Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dianne Garrett interviews Purple and Pink founder Jowanda Thomas.

Jowanda Thomas, founder of Purple and Pink, joined Dianne Garrett with an on air interview October 15. She shared her touching experience with cancer, as well as her organization, and an upcoming event.

On Sunday, October 31, 2004, Jowanda completed her monthly self-breast examination before getting out of bed. She found a lump, but was not alarmed, because she had a history of cysts, so she passed the lump off as another cyst, but she did notice it was larger. She examined herself again in the shower, and still felt it, but continued with her day.

Her husband, Kevin, is the pastor of their church, Barnett Road Baptist Church. Jowanda woke her youngest of three, and he began singing, "Rise and shine and give God the glory". She sang along as she awoke her older son and daughter.

She said, "When I arrived at church I literally gave no more thought to the lump. I was excited about teaching the Sunday school lesson, Creating a Renewed Trust, from Psalm 73. This Bible passage speaks about Asaph, who despite distractions, never stopped worshipping the Lord. His life was worship. He was born into the tribe of Levi, which meant from birth he was dedicated to help with the religious life of Israel. He was a musician and one who sang Psalms in their worship services. He was the chief musician, played the cymbals and wrote Psalms 50 and 73-83."

She said that like Asaph, she is a worship leader. At their church she leads worship in song, sings lead, directs the choirs and helps choreograph the praise dancers. Through His providence, she felt God had given this lesson to teach, because He knew the word of Psalm 73 would sustain her through what she was about to face. "I related to Asaph's ministry and emotional storms, and I admired his choice to trust God in the end," shared Jowanda.

When she went to see her doctor, she was told that she was facing Stage 3 breast cancer. The doctor explained that would mean chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. She found herself devastated, confused and scared. There was no history in her family of breast cancer.

The day after diagnosis Kevin and Jowanda told their children, Joshua, Kristin and Jonathan. "Immediately we took them out for dinner and a movie. We wanted to teach them that even during the storms, life goes on and that God must be glorified."

The doctors advised eight rounds of chemotherapy, using three different types of drugs. Her first round was December 2, 2004. It lasted three and one-half hours. She described the drugs as very strong, giving her the feeling she was dying. The next day was Kevin's birthday. Instead of celebrating she was rushed to the hospital with all the signs of a heart attack. The physicians initially thought the chemotherapy may have caused blood clots in her lungs. She spent 12 scary days in the hospital.

The days following her release found her weak. All her hair rapidly fell out. Her tongue, fingernails, toenails and palms of her hands turned bluish black. Her skin became rough and peeled, her gums receded and her teeth became sensitive. Like Asaph, she thought how she needed a renewed trust in God.

Jowanda decided that she just could not endure seven more rounds of chemo like she experienced. After talking to her husband, family and parents, she chose to not go through that again.

"I called my doctor to ask if she would removed the cancerous tumor right away. Hesitantly she agreed. While waiting for the surgery date, I did my best to pray, exercise and improve my nutrition. Just five weeks after being diagnosed with Stage 3, the doctors opened me up, but found necrosis...dead tissue. The tumor had shrunk to the size of a pea! The cancer was dead! Prayer! Renewed trust! God! He had moved faster than I ever thought He would. As a result my family, friends and I have experienced first hand the power or prayer."

Jowanda now witnesses where ever she can to make women aware of how early detection and self exams are so very important. She is now four years cancer free! She started Purple and Pink, a support and outreach group. It stands for "Glorifying God and Conquering Cancer". Her organization reaches out to families going through what her own family experienced. Sometimes they provide the money for a family to have some fun together during a difficult time. Or, if they are having difficulty paying a utility bill, Purple and Pink will assist.

On October 25 Purple and Pink will host Benefit Breast Cancer Awareness Concert, featuring nationally known gospel artists, Peggy and Amante Lacey at 6 p.m. Prior to the concert at 5 p.m., Dr. William J. Hicks, Oncologist at the James Cancer Hospital will conduct a public question and answer session.

Also available will be free to low cost mammograms provided by Ohio Health Mobile coach from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. You must register in advance by calling 566-1111.

The event will be at Barnett Road Baptist Church, 1500 Barnett Road. For more information, call 237-8320.

Reported by Dianne Garrett for Bexley Public Radio.

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Design is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Dianne Garrett.

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