Cancer spokeswoman to be honored for her light

Published 9:45 am Friday, September 27, 2013


Audrey Lee, a cancer survivor, is the spokeswoman for the Sentara Cancer Network. She’ll be honored at Paul D. Camp Community College this October. -- SIDNEY MOORE | TIDEWATER NEWS

Audrey Lee, a cancer survivor, is the spokeswoman for the Sentara Cancer Network. She’ll be honored at Paul D. Camp Community College this October. — SIDNEY MOORE | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Audrey Lee will be the guest of honor at a banquet that will be held at PDCCC in October. She is a breast cancer survivor and also the new spokeswoman for the Sentara Cancer Network. This hasn’t come as a small feat by far, because less than a year ago, Lee’s life was a quite different one.

She was just a regular businesswoman, actually one of the owners of Total Care Medical Transport, heading on a vacation to Florida. Having so much of her time consumed by the day-to-day dealings of running her business, she’d missed her scheduled mammogram for 2012. Thinking nothing of the matter, she decided to get it done just before her trip in December of last year. Her doctor noticed an irregularity within her breasts and instructed her to have another look. This was followed by a battery of other tests.

“They wanted to do another mammogram, because they’d seen some abnormalities. Then while I was on vacation in Florida, the doctors called me and said it was cancer,” said Lee. “I wouldn’t have found it on my own, because it was in the ducts of my breasts. There’s no way I could’ve felt for that.”

So more test were performed, including an MRI and biopsies. Once everything was officially diagnosed, she began preparations for a lumpectomy, a procedure where a portion of a breast is removed. The surgery was performed in February. Then it was time for her to begin the healing process, mentally as well as physically.

From March throughout, Lee had to undergo 33 radiation treatments. She went to the Radiation Therapy Department at Obici Hospital for five days a week. During these visits, she felt something begin to stir within her being.

“It was like knowing you were supposed to be there,” said she. “Even prior to diagnosis I felt forewarned I guess. I knew I’d be put on a journey.”

Upon entry to the Radiation Therapy Department you have to give your name. This is to ensure that you are the right person and receive the correct amount of radiation. The doctors and nurses there, especially Dr. Victor Archie, made her feel comfortable and strong. She felt strong enough that when asked her name she would respond, “Courage aka Audrey Lee” or “Faith aka Audrey Lee.”

“Each day I went in there I had a new alias,” said Lee. “Then toward the end I was telling somebody about it and they asked if I could throw their mother’s name out there, because she had died of breast cancer. So after that, different people and nurses would ask me to shout out their parent’s and sister’s names that had passed away from cancer. That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, Lord. That’s why this is happening. I’m here to help somebody else heal.’”

Lee became a beacon of light and love that everyone looked forward to seeing every day. Whether it was to get a hug from her, a kind word or even a genuine laugh and smile, the comfort people felt around her kept them coming back in her midst.

“I’d become a support system for these people, and that’s when I realized what I wanted to hear in Franklin; to create a support group,” said Lee as she smiled.

This was the inception of the Empowering and Uplifting Foundation. The founder, Corey Olds, owns GYG, which is a behavioral center in downtown Franklin that deals with helping school-level youth. He’d called Lee and informed her that he wanted to do something special for her. That something special was to hold a fundraising dinner at Paul D. Camp Community College in her honor on Friday, Oct. 25. All the proceeds will go toward starting her cancer support group.

“I want to give something to Susan B. Cohen or one of the other breast cancer research centers. I also want different cancer survivors to speak there,” said Lee of what she wants to take place during the fundraiser.

The way she became the spokeswoman for Sentara is the diligence of the doctors and nurses bombarding the PR Department about Lee’s spirit. Word got around about the cancer survivor who decided to throw a party in the Radiation Oncology Department, complete with cupcakes that were colored to represent all the various cancers. She invited everyone she’d met to celebrate. This woman is now the face of Sentara’s website and Facebook, and has also received invitations for speaking engagements.

“I feel real special. I don’t know where God is going with this, because it’s just amazing. It blows my mind to think that from December, when I was given this diagnosis and not knowing where my life was heading to now, when I had my six-month post-operation mammogram in August and having no abnormalities,” said Lee.

“My faith has taken me to heights where now nothing is impossible.”