Local Resident Overcomes Cancers, Advocates for Others

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PHOTO USED WITH PERMISSION

By Hannah Lester
hlester@
opelikaobserver.com

LaKeisha King-Menifee has survived both breast and ovarian cancer — and now she wants to advocate and raise awareness on behalf of others.

“In December of 2016 I went for my annual gynecology appointment, I saw [my doctor] and she asked if I had any problems or anything and I told her, ‘no, one night I had a pain that sort of shot across my stomach, maybe lasted less than a minute,’” she said. “And she said ‘okay, well we’ll just do an ultrasound just to check and make sure everything is okay.’ So we did the ultrasound. She called me back maybe a week later and told me that they saw some things on there; she wanted me to come in.”

Her doctor referred with another gynecologist and they decided King-Menifee needed a biopsy. This returned inconclusive, however, so she was referred to Birmingham where she had another biopsy.

“That came back positive for an ovarian cancer,” she said. “It’s a rare ovarian cancer, slow-growing, non-aggressive. The treatment was a hysterectomy. They told me I wouldn’t need chemo or radiation or anything like that.”

She decided to reach out to the Cancer Treatment Center of America who recommended she speak with another survivor of ovarian cancer.

“We had a great discussion, it gave me some hope,” she said.

King-Menifee then saw a GYN-oncologist through the Cancer Treatment Center of America and she decided to schedule her surgery through the center.

She was also told she may need chemo after all following the surgery.

“I did go through six rounds of chemo from there,” she said. “Throughout that time, I will say, my surgery, my healing process, was amazing. I was in very little pain. I was able to move around and do things.”

As of this last December, King-Menifee has been in remission for five years from ovarian cancer.

“God is awesome,” she said.

However, her cancer story didn’t end with ovarian cancer.

“In May of 2018, I woke up, I was getting ready for work … I saw a red streak on my right breast and I immediately thought inflammatory breast cancer, I’m not sure why, probably because I’m a medical professional.”

Following a mammogram, King-Menifee needed a biopsy and was referred to the breast oncologist.

After learning she had breast cancer, King-Menifee scheduled a double mastectomy.

“Went through eight rounds of chemo after that,” she said. “I tried to do the same thing I did with the first chemo, as far as getting chemo on Thursday or Friday and coming back to work Monday, but I was a little sicker than I thought I was, even though I tried to keep pushing.”

She also completed 25 radiation treatments.

Now, King-Menifee has been three years without signs of breast cancer.

“Thank God the providers, and the doctors and nurse practitioners at CTCA are very comforting so I now go every three to four months just as a follow up because I like to stay on top of things,” she said.

Every year King-Menifee and an organization she helped found, Sisters Exemplifying Excellence, host an annual breast cancer walk.

“The breast cancer walk then turned into ‘curing the colors of cancer,’” she said. “Because every cancer has a color and we want to find a cure for every color of cancer. So every year, sometimes between September/October, we do a walk and we normally sell t-shirts at the admission for maybe like $10. So then all of those proceeds we give back out into the community. So if we have anyone in the community that is battling cancer, having to drive back and forth to the doctor, they might need gas money, they might be out of work, then we as a group get together and decide what monetary donation we will give.”

King-Menifee takes other opportunities to educate others as well about cancer, including speaking arrangements at schools — such as Opelika City Schools during breast cancer awareness month.

“Any way that I can give back and alert people to pay attention to their bodies,” she said. “We’re our biggest advocates. So if I know there’s a change, I need to be able to tell my doctor that there is a change or this is different, so that they can order the necessary tests.

“… You have so many people and at a younger age being diagnosed with cancer. And with ovarian cancer especially, typically ovarian cancer isn’t diagnosed or found until you’re Stage Four which means it has spread outside of your ovaries to other major organs or your bones and so we just need to pay attention.”

Throughout her cancer journey, King-Menifee has said that her faith in God played a large role.

“Without God, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “Without God, I wouldn’t have been placed in CTCA into those hands, because those doctors believed that they could treat me and I would be healed. If it were not for God and my support system, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today.”

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