When Rudine Harrison was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, she didn’t let the disease get the best of her.
15 years after she underwent her experience with the disease, she was celebrated for not only beating it, but for showing strength and support to others in its wake. Now 53 years old, Harrison received praise Oct. 28 from those younger and older who called her an inspiration.
At Shiloh Baptist Church, where Harrison, a Hogansville native, has attended since she was a little girl, the decorations inside for the last Sunday of October were all bright pink. Wrist bands, shirts and balloons were given out to honor those who, like Harrison, have fought breast cancer.
The ceremony that day was for all those who have fought with the disease, but Harrison was the guest of honor. Shiloh Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Keith Todd said he was impressed by Harrison’s strength, noting that he didn’t realize she was a cancer survivor until she told him.
“She doesn’t walk around with her head down, saying ‘I’ve gone through this,’” and given up, Todd told the congregation. “You are a survivor, and we applaud you.”
October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies working to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease and provide greater access to services. Harrison’s experience reflects just one of the countless number of people who have undergone treatment for breast cancer.
Harrison said her experience went relatively smoothly. After her diagnosis, her left breast was amputated and she underwent chemotherapy, but recovered with no ill effects. She continues to go in for checkups and has consistently received a clean bill of health since.
“They tell me I look good, that everything is the same … it was big tumor in the lymph node,” Harrison said. “I’m glad for the grace of God that he took me through it and everything.”
Harrison didn’t let her experience slow her down. On Oct. 24 she participated in the HOPE For a Day breast cancer walk, where she got to meet other survivors and share stories. Some of those she saw at the walk were people she knew, but didn’t know they also were survivors.
Since her experience, Harrison said she tells everyone to get checked. Sunday, one of her nieces, with tears in her eyes, praised Harrison for her strength and told her she had her first check up. Harrison told her to make sure she continued to be checked every year.
Harrison’s family, friends and church members praised her strength and poise Sunday. Harrison said that despite her strong emotional demeanor, she was fighting back tears as she stood in front of the church listening to those close to her speak about their admiration.
“I thought it was real good,” she said of the event. “I was trying not to cry, trying to be strong. I’m actually a very emotional person. That’s just me.”
Harrison volunteers with parks and recreation and said she enjoys working with children and the elderly.
“Life is such a blessing. I kept on going and I’ve not let it stop me,” Harrison said of her fight with the cancer. “I’ve always been active with kids, and I like being active with kids and elderly people also.”
On Sunday, Todd praised Harrison’s love and ties with those in her life.
“It’s good to know love,” Todd said. “It’s good to share love with one-another.”
Todd also reminded the congregation that many who have gone through breast cancer did not survive, and that they are there to honor them as well. He prayed for all families who have been touched by cancer to have the strength to see it through.
At the end of the service, the church released pink balloons to symbolize victory over breast cancer.
Harrison was grateful for all the love and praise given to her. In an emotional speech to the church, she gave also credit to a higher power.
“I thank everybody, I thank God for my salvation, that God let me stay here,” she said. “I see my grandbaby and it makes me smile, and I thank God for the (HOPE for a Day) walk yesterday. And I see that all these people really love me, and I know I’m blessed.”