Roses for the victor

Editor’s note: This is second in a series of Trumbull County residents who are sharing their breast cancer journeys. Profiles will run on Tuesdays through October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Tribune Chronicle correspondent

WARREN — In 2011, Lanie Simmons Bright was diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer in the milk duct of her breast. It can kill a person within 30 days.

“I opted quickly for surgery, radiation therapy and the chemo pill,” Bright, 62, said.

Five years later, Bright credits diet and exercise for aiding her as a survivor. “This is my reality, for me to stay healthy.”

“My daughter — I have four children — and hired aides assisted me. But even by July 4, 2014, my head hurt, my body hurt, my back ached and my blood pressure was too high or too low.

“I tend to develop small tissues, which mean going back to the hospital before the cancer forms,” she said.

She said she comforted herself with lyrics from the T’Pau song “Heart and Soul”: “Give a little bit of heart and soul, and don’t you make me beg for more.”

“I ‘zen’ the pain out away from my body,” she said.

“Then on July 6, 2014, I purchased a treadmill from my friend’s yard sale and used it especially to strengthen the density of my breasts,” she said. The treadmill includes arm swing extensions.

“I am trying to do 10 minutes increments at a time. Ten minutes at breakfast, 10 minutes at lunchtime and ten minutes before the mailman comes at 2. That gives me 30 minutes five times a week.

Along with exercises, she said her diet consists mostly of vegetables and she follows a rest routine.

“The young doctor suggested for every hour of activity to get an hour of rest. He was right on the money. I feel so much better,” she said.

She credits the Trumbull Memorial Hospital Oncology Department, many Mercy Health programs and Nicotine Anonymous meetings for her survival as well.

“I have loved all of my support groups,” Bright said. “I also have a lot of friends praying for me.”

She is a member of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton congregation in Warren. “The parishioners there are just wonderful. I am thankful to the Good Lord and my medical team, and my family and friends, for every day I have survived. Now I am seven months beyond my five-year survival rate.”

Bright carries a quote from musician Nick Jonas, who suffers from Type II diabetes: “No matter how on top of stuff you are, there will be days that will be tough. But you’ll be okay and can do whatever you want with your life.”

“I look at it often throughout my day,” Bright said.

Bright was born at Fort Monroe, Va. Her mother was Hawaiian, and her father was black, French and Indian. He eventually worked for General Motors Corp. in Detroit before taking a job in the GM plant in Lordstown.

Bright said she’d said she had been working with disabled individuals in the writing and the reading lab at The University of Michigan. She took a job as a teacher’s assistant in the writing lab for the University of Cincinnati.

Bright later came to Warren to be with her father, who has since passed. She said she often sings Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at karaoke in memory of him. “He just loved her voice. He even spoke with her once,” she said.

“When I first came here (to Warren), I taught special education for adults at Fairhaven (Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities). I have talked with someone in Youngstown about working as an aide for two or three days a week. But now the hospital has recommended three months rest, no working, and not being on campus. It was kind of hard to hear.

“My concerns now are to continue my self-care, enjoy my family and religious activities, and my retirement,” she said.

“I have a bucket list of things I want to do and places I want to go,” Bright said. A couple weeks ago, she clicked off the top item on her list.

“My daughter and I walked through the Rose Garden in Mill Creek MetroPark and there were the bloody red gladiator roses,” she said. “It is said that when the battle was over with the victim, the victor would be given the gladiator roses in a presentation.

“So I purchased some artificial gladiator roses and put them on my mirrored dresser across from my hospital bed that I rest in and each time I wake up, I look at them and say, ‘Yay, I won again, another day of life! Thank you, good Lord.'”