Knowing that breast cancer runs in her family, Anedra Coleman started earlier than most with taking the tests for early detection of the disease.
It turned out to be a move that she believes saved her life, but Coleman also well knew the cost of ignoring it. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, as well as three nieces, and she lost her grandmother and great aunt to it.
Coleman took care of herself, but her mother’s diagnosis got her started taking mammograms at age 35 instead of 40, the typical age women start taking the exam.
“I’m strongly telling people to pay attention to your body and see a doctor,” she said. “That is how your life is saved.”
She was proactive, which made it surprising when she got the dreaded telephone call.
“You go to the doctor and don’t think you’ll get a callback at my age,” said Coleman of the time she got her diagnosis. “I was eating right. I exercise. So I was a bit surprised when I got a callback to come in and do more testing.”
The call led to a second mammogram and another ultrasound that day.
“I noticed a sense of urgency with the technicians,” Coleman said. “Before I made it into my car, East Jefferson General [Hospital] called asking for a biopsy.”
Four days later, on Feb. 13, she got the feared diagnosis – breast cancer.
The doctor showed her a .6-millimeter dot on a mammogram and announced it was invasive cancer surrounded by a cluster of a pre-cancer cells that needed to be removed.
“I tell people what I did was I allowed myself to have a pity party for two days,” Coleman said. “And then, after that, it was ‘Okay, doc, let’s rock and roll. What’s next?’”Surgery followed on March 27 and then came the radiation treatments Monday through Friday for six weeks. In the time she was diagnosed and got surgery, she had two MRIs, two mammograms, two ultrasounds and three oncology appointments.
Coleman, who is the parish’s assistant director for Parks and Recreation/coordinator for the Edward Dufresne Community Center, told her co-workers and the administration about what was happening because she knew her medical care would take from her desk for a while.
She praised the support she got from her staff, as well as parish administration.
“I think one of the things that stands out most right now is Parish President Larry Cochran called my parents personally on a Saturday morning to tell them not to worry ‘Anedra is okay and will get help at work.’ He was trying to ease my parents’ mind,” she said.
With her being a workaholic and being upset over missing work, Coleman was the subject of concern.
She got radiation treatments in the mornings and then came to work.
“My peers were constantly telling me maybe ‘You need to slow down’ and ‘How do you keep smiling and keep going?’”For Coleman, the fight was on.
“I refused to let cancer defeat me,” she said. “It’s done enough to my family and friends, and taken some of my loved ones away from me so I developed the mindset early on that I would fight and not let it get me down.”
Coleman drew strength from her own passionate efforts to promote cancer awareness.
She started the Paint the Pink cancer awareness event in the parish, which has been held the past eight years in October to urge parish employees to be proactive.
For the past nine years, she has been involved in the St. Charles Parish Relay for Life event and has run a three-day, 60-mile marathon in San Diego, Calif., for breast cancer awareness.
The first marathon she ran in 2014 was in honor of her mother, the next one she ran in 2015, and she plans to do it this year in honor of her mother again and in memory of her grandmother.
“I never thought I’d be doing it as a survivor,” Coleman said of this year’s marathon.
Her own diagnosis has been a real eye opener, she said.
“Another big thing is that cancer can happen to anyone,” Coleman said of a condition now known as the healthy woman’s disease. “No one is exempt from it even with eating and exercising. It was a very scary time, but I decided I would make it a positive approach and try to encourage other women to stay positive and not let it get you down. Have a strong faith and just know you can do it. You can fight it.”