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Daily Journal
     October 13, 2020      #62-287 KDJ

Challenging days made easier with faith, family

By Melody Brunson
Special for the Journal

There have been many challenging days for Lisa Walker since her breast cancer journey began last December. Physically and mentally, some days are still exhausting, but she says faith in God and support from her family has made every day easier and brighter.

Walker visited the doctor for her annual exam in October 2019, and although no lumps were felt during the exam, she had discovered a lump after noticing other sensations and discomforts in her breast. A mammogram, and then a second mammogram were both “questionable.” A follow-up ultrasound in early December found a small mass, which the doctor determined should be biopsied. He called with the bad news of breast cancer the next day.

The year 2019 had already been challenging enough. Her mother had passed away in May at age 77. Before her death, the mother-daughter duo had been almost inseparable.

“I lost two cousins, lost an uncle, lost my mom, my aunt, my ex-husband, my oldest nephew and then I was diagnosed,” she recalled.

“My mother had been my role model, a true woman of God. From her I learned the importance of prayer and faith. Losing my mom and celebrating her life the day before Mother’s Day 2018 was devastating, but I am grateful for the many things she has instilled in me, including my strong faith and trust in God. That has been very instrumental through my journey,” Walker said.

However, because of the tremendous loss they had suffered already in 2019, Walker chose to keep the news of her cancer from her teenaged daughter until after the holidays. When she finally did tell Marlesia, just a few days before her first surgery, “She was really calm and not nervous or hysterical, and she said, ‘Well, what do we have to do to beat this?’ I was blessed that she was able to receive it in the way that she did,” Walker recalled.

“My diagnosis did not deter me, my sister and my daughter from taking a planned vacation to the Caribbean over Christmas break. After receiving the news, I needed to get away and have a moment of peace while enjoying my family,” she said.

Following the holiday break, her first lumpectomy was Jan. 9. After doctors discovered that all the cancer had not been removed, she underwent a second lumpectomy a week later Jan. 17.

Follow-up treatment included five weeks of radiation, five days a week.

“I was able to take myself to radiation. I’d get off work and drive straight to radiation, Monday through Friday. Radiation became more and more uncomfortable toward the end. That last week I started noticing physical changes, like radiation burn,” she recollected.

Walker, a 20-year plus teacher in Kankakee schools, teaches junior high social studies. Her career has spanned anything from special education to ELA Honors.

“I credit first God, for strength, and the awesome support of my daughter, siblings, close friends and my medical team,” Walker said, adding, “I am blessed be able to continue doing what I love and that is teaching.”

After COVID-19 hit in late March, as her radiation was wrapping up, she was at home for remote teaching during quarantine. And she’s been able to teach from home this fall, since doctors have warned Walker to be extra careful due to a compromised immune system.

“I had gotten through [radiation] before the pandemic, so I was just thankful to finish that process with no interruption,” Walker said.

Throughout the pandemic, she has been extra cautious avoiding large crowds, constantly wiping down around the house, and using hand sanitizer, masks or shields for her face and eyes.

“If I touch something, it’s because I have to.”

It’s protocol she believes that will continue after COVID-19 passes.

Although sometimes “extremely drained, worn out, and uncomfortable,” Walker has continued “Zooming” with her students, still teaching remotely using technology and rarely going out.

“The many side effects I still endure will not keep me from living my best life. God has a purpose and a plan for me. Whatever journey or path I must take, I know God is with me and I have nothing to fear,” Walker said.

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