threadTALK Blog Series 12: Thoughts of a Two Time Cancer SURVIVOR with Darlene Denning
What started as an outlet for Darlene to express herself and her interest in beauty and fashion on her YouTube channel turned into something so much more. Today, she teaches women all over the world to embrace their age, and shares her struggles with cancer and how she overcame it TWICE! We had the honor to interview Darlene and dive deeper into her thoughts and feelings; from when she was told the news not once, but twice, to going through her battles, and how faith has helped her through her toughest times. Here is Darlene Denning:
Q Tell us a little bit about yourself and your YouTube channel. What made you want to start creating videos?
A Hi y’all I’m Darlene. I’m 52, I’ve been married 28 years, I have three children my oldest Desiree (35), Ashley (26)And my youngest Matthew who is 12 and my first grandbaby Karter is turning 2 in December. I’m a two-time cancer survivor. Truthfully, because that’s what you’ll always get on my YouTube channel Darlene D Beauty Over 50, the first time I ever saw a YouTube video was because my dryer broke and I refused to wait to have a repair guy fix it so I watched a YouTube video and yes I fixed it! It was around that time I had just turned 50 and I’ve always been proud of every year I’ve been blessed to be on this earth! I had been in the medical field prior and loved it. The best part was being able to make a difference. Due to complications from thyroid cancer I had to stop working. I missed so much of working and being able to contribute. So one day I picked up my cell phone and created my YouTube channel Darlene D Beauty Over 50. Let’s get real I had no idea what I was doing! I’m not a tech-savvy person and I didn’t even know what I wanted my Channel to be. But I did know a couple of things. I wanted my channel to be something that mattered to me. This wasn’t about making money. It needed to be truthful. I love my age and I wanted women to embrace their age as well. Just because we turn a certain number doesn’t mean we just give up and stop being beautiful. We’re all beautiful so celebrate each and every number! So over time my channel evolved, I talk about fashion, skincare, cosmetics and what we put in our bodies. And you see me as I am, every imperfection. And most recently I’ve started talking about my breast cancer journey. I was concerned at first about how my subscribers would respond to such a serious topic, after all, we go to YouTube to escape or fix a dryer . But the overwhelming support, prayers, shared stories and love has been a blessing.
Q We appreciate you being so honest and open on your channel. Would you mind sharing with us your breast cancer journey?
A I was diagnosed in 2011 with thyroid cancer. It took a toll on me and there were complications that I’ll live with for the rest of my life. But I had 8 years of being cancer-free. Well until May of this year when I went in for a yearly mammogram. I’m a very proactive and preventative girl. I do my mammograms, skin cancer screenings, yearly physicals. And I really thought I had had my battle with cancer. But there was another battle looming. A week or so after my mammogram I received the standard letter stating the radiologist needed additional views. So I scheduled my appointment for additional views and an ultrasound. Everyone around me kept saying I’m sure it’s nothing, it happens all the time. But somewhere deep inside I knew it was possible. My husband asked if I wanted him to go with me and I said “no they’re not going to tell me anything” I knew instantly that this was different from the standard mammogram. I did the extra views, then sat there waiting for the ultrasound. The ultrasound took 45 minutes, then the radiologist came in and repeated what the technologist just did. She asked me to sit up and said: “I’m going to be honest”. I thought to myself what else were you going to be. “We need to do a biopsy” being that I’ve been in this field I figured it could be anything. So calmly I asked, “so besides cancer what else could it be?” It’s Cancer. Two words. Just Two words. My response “Are you F-ing kidding me”. I’ve already had cancer. As if that should rule me out somehow. Shaken to my core, my mind whirling I asked questions I wouldn’t even remember, listened to the radiologist talk about things I wouldn’t even comprehend. All the while hearing my phone ringing in my bag, the all familiar Beauty and the Beast ringtone that belongs to my husband. Calling over and over. I knew I couldn’t answer. I kept thinking you have to get up, get dressed, walk to your car and drive home. If you answer you won’t be able to do those things. But he was being very persistent so I answered on the way to my car. Told him it was cancer and that I’d call him back. I got home, crying my eyes out while sitting on the front porch talking to my husband a deer walks up and just stares at me. My dog is running around and still, the deer stares at me, not moving. She’s a sign. So I hang up with my husband, grab my camera and start to document my Breast Cancer Journey on my YouTube channel. A biopsy a few weeks later would confirm Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma or Breast Cancer. Then the decisions began. In the end, I chose to have a mastectomy. The surgery was set for July 24th. I spent the next month having family vacations, filming, and preparing. I asked God to take away the fear and he did. We went to the church On Sunday’s as we’ve done and I felt filled and ready for this fight. So I went into surgery positive and prepared. At least I thought I was. But it wasn’t going to be an easy battle, I’m not sure if there is such a thing.
