In November 2008, just days after Anderson’s 40th birthday, doctors at the health department discovered a lump on one of Anderson’s breasts. Just under two months later, Anderson addressed her health concern head on with tests and expert opinion.
“The nurse and I didn’t see anything when we did the mammogram, but we did a biopsy a week later anyway,” says Anderson. “The test results, which came back around Jan. 18, stated that it was cancer in its first state — so we’d detected it early. But it was the machine that found it, not us.”
She says she had a lumpectomy a week later, and her physicians sent the extracted pea-sized lump out to have it tested and to determine her options.
“I wasn’t mad with God, I just told him that I would fight it. I know that God is a healer,” she says. “So when I got the news, I didn’t even cry. My mother, Sarah Burgman, was with me and she shed a few tears. I told her I’d be all right.”
Doctors analyzed 27 samples from her lymph nodes, says Anderson. Each specimen was clean, so she decided to go with chemical and radio therapy, she says.
On March 9, 2009, her treatment began. Her chemical regimen consisted of four rounds of shots every 21 days. And after each treatment, she had to go back for seven days of nitrogen mustard shots at South Georgia Medical Center’s Pearlman Cancer Center.
She recalls her first treatment, as her aunt, Mary Euline, stood in for Anderson’s sick mother who didn’t want to infect her chemo-bearing immune system.
“Every time the nurse would inject something into my IV, I’d ask, ‘was that the chemo?’” says Anderson. “And got more and more ready for it with each injection. But when she finally did it, I didn’t notice. So, I was just more scared.”
That foreboding feeling she felt materialized later that day in the form of nausea, vomiting, muted taste buds and the lingering taste of earth metals. But thankfully for Lavonda and the palates of her three kids, her mother took control of the household’s rations.
“My mom was my cook,” says Anderson. “I couldn’t cook for my kids because of my taste buds and I had no appetite for food. The only thing I could stomach was mash potatoes with lemon. Well, anything sour, because I could taste the acidity.”
Then came the radio.
She was subjected to 35 hours of DNA disintegrating radiotherapy everyday, for about a month. But by the end of September 2009, her treatment was complete.