News Flash

Legislative District 02

Posted on: October 3, 2023

After Breast Cancer Battle, 20 Years of Surviving – and Thriving

After Breast Cancer Battle, 20 Years of Surviving – and Thriving

By Siela A. Bynoe 

Twenty years ago, I became one of the more than 4 million women in America who are breast cancer survivors. As I reflect upon this milestone, my heart is brimming with gratitude and a renewed drive to raise awareness about the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women in our nation.
At the age of 36, I discovered a lump in my breast as I was traveling with family to St. Kitts for a birthday celebration. Immediately upon returning home, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to embark upon further exploration. Following a mammogram, sonogram and needle-stick biopsy, my worst fears were realized – it was breast cancer.
This discovery added a great deal of uncertainty to a particularly active chapter of my life. At the time, I was working full-time as the Assistant Executive Director of the North Hempstead Housing Authority and pursuing my Masters degree in public administration at what is now known as LIU Post.
Amidst this personal adversity, however, my thoughts turned to softening the impact of this news for my friends and loved ones. When it came time to break the news to my family, I put on my bravest face and told them, “I have a plan in effect, and everything is going to be all right.” Despite my confident presentation, there were many hurdles.
Upon starting a course of chemotherapy early in treatment, I was treated for a rare allergic reaction that sent me into anaphylactic shock. Later, I was hospitalized with neutropenia, a serious condition in which my neutrophils – a type of white blood cell – dropped to dangerously low levels. As my support circle reassured me that I would rebound, my thoughts turned to the Bible and Jeremiah 29:11 – 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I soon learned that those plans included a tremendous groundswell of love and support. One of the examples I will always carry with me is the generosity of my friends and family. One sterling example involves my colleagues at the North Hempstead Housing Authority. As a relatively new employee, I had accrued only a small amount of sick leave, and that supply was being consumed quickly amidst treatment. That was, of course, until Loreen, Dolly, Frann and Susan donated their personal time off to ensure my continued care and give me some much-needed peace of mind. I will be forever grateful to these women – my friends for life – for their generosity.
Since completing chemotherapy and radiation, I earned my degree at LIU Post; continued my advocacy for affordable housing solutions during 15 years at the helm of the Huntington Housing Authority; served the Westbury community on its Board of Education; and since 2014 have been blessed with the humbling privilege of representing the residents of Nassau County’s Second Legislative District.
All of this was made possible by the love and support of my friends and family, the expertise of outstanding medical professionals, and the practices that led to prompt detection and treatment. For Black women, that is especially crucial. According to the American Cancer Society, we are more likely than white women to develop breast cancer before the age of 40; that was true in my case as I was diagnosed at the age of 36.
Furthermore, Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer among any racial or ethnic group. A large factor in that sobering statistic is the fact that one in five of us sustains triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to grow and spread faster, has fewer treatment options, and tends to have a worse prognosis.
Cognizant of these troubling statistics and the prevalence of this disease on Long Island, advocacy has been a significant part of my life since becoming a survivor. My office will be partnering with NuHealth to bring the Nassau University Medical Center breast cancer screening van to the Lakeview Public Library, 1120 Woodfield Road in Rockville Centre on Thursday, Oct. 26, and at Magnolia Gardens, 899 Broadway in Westbury, on Thursday, Nov. 2.
From 8:15 to noon on both dates, women over age 40 who have not been screened in more than a year can receive services including a breast exam from a nurse, a mammography, and self-examination instructions like the ones that led to the discovery of my own breast cancer. Appointments are free for uninsured women based on eligibility guidelines, and you can make an appointment by calling my office at 516-571-6202 while supplies last.
If you have not undergone testing in some time, please heed the lessons of my own experiences and avail yourself of this opportunity. I am living proof that abundant life can be on the horizon after a breast cancer diagnosis – but we must take a courageous first step to begin that journey.

Siela A. Bynoe, of Westbury, has represented Nassau County’s Second Legislative District since 2014.

Facebook Twitter Email

Other News in Legislative District 02

An Op-ed From Legislator Siela A. Bynoe

Posted on: December 8, 2023