Q What has been your biggest struggle caused by breast cancer and what have you done to ease/overcome it?
A One word. COMPLICATIONS. Like everything else I thought if I did my research, if I prepared, interviewed oncologists and surgeons that somehow I could control the outcome. Boy was I wrong. The first complication would come two weeks after surgery, necrosis. In 9 weeks I’d have three surgeries, four hospital stays, a nasty infection, that would require a hospital stay and 9 days of iv antibiotics every 4 hours. I’d learn about midlines, allergic reactions and hospital infections. I’d watch all strength from my body and soul slowly fade. Being able to control none of it. Currently, I have no tissue expander so it was difficult to look at my body but more than anything I wanted my life back. A breast truly is something I can live without and at this point I have no intention of going through another surgery and risk complications for a breast. Maybe one day but not anytime soon. Overcoming everything that has happened hasn’t been easy. Every time I stood up I was knocked down. Every small step forward I was pushed backwards. At the lowest, when all of the strength I had, felt used up when I cried every day when every single part of my body felt abused, I let go. The hardest day I finally just let go. I knew it was beyond my power to control so I asked God again to help me and in writing this today I’m healing. The journey is far from over and I don’t know what will happen next but I know I have a voice and as I regain my strength I’ll use it. The epidemic of breast cancer is appalling, 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. 1 in 3 will have a mastectomy complication. These statistics are gut-wrenching. We have to do better. We can do better. As of today, I’m Cancer FREE. Thanks to God’s grace and my family, friends, subscribers and random strangers sending their love and support.
Q We're all a tiny fragment in this vast universe called life. I want to know your thoughts on the meaning of Life?
A Thoughts on the meaning of life. Well that’s a simple one. Lol. I’m not sure I know but I’ll say this first and foremost my life was given to me by God, but it’s up to each of us what we choose to do with it. For me, When you face something like cancer it changes you. It can’t help but change everything about you. At least for me it did. I see life as delicate and yet powerful. It’s fleeting and yet one simple act of kindness can last a lifetime. Perhaps it comes down to a single word KINDNESS. It can change anything and everything.
Q We love that you advocate embracing your age! What are some things on your bucket list that you are excited to cross off?
A I can say that the most important thing on my bucket list is simply more time. More time with my children, husband, friends. I’d love to become even closer to our lord and savior. I’ve been blessed to travel but there is still so much of this country I’d love to see, the beaches of Maine, the Blue Ridge mountains, Vermont. I’d also like to take a whole summer and visit more of our national landmarks with my family. New to my bucket list this year is becoming an advocate for women with breast cancer. To try and make a difference. To use my story, my voice.
Q At Thread Tank we are all about telling each individual’s unique story. If you can give a title to YOUR life story, what would it be and why?
A “If you fight you will overcome . What you overcome depends on your fight” Fighter. If I look back over my 52 years and had to choose a title that would be it. I grew up with alcoholic parents, never stayed in the same school more than a year. I don’t know what it’s like to have childhood friends, I’ve known what it’s like to be abused, to be alone, to live without electricity, to be on welfare, to be afraid. I’ve been on my own since I was 16, but with every fight, every obstacle comes strength. I’ve been given many opportunities and I took each one. I’ve had careers I’ve loved, my YouTube channel which connects me to people around the world, a husband I’ll spend the rest of my life with, three amazing human beings I’m proud they call me mom, a home in the country I love, friends who care about me, a church that fills my soul. These were not handed to me, I had to fight to overcome so it’s what I did. Perhaps the early years were preparing me for the fight of my life. Cancer. Don’t think for a moment it’s been easy, that there weren’t times I thought I couldn’t do this, I won’t survive, I want to give up but it’s in those desperate moments, where maybe I couldn’t see the light that I let go, and remembered I do this knowing I’m not fighting these battles alone “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 Sometimes you just have to let go and trust in someone greater than yourself . That’s not always been easy for me. To ask for help, to let go but I’m learning.
Follow Along on Darlene's YouTube Channel: Darlene D
A woman has about a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. There are also over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Thread Tank wants to make a difference by creating an entire pink collection dedicated to those affected by breast cancer. A portion of each purchase from our Pink Collection will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. to provide help and inspire hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.