Part Three. Autumn Carter's Story: The Support
After her emotions settled and reality kicked in, Autumn transitioned from anger into optimism. With the outpouring of support from family, friends, medical professionals, and even strangers, Autumn understood she isn't in this battle alone.
"My support system has been a Godsend literally! My mother, father, and sister have stepped up to help me with everything that you could imagine. From not missing an appointment to helping me raise my daughter," says Autumn. "They have seen me at my lowest points, but without knowing it, they help me to remember that I still have so much to live for."
Not only did her family help Autumn take care of her basic needs, but they also went above and beyond to demonstrate their love for her.
Just before her double mastectomy procedure, Donielle Martin, Autumn's mother, organized a special breast cancer party themed "Still I Rise" inspired by Autumn's favorite poet, Maya Angelou. During the party, the women wore pink tutus and released white and pink balloons to the song "Rise Up" by Andrea Day. The entire event was filled with joy, support, and laughter. The sheer volume of love left Autumn with a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for her supporters.
"My mother invited everyone that she knew would be in my corner and held my best interest at heart during my journey towards beating breast cancer," says Autumn. "It was such a beautiful and comforting celebration. I was overwhelmed with joy."
When Autumn was diagnosed, WTHR anchor Andrea Moorhead, was one the first people to know and reached out to provide words of encouragement and support. Andrea is more than just a news anchor; she has known Autumn her entire life and is also a breast cancer survivor. In an effort to raise breast cancer awareness, Andrea highlighted Autumn's "Still I Rise" party as a feature story on WTHR.
"She has always been like an aunt to me, so when she found out, she showered me with love, wisdom, and support,” says Autumn. “She shared a bible verse that I will always hold near forever, Jeremiah 29:11. It has always been my favorite Bible verse, but it was confirmation that I'm going to be alright," says Autumn.
Not only did Autumn's family support her, but people who didn't know her wanted to support her through her journey.
Brandon Beasley manages a popular workout known as 'The Hill' at the Lawrence Community Park, partnered with and Michael Scott, to dedicate a run to celebrate breast cancer awareness month and honor her journey. Autumn didn't know the trainers before the event but later learned that her story made a tremendous impact on them. Attendees sported custom T-shirts with uplifting words and hashtags in her honor, such as "Just because it's Autumn doesn't mean we have to fall" and "#BreastCancerWillFall."
A few days after the event, a woman approached Autumn and explained how they met at the "The Hill," and she prays for her every day.
"It touched me and instantly made me cry tears of gratitude. You never realize who you are touching when you're walking in your transparent journey," says Autumn. "It was one of my most memorable days. I will never forget the love and support that I felt."
Research shows that women with breast cancer who have strong support systems have better survival rates. Autumn's circle of friends, family, co-workers, doctors, and community has a crucial impact on her growth and are providing support when she needs it most.
"My closet friends are a phone call away and are committed to checking on me to make sure I'm alright. I point that out because once the celebrations are over, I'm still fighting, and to have support every day means so much," Autumn says.
Autumn has also been blessed to have strong women, such as her mother's friends, who surround her and treat her like their own daughter.
"Some of my mom's friend has taken me to doctor's appointments when my family could not make it. Others have whipped up quick meals for me during family outings because my mom gently reminded them that I changed my diet," says Autumn.
Her employer Ice Miller and colleagues from the Public Affairs group have been incredibly supportive during her journey. Carl Drummer, Principal at Ice Miller, was with Autumn the moment she found out about her diagnosis and was able to provide words of encouragement.
"I cried my eyes out in his office. He let me cry and told me everything was going to be alright and to be strong for my daughter. He also shared his personal story with me, and instantly, something clicked, “ says Autumn. “God works miracles every day. I wiped my eyes and called my family to let them know what was going on."
Another key player in Autumn's life is her breast surgeon, Dr. Monet Bowling, a board-certified breast surgical oncologist at Hendricks Regional Health Breast Center in Danville, IN.
"It's a good feeling … know[ing] that someone who is supposed to be getting you back to good health is committed to that, and she has done that!" says Autumn. "I appreciate her more than she knows, although I tell her quite often."
Dr. Bowling is deeply committed to Autumn's recovery, handpicking medical referrals, and even paying personal visits to Autumn's home to help her overcome the overwhelming anxiety she experienced before surgery.
Every cancer experience is different in its own right and brings with it an assortment of treatment plans, options, and outcomes. Despite the unique nature of each diagnosis and each journey, Autumn has learned three lessons she believes anyone diagnosed with cancer should always remember. They are:
1. Self-care is not selfish. [Self-care] is not just taking care of your physical health but your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, too.
2. Set healthy boundaries with others. Take time for yourself. Spend time thanking God for what he has done and is going to do. You do not need validation from others to feel the way you feel, and therapy is healthy!
3. Live your life for you. You are the one who has to live with yourself, so be true to you and learn to fall in love with yourself no matter where you are in life. Life is an unpredictable process, and you have to love who you are along the way!
The future looks bright for Autumn, and there is no sign of her slowing down. She will take the LSAT in January 2021 and plans to attend law school the following year.
Herd Strategies would like to thank Autumn Carter for allowing us to share her story. It is our hope that after reading Autumn's story, you remember to get your annual mammogram, be mindful of your health, take time for yourself, and live each and every day to its fullest.