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Cancer survivors share their harrowing tales

10/24/2013, 9 a.m.
As breast cancer awareness month comes to a close, it is important to remember that those who live with the ...
Durrell Allen, 27, and his mother Dionne Pollock

As breast cancer awareness month comes to a close, it is important to remember that those who live with the disease do not get a reprieve after the month’s end. They continue to battle, to take medications, to seeks prayers and support and — hopefully, to live for many years more. Here are several survivors’ stories of local women and men who have faced cancer and are beating the odds.

Durrell Allen, 27, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 — at the age of 22. He is a funny, people-oriented individual who has the ability to make anyone comfortable and at ease when in his presence comfortable. Since 1999, his mother, Dionne Pollock, has been taking Allen to the Annual Komen Race for the Cure. In 2009, he participated in the run and finished in second place. He recalls that his left testicle had become enlarged but without significant pain. But one day while playing basketball, he was struck in the groin and cried out in pain. The next day, Allen noticed that the testicle continued to hurt and his back was aching, also. He says he began to chat with friends online for more information and then went to medical websites. The answers he received from Web MD said he could be suffering from a testicle disease or testicular cancer. Tests at the University of Miami Hospital confirmed his fears.

“The word cancer was being bounced around everywhere,” he said. “But none of that frightened me. My family could not understand why I was not upset, throwing a tantrum and crying. I knew I wasn’t as tight with the Lord as I should be, but I knew I was going to beat this. I refused to go down without a fight."

Allen, who now refers to himself as a “one-nut wonder” won that fight. He is a survivor.

Kim V. Heard is an 18-year breast cancer survivor. At 38, she found a lump during a self-exam. After a battery of exams, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer with lymph node involvement. Because she was diagnosed early she says she is living proof that early detection helps saves lives.

Heard has served on the board of directors for the Komen organization for the past three years and is also a representative for the Speakers Network — educating the community on breast health and resources. The 2013 Race was her 17th. But she wasn’t up to running after a recent hip replacement.

“Everyone should experience our Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure,” she said.

Sandra Alleyne is a native of Barbados. She came to the U.S. from Barbados in 1982 to study cosmetology. Cancer runs in her family — her mother died in 1983 at the age of 47 and an aunt died in 1981. Knowing that, she says she has done monthly breast self-examinations.

“I thank God that I was so attentive to examine my breasts” she said. “Because of that habit, I was blessed to discover the lump in its early stage.”

A friendship was developed from Alleyne’s cancer experience.

“I now have three girlfriends who went through the same experience and we are able to talk about things others wouldn’t understand,” she said. “We call ourselves the chemo girls and we will be friends forever.”

Alleyne’s messages to the public: “Do the feeling technique monthly; if you have large breasts ask your primary doctor to prescribe a sonogram since having large breasts can sometimes cover the mass and you will be unable to feel it. If cancer runs in your family, get extra examinations. When it’s caught early enough, the doctors are now able to do wonders with saving lives. I know this is true because I am a survivor.”