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Laws overcame the disease with personal fortitude, family and God.
By Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Staff Writer
Eloise Laws is an entertainer, singer and actress born from a family of musicians. Originally from Houston, Texas, Laws began her singing career in the 1970's releasing her first album, Ain't It Good Feeling Good. She followed up her success with her numerous albums, worked with many jazz artists and starred in musicals like, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. Laws had conquered the studio, stage and Broadway and would go on to conquer cancer.
"I will be a four year survivor come November," said Laws. "I found out by early screening which is very important.
It was in 2003, during a mammogram that they detected something in her breast. The doctors weren't sure about it, so they informed Laws to come in every six months. It wasn't until October of 2007 that she officially found out she had cancer. Laws under went a biopsy and they found multiple spots of cancer in her breast.
"A calmness came over me, like a feeling that I've never felt before. It wasn't a feeling of fear. It was a feeling of something's wrong and if it's cancer, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?"
Laws would then undergo a search for the right doctor to see her through her ordeal. When she found a doctor to do the surgery, she formed a trusting relationship. "I became very close with him and made a point of doing that. I made him take the time to explain things very thoroughly to me each time I visited him," said Laws.
She brought in her family so they could be educated on the process that lied ahead. "When you're in that position, you miss a lot of things," said Laws. Laws included her family on the meetings so they could be knowledgeable and help her through being a cancer patient.
Laws had to have a lumpectomy to get rid of the cancer. "So we scheduled that. We did that. The pathology report came back. 'Couldn't get it all,'" said Laws. It was at this point that she was offered another lumpectomy or a mastectomy. "The whole paradigm shifts. What I once had, will be gone. So what I was born with, some of that will be taken away."
After talking it over with her husband, family and close friends, Laws decided to have the mastectomy. "If it means saving my life and getting rid of the cancer, doesn't matter, let's just do whatever it takes," said Laws.
Laws would have to undergo reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy, which was a 12-hour surgery. "They let a team of surgeons come in and start the process of reconstruction," said Laws. A little bit after her mastectomy, they put in a module for her reconstructive surgery. "Once a week, I would have to go and they would take this long needle, it had saline that they would put inside to expand to a size that was normal."
"That was a process in itself," said Laws who at this point had taken in so much. She would later have a permanent implant put in ending an emotional year of surgeries. Laws had to cope with the idea of being taken care of, something she was used to doing herself.
"You're in a stage where you are helpless," and she had to rely on family and friends to get her through. "I had to have someone 24/7 in my sight, which I was very fortunate to have my sister who came and slept right by me and took care of me." Laws related how important it was to keep a log of the medications she had to take and having a support group.
"This is what led me to write my book, the Healing Shower," said Laws. The book is based off of the love and support she received from family and friends. She talks about family and friends offering in the form of a 'shower' the services and needs such as cleaning the house, buying groceries, cooking food for the infirmed person. "It's overwhelming and there are things that you just can't imagine that you have to think of, that have to be done.
"You're so consumed. You want to stay positive. You try to tune a lot of things out, so therefore you're not on top of things that you should be. That's why you need a team. That's why I came up with the idea of the Healing Shower."
She has been a guest speaker at many events, sharing her story and raising awareness about breast cancer. She was the keynote speaker at the American Cancer Society luncheon. "One of the key phrases that I make is that early detection is key, because then you have a chance," said Laws.
Laws dealt with her ordeal by leaning on God and His strength. "I fought it with first, trusting in God. I know people always want to bring God into the mix but I'm a very spiritual person. So He's in the mix," said Laws. She admitted that she had doubts even though she was trying to be strong.
She also made changes to her diet and exercise and follows a strict medicine regimen. "I'm still on chemo, so I take the pill," said Laws. She just has one more year to go before she's off the pill, which she is very happy about. Her biggest prescription to someone who's been diagnosed with cancer is laughter. "Really enjoy laughing, find something to laugh about.. As much as you can, all day long, just laugh."
Laws will be at Taste of Soul, Saturday, Oct. 16. She will perform at the event but she will also be advocating for cancer prevention. Laws highly endorses that women attending take advantage of the mammograms being offered at Taste of Soul. She swears by early detection and urges everyone to get to know what's going on with their body.