cancer research and to provide information and services to cancer patients and caregivers. She firmly believes that talking about what she went through is a powerful way to make a difference, not just in her own life, but in the lives of others. “Maybe if I share my story one more time,” says McLune, “I’m helping somebody who needs it.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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