With a family history of breast cancer, ChellyRey Reynolds knew her odds of developing the disease were higher than average. When a diagnosis came, she found herself prepared. But ChellyRey hadn’t anticipated needing extra reserves of courage and determination to comfort concerned family members.
So as she pursued an alternative course of treatment in Mexico, ChellyRey kept her loved ones close on Marco Polo. Together, they rallied their strength and kept the faith.
The hardest part
I discovered the lump last October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I had just finished shooting a video featuring testimonials by powerful, beautiful breast cancer survivors, a project I developed to honor my grandmother and two aunts who had lost their lives to the disease.
When I got my diagnosis, I was alone. (They didn’t allow men in the screening area, which still baffles me.) In the changing room, I gathered my thoughts and steeled myself for what felt like the hardest part, sharing the news with my husband and family. I had unshakable faith that I’d survive this storm, but my heart broke at the worry it would cause everyone else. I had to remain strong enough to support them along the road ahead.
An alternative path
Having seen both the grueling effects and the incredible expense of chemotherapy and radiation, after much prayer, I decided to follow a nontraditional, holistic course. I chose a protocol offered at a clinic in Mexico specializing in integrative medicine and immunological therapies. My husband and I made caregiving arrangements for the kids and packed our bags for Tijuana, where I embarked on a 21-day intensive treatment program.
Following a double mastectomy, my daily regimen included intravenous vitamins, chelation, ozone therapy, coffee enemas, organic fresh-pressed juices, and periods of time in a hyperbaric chamber to help heal the wounds from surgery.
I’m usually the strong one, but the intense routine and long days started to wear on me. One day I experienced this surreal moment when everything finally hit home. My sister had posted something on social media asking everyone to pray for me. I saw the word “cancer” next to my name and I thought, Wait, this is me? This is my life? Until then I hadn’t connected the two – there was cancer, and there was me. Separate. The reality took my breath. I wanted to turn inward.
Easing their worry while harnessing my strength
Yet I had to keep my extended family informed. To them, cancer equaled death, and their worry intensified with me out of the country undergoing this alternative treatment. Allowing them to walk the path with me would give us all peace of mind.
Our modest nonprofit salaries didn’t put us in a position to place international phone calls every day, but the clinic had Wi-Fi. That meant I could use Marco Polo. So each day, with one Polo, I could reassure everyone face-to-face without tapping out my reserves.
I also used Marco Polo to draw strength from my own support network. Long before the cancer diagnosis, I had formed a large women’s group on Marco Polo called Sister’ing and a smaller, closer-knit subset called the Left Hand Ladies. Our motto is, “We do life together.”
As the treatment went to work on my body, these women helped sustain me emotionally, even during sleepless nights. Having their help in navigating my intense feelings lifted a huge burden from my husband and me.
Love, comfort, healing
Five months after my diagnosis, to the day, I learned I was cancer-free. I called my siblings first and then celebrated with my ladies on Marco Polo! I have a deep conviction that everyone’s love and comfort helped me heal.
Marco Polo didn’t cure my breast cancer, but it brought peace of mind during the battle and proved to be so much more than just a video messaging app. It was a lifeline.
Author, speaker, and coach ChellyRey Reynolds was named one of Orlando Magazine’s 2019 Women of the Year. Visit her website to learn more.