CARROLLTON -- Ten years ago, Desiree Corley was enjoying what most would consider the happiest time of her life when she received the most devasting news of her life – a breast cancer diagnosis. The devastation was short lived because a few days earlier, she received the best news of her life – that she was expecting.
It was still the happiest time in her life because she found a reason to fight and never gave up.
Ten years later, Corley is cancer free, has a healthy child, is happily married, and still winning the fight of her life.
“I had found a lump in my breast, and I had to have a biopsy. I was trying on wedding dresses, and I had a glass of wine and I got sick. I thought, ‘I think I may be pregnant.,’” she said. “I took a home test on a Thursday. That Friday, I found out that I was pregnant.”
The following Tuesday, she received news that she was not expecting – she had Stage 4 breast cancer. She said everyone around her was devastated, but she wasn’t. She said she spoke with Dr. Syed Rafique at the Greenwood Cancer Center, who told her to speak to Dr. Douglass Bowden. She said a mastectomy was scheduled to remove the mass while she was seven weeks pregnant.
She said when she learned about her diagnosis, she was ready to fight.
“I wasn’t mad or upset or even sad. I said ‘Okay, what do we do? My dad always told me to live in the present month. Because you can’t change the past, and you don’t know the future so live in the present.”
And, that’s what Corley did – through all of her pain, mastectomies, a hysterectomy, two rounds of chemotherapy, 69 rounds of radiation, a wedding, a new baby, the growing pains of being a new mom and a new wife while your husband works off-shore – she lived in the present.
“It was one of the most joyful times of my life,” she said. “I was happy all the time. I didn’t have to try to find happiness, it just came to me.”
She said it was stressful, painful and sometime unbearable, but she still kept fighting and finding joy to keep going.
Desiree said during her second and third trimesters, she took chemotherapy. “I signed many consent forms,” she said. “I saw doctors in Greenwood. I don’t remember their names, but they were really good,” she said.
She still got married. She and her husband Dale got married at the courthouse in Carrollton.
“I was bald, I didn’t want a big wedding,” she said.
Her daughter, Sasha, was born on December 17.
“She was supposed to be born on Dec. 20, but they induced me. She’s my miracle child.”
She said she saw Dr. Louis Adams in Memphis and had a second mastectomy and expanders were placed in her breasts in January 2011. That following July, she had a hysterectomy.
“I tested HR positive, which meant that [the breast cancer] was hormone-driven,” she said. “So, to prevent it from coming back I had a hysterectomy.”
“I remember one time I went on a retreat with the State of Mississippi, and there was an 18-year-old girl there who had breast cancer, too. And everyone else was older, I was pregnant, and she was all by herself. And I noticed she was sad and depressed. We sat down and talked and she asked me ‘How are you so happy? How do you do it?’ And I told her, ‘I’m giving life, and she’s giving life back to me.”
Corley said she had sonograms every week, and she had cancer treatments every week.
“There were beds in there [in the cancer center] so I could just lay there. Every so often, I would get up and move around and I would waddle. People would just look at me. And, I would listen to them complain and I would ask them ‘Why are you complaining? You got up today.”
She said through her whirlwind, as she called it, her strength in God got stronger.
“My mother-in-law told me to ‘Put it in God’s hands’ and that’s what I did. I was on every prayer list.”
Corley said in the middle of her fight, her dog Jordan died and she got better.
“I call her my angel dog,” she said.
She said the prayers, support and love from the community in Carrollton helped in so many ways.
Corley said cancer strengthened her faith in God and made her appreciate life more.
“10 years later, I’m still cancer free.”
She said if she could encourage someone fighting their own cancer battle, she would tell them to never stop fighting and don’t ever give up.