Love in Community: A Q&A With Lorenita Lucas
When Lorenita Lucas, of Washington, D.C., was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in October 2014, her doctors didn’t expect her to live long. Like many people, she began to think about what she considered important in life and what legacy she would leave behind. Lorenita, 50, attended conferences, such as LBBC’s Thriving Together: 2016 Conference on Metastatic Breast Cancer, in April, and support groups to speak with other people, and she heard from many with spouses and children. But she had trouble finding other women who, like her, are single and don’t have kids.
Lorenita, who was born in Houston, Texas, has found support from her large community of friends, her father and her two sisters. She also finds strength in sharing her experience. She spoke with LBBC’s copy editor and content coordinator Eric Fitzsimmons about her experience as a single woman living with metastatic breast cancer.
How has being single affected you?
When you go to conferences or workshops or people are speaking in general, they tend to speak about holding on to something that’s bigger than you, and my experience is … they are usually referring to kids or a husband. Not the nuclear family you were born into but the nuclear family you created.
If you’re newly diagnosed or newly metastatic looking for help in these places and they’re telling you to hold on to something greater, and then they’re going on to define it as children and a husband, it kind of makes you think, like “Whoa, where do I stand?”
I think that’s great and I think it gives people something. It just makes you think [as a person who is single and has no kids], “Well, OK, should I just put together my end-of-life plans now?”
What have you found that you hold on to?
I am extremely, extremely blessed in that I have a huge circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. My circle is probably unusual. I just know a lot of people so when stuff like this happens, people are willing to come and help.
I teach fitness classes. I am a member of two book clubs. I belong to a church, and these are just some of my activities. My community was extremely supportive, coming to visit me in the hospital, supporting me financially. Most notably, a couple, members of my church, invited me to stay with them for 3 months after I was released from the hospital. Having so many people around kept my spirit happy. Prayer, love and laughter is why I am alive.
I have a huge community and I am very satisfied. But, in my situation I have come across people who have been metastatic, who aren’t married and don’t have kids and it can be a very hard road for them.
One person, from meeting her when she was first diagnosed to a couple weeks later and going to see her, I could just see her kind of lose her light. If anyone came to visit me at any time of the day there were several people in my room when I was in the hospital, whereas sometimes, and I just met her … I was the only person in her room.
That’s how I get through it and that kind of makes me wonder about people who don’t have big circles.
Do you think not having a husband and children has pushed you to become more involved and to look for a community?
I am not sure because that’s how I was before, so I can’t say I was pushed any more. … If I go to a conference and I see someone [in a session] who is metastatic who might be in their 40s and they don’t have children, they haven’t been married, I might go up to [talk to her] first.
Do you have any advice for someone who is newly diagnosed and single and might also be feeling left out of discussions that focus on partners and children?
Rely on the community and family you have built for yourself, of course including the family you were born into. I shared my story and that helped. The way that you get help is to let other people know that you need help and a lot of people will be there. … Remember there are people who don’t share this with their families, and that’s a personal choice. If you really want help and to be embraced in what people can consider a very dark period, one way to get light is to shed light. If you shed light on a situation, then you can get more light and love sent your way.