DALMAE Dyer is a devout Christian, and when she was told that she had a rare form of breast cancer and she needed to remove a breast, she found peace in Matthew 18:8, which says, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee…”
At this point Dyer had had three separate lumpectomies done in the past on the same breast, but only after the doctors tested the cells on the last lump did they determine that there was cancer present in the breast.
She first noticed an abnormality after giving birth to her daughter in 1971, but because of the changes to the breast due to pregnancy, no action was taken at the time, except that she was advised not to breastfeed.
“I had the lump for about 11 years, but even after doing mammograms they didn’t find it,” she told All Woman.
“Some time in 1982 I felt it again so I went to the doctor and he said yes there was a lump, but he couldn’t tell at that time what it was. I went to my general practitioner, he checked, and by the following week I did the lumpectomy. They said it was not cancerous.”
But five years later Dyer noticed that she was having a discharge from the nipple, and she had another surgery to drain the fluid from the breast.
“Then in 2001 I noticed that I felt another lump in the same breast,” Dyer remembered. “This time I went straight to Jamaica Cancer Society. I went to do a mammogram and when I got back the results I was referred to do a biopsy.”
She had a lumpectomy done to remove this lump even before she got the biopsy results to confirm whether it was cancerous.
“The day when I was supposed to go for the biopsy results I don’t know what came over me but I didn’t feel like going,” she confessed. “But the doctor called me over the phone and casually said that the results came back and I had cancer, and I had to take off the breast.”
She broke down in tears.
“I went home and I did not tell anybody. I just did my normal home duties just the same. The word cancer just wasn’t registering in my ears,” she said, acknowledging that she was in denial at the time.
The following Monday she went to have further tests done and the emotions took over again when she was alone.
“I cried from St Joseph’s Hospital to New Kingston and I was driving myself,” she recounted.
But after praying, being counselled by a reverend at Webster Memorial United Church, and deciding with the doctors on a course of action, Dyer grew stronger. When she told her family the bad news, she did not shed a single tear.
“Within a week I was able to do the surgery. My sister Millicent had gone with me to the hospital before, but this time I decided to go alone because I felt calm, and everything was OK,” she said.
The morning after surgery, just as she was regaining consciousness, a doctor came to Dyer and explained that they had an emergency and needed beds, and she was the only patient who could be discharged.
“I thought, ‘Who could this be but God?’ No radiation, no chemo, no medication at all. Everything went well,” she rejoiced.
Dyer returned to her job as an operations technician at Jamaica Public Service and was healing nicely until she suffered another scare in 2010.
“A mammogram picked up a lump in the other breast,” she said. “I was now 60 and just about to retire and I knew my health insurance would expire within a few months.”
But her doctor was not convinced. He referred her to have another mammogram and an ultrasound exam done just to make sure.
A team of doctors analysed her breast carefully and in the end the radiographer said, “Nothing is wrong with you. Go home, drink your holy water and praise your God”. That is precisely what she has been doing since.
“I know I could not have made it without God’s grace and mercy, the support from my friends and family, and the continuous prayers from the Greendale United Church family,” she said gratefully.
Dyer uses her brush with breast cancer as a part of her ministry and uses her story to educate and encourage others.
“It is so important for you to always do your breast self-exams and be observant,” she urged. “There was nobody in my family that I knew of who had breast cancer, but since then two of my sisters have been diagnosed. Do your mammograms, too, and if you feel like something is not right don’t be afraid to bring it up with your doctor.”