|Finding beauty from pain|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
“I appreciate LIFE! I appreciate every day that God has allowed me to wake up feeling good. Every day that I get to style my hair in the morning!”
It’s hard to believe 24-year-old Che Devereaux has already gone through stage three breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it’s apparent she has only come out on the other side a stronger, more beautiful woman.
This 2004 Holyoke High School grad first found out she had breast cancer while at a routine exam.
“It was kind of surreal,” she said. As a healthy, working woman who modeled and coached volleyball and cheerleading, Devereaux just couldn’t understand how she could be facing cancer. “I fell into a huge puddle of doubt.”
Even after getting second opinions, the first diagnosis was true—this young woman had breast cancer on her left side. Devereaux was treated with hormone therapy for the next year.
Thinking she would come out all clear, her world crumbled once again when an appointment after the hormone therapy revealed she now had a lump in her right breast as well as a swollen lymph node in her shoulder, both meaning she still had cancer—and it was getting worse.
Because Devereaux was so young, they decided against radiation and started her on a 12-week chemotherapy plan with double doses injected through an IV every Friday.
“I am so thankful for the love, support, help and prayers that I received throughout the course of this experience,” she said, noting her friends and family are what really got her through this.
As a breast cancer and lymphoma survivor, 2004 HHS grad
“It was tough, and at times, I was so low on myself and on life,” Devereaux said. “I almost gave up so many times.”
The chemotherapy made Devereaux extremely sick, and she lost 19 pounds in those 12 weeks while trying to juggle work, home and the cancer treatments.
“That’s where my web of support came in—they pushed me to get up every day. They pushed me to try to eat every day, even though I knew it wasn’t going to stay down. They pushed me to continue to have faith when there was little.”
One of the toughest things Devereaux had to deal with was the loss of her hair.
When she noticed bald spots, she immediately made a visit to the hairdresser to get it shaved. The employee reluctantly put Devereaux’s hair in a pony tail to chop off the majority of her hair.
After doing that, this hairdresser started crying, refusing to shave the hair, even as Devereaux begged her to do it.
They waited for another hair dresser to return, and she decided the bald spots could be covered up with a good haircut.
“It was the worst haircut ever!” laughed Devereaux.
So she took matters into her own hands. It took about three hours, but eventually all the hair was gone. “Shaving my own head was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.
Devereaux is happy to report the doctors announced she was in remission Nov. 18, 2010. While this only means the active cancer is gone and she’ll still have to continue her doctor appointments, it was like she had an entire world lifted off her shoulder.
“I live every day knowing there was that chance that I may not have made it!” Devereaux said. “I intend on living every day living and loving as much as I possibly can.”
Life is much richer now for this 24-year-old who lives in Johnstown. She continues to work at an eye care business and hasn’t stopped her hobby of modeling, even though she is still sporting super short hair.
Devereaux mentioned she had reconstruction surgery in December since the lumpectomy left her with a void in her chest. “It helped me feel more complete and whole again.”
At 24 years old, Che Devereaux shows off her
There is no doubt Devereaux is a walking advocate for breast cancer awareness. “I have been looking for ways to let people, especially women, know this story so that they realize, as I thought, that no matter how young or healthy you are you could possibly go through my experience.”
She now takes her health into her own hands, which includes going to her check-ups like clockwork.
Devereaux’s maternal grandma died at age 67 from breast cancer. Her family also had a double dose of cancer in the past couple years, dealing with both this breast cancer and Devereaux’s uncle’s stage four throat cancer.
“There are so many people I am thankful for,” she said. “We made it—all of us, together.”
As a breast cancer survivor Devereaux has attended a breast cancer awareness ball in Fort Collins, and is always looking for more ways to get involved as an advocate, whether it be through personal contact or on a larger scale.
Phillips County residents should note the area Relay For Life event, which raises money for cancer research, is quickly approaching. The “Seasons of Hope” Relay is set for Friday-Saturday, June 10-11 at Phillips County Courthouse in Holyoke.