Nakia Johnson kept seeing the name American Cancer Society (ACS) when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in August of 2015 and deep-diving into online research about her condition. “I had so many questions running through my mind and didn’t know where to start, so I decided to call ACS to see if they could answer some of the many questions that I had. All I can say is that I am glad they are open 24 hours a day!” says Nakia, an Atlanta native and mom to seven-year-old son, Zion.
Nakia shared her thoughts on feeling normal again after cancer and getting her self-confidence back, one day at a time.
Let’s work backwards. What was the moment when you started to feel normal again after your diagnosis?
I’m not sure if feeling normal is something that I will ever feel again. Going through something like breast cancer and treatment puts a different perspective on life. It makes you want to live more, laugh more, and love more. It makes you stronger. You’re more appreciative. It makes you thank God for every single day and enjoy every gift He has given you.
Who are the people in your personal life who have uplifted you throughout your recovery and journey?
My son, Zion. He has been amazing throughout all of this, and he is just seven! He never complained when he had to go to appointments with me and would do things like rub my feet or gently touch my head with so much love and kindness. He would often tell me things that God said in scripture to lift my spirits and would try to make me laugh as much as possible. He said, “Mommy, I wish I could take you to show and tell [in school] so I could tell everyone that you’re my miracle!”
What are some of the important lessons you’ve learned after getting your diagnosis?
I’ve come to realize that focusing on things and people who have hurt us really won’t do anyone any good. My advice is to focus on things that will help others. I asked God to help me get through this phase in my life and to focus on other things besides the loss of my hair and things I don’t have that much control over, and this shift in focus has helped reframe the way I think about cancer and how it’s affected my life. Once I began to be comfortable under my skin again—my hairless skin—I started doing things like going out to treatment without a wig on at all, when initially, having a shaved head made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed. After awhile, I realized that it really is only hair and it would grow back. I began to hold my head high and would look in the mirror and tell myself that I was beautiful. It all starts with how you think and talk to yourself, after all.
How has the American Cancer Society helped you and your family?
ACS provided us with information and access to resources, two things that are so important for people going through treatment and the families who are supporting them. For example, they let me know that if I went to their office right here in Atlanta, I could get a free wig—which, honestly, was an answered prayer because losing my hair was very devastating to me, as it is to so many people going through treatment. I had never worn a wig before and the young lady at ACS made getting one a very positive experience for my mother and me. I tried on different wigs and picked one that was just right for me. Wearing it helped give me some of my self-confidence back!
Another way they helped me was through their Reach to Recovery Program. This program allowed me to get in touch with a group in my area. Ms. Pam Nelson, the head of the group I attend, has been a godsend. My mother and sister have both attended meetings with me, and everyone is so kind and encouraging. It was a blessing to be able to see other survivors and their family members and relate to their stories as well as share my own. I have often called on Ms. Pam to answer questions and get her advice. I thank her and the group for their encouragement, advice, and prayers.