For more than 30 years, Yolanda Elliott was the woman you came to when you wanted to look your best. The irony that a woman who “did hair,” lost her hair doesn’t escape the longtime cosmetologist, but Elliott knows there’s more to life than good hair. For the last year and a half, Yolanda Elliott has been battling breast cancer.
Elliott discovered a lump in her right breast through self-examination nearly two years ago. At the time, she was in the middle of a transition, preparing to move, “I think sometimes as women, we take on so much and set ourselves on the backburner. Even at 60, I’m still learning how to make myself a priority,” explains Elliott. It wasn’t until several months later, after she had settled in Woodbridge, she was able to make a doctor’s appointment. At that point, her breast was red and inflamed.
The then 58-year-old mom of three was diagnosed with stage 3/HER2+ breast cancer in the summer of 2018. She was referred to Sentara Surgery Specialist Dr. Steven Nakao. Dr. Nakao introduced her to Deana Henry, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s Cancer Nurse Navigator. Deana helped her work through the sometimes overwhelming business of a cancer diagnosis.
“Deana was really instrumental for me not stressing. She was just so full of information and she’d always tell me, ‘Well, that’s my job!’” says Elliott smiling, “She went that extra mile and cleared the path for me to go through this.”
Soon after her diagnosis Elliott started chemotherapy with hematologist/oncologist Dr. Farn Chan. The chemo shrunk her tumor and allowed Dr. Nakao to perform her mastectomy and remove several lymph nodes where the cancer had spread. After surgery, radiation with Dr. Susan Boylan was prescribed in addition to more chemotherapy. Finally, on August 22nd, Elliott had her last treatment, like a lot of cancer survivors she had mixed emotions, “A part of me was relieved to be through with the treatment, but another side of me was anxious- am I really through? Is this really it?”
Elliott is now at a crossroads, while chemo is over, she’s not sure how much of her old life will fit into her new circumstances. She’s dealing with neuropathy in her arm which is keeping her from using it as easily as she once did.
Even though Elliott is dealing with a lot, she’s resilient. She says her faith and the support team she’s discovered at the Sentara Cancer Network Resource Center are keeping her going, “I have such a faith that no matter what I walkthrough I don’t walk through it alone,” she says. “My tribe has changed. I’ve done the support group under Deana and yoga, and I visit the resource center. I’m trying to take full advantage of all these great resources.”
The Sentara Cancer Network Resource Center is located in the Century Building at 2280 Opitz Boulevard, Suite 225, Woodbridge, VA 22191. You can contact nurse navigator, Deana Henry at 703-523-1599.
To schedule your mammogram, call 703-523-1560 today.