At the age of 48, Joyce Rickards was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. For Rickards, cancer wasn’t a new word in her vocabulary. She had already experienced five different types of cancer: lung, breast, chronic lymphatic leukemia, gastric, and multiple myeloma in her immediate family. In 2006 she was diagnosed with Stage II gastric cancer and spent nearly a year completing chemotherapy and radiation. In 2008 she was left struggling to understand why she was experiencing a second diagnosis.
“I thought to myself, ‘Not again!’ and ‘Why me?’” said Rickards, a resident of Millsboro, Delaware. She was reminded that her faith was strong and as she recounts, “I put on my helmet of salvation and my breastplate of righteousness.”
She was determined not to let the breast cancer diagnosis stop her life. Rickards became a lay navigator for the Saving Our Sisters, Sharing Our Stories program at the Tunnell Cancer Center at Beebe Medical Center. The program helps educate women in Sussex County about the importance of early detection, as well as providing free or low-cost mammograms to women who are uninsured or have high insurance deductibles that would prevent them from getting their yearly test.
She also began working with a local program, Sisters On A Mission, to start a chapter of the African-American breast cancer support group in Sussex/Kent County. Also a participant in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, Rickards wants to use her experiences with cancer to reach people of all races who have battled or are watching a friend or love one battle cancer.
“Being diagnosed with cancer does not mean that life comes to an end. It is actually a new beginning,” said Rickards. “I look at life in a different perspective; the things that bothered me in the past, do not matter anymore. I appreciate each minute of the day and I start my day with a smile! You learn to embrace life and give thanks!”
Rickards has hope for the future: she’s taking part in a genetic testing program designed to locate the gene that possibly triggers the cancer gene and she’s a medical assistant major at Delaware Tech in Georgetown, which she says gives her “such joy in knowing that I am making a difference in someone’s life by educating them with knowledge that could save their life.”
To learn more about cancer, local programs and services for patients and caregivers, as well as events like Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in your community, visit cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.
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