CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Letecia Jones-Cannady of West Ashley is a survivor. She won her fight against breast cancer and took drastic steps to keep the disease from coming back.
Her fight for survival succeeded, she says, because she used a lot of faith and a little laughter to win her battle.
Known as T.C. to family and friends, Jones-Cannady's path to becoming a breast cancer survivor started in 1971. She was just a 9-year-old girl when her grandmother was diagnosed.
"I remember her just sitting up in the chair a lot of the times, just crying," Jones-Cannady said. "And I would be rubbing her head and say, 'Momma, don't cry.' I actually call my grandmother mother because she raised me."
Her grandmother beat breast cancer. Her mother didn't.
"My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, in November 1994 she passed away at the age of 53 years old," Jones-Cannady said.
T.C. was in her early 30s when she buried her mother. Still, breast cancer wasn't done challenging the women in her family.
"I had a cousin who passed away in the year 2000," she said.
Then her mom's sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived.
T.C. knew that eventually, it would be her turn.
She started getting mammograms at the age of 35, and in 2002, at the age of 40, doctors found it.
"I actually kind of knew I would have breast cancer right after my mother passed," she said. "For some odd reason, I had a feeling that this disease would hit me and I actually did, so I was prepared."
Being prepared for the diagnosis was one thing, being prepared for the radiation treatment, used to burn cancer cells, was another.
"Getting up like 3:30 in the middle of the night and I was crying and I looked over at my pillow, and all of my flesh was on the bed," she said. "And I kind of panicked. All of my skin had just left, like peeled from my body and was just laying on my pillow."
She also recalls a divine encounter one night, as she sat on the side of her bed crying, that reassured her, everything would be okay.
"And I felt like these hands they came around me and I was feeling it like that and I said, 'Oh my God, God is real! God is real!'" Jones-Cannady said. "And um, I couldn't sleep, and all I know is that I felt someone rocking me gently from side to side and I rest my head on my pillow and I went back to sleep."
The cancer was in remission for seven years. Then in 2009, test results gave her a scare. It turned out it wasn't breast cancer, but because of her family history, the odds of the cancer returning were very strong. So T.C., on the advice of her doctor, she underwent a double mastectomy.
"When you're thinking about living, and wanting to be around for your grandchildren, your children, if it's gonna save my life, yes," she said.
During reconstructive surgery, doctors removed fat from another part of the body to rebuild her breasts. T.C. remembers it was a painful and slow recovery.
"I couldn't walk, I couldn't bathe myself, I couldn't basically do anything for myself," she said.
She needed several surgeries to complete the reconstruction process, but has no regrets. She says living cancer free is worth it.
"Right after I had, a few surgeries after that, and after my treatment in 2009, when my grandbaby came to stay with me and I was just thanking God that I am now over this, I am so glad I made the decision to have it done. I really am," she said.
T.C. is known as the comedian in her family, and she said laughter helped her get through the surgeries.
When asked, how she liked her new breasts, she replied, "Girl these things are perky," and then broke out into laughter.
T.C. had another reason to laugh after all she'd been through, she got married for the first time. And of course she had concerns.
"The question was, was my husband going to accept me the way I am, and that was the question, and he did. He never once complained," she said.
As she continues to love, laugh and pray through her ordeal, T.C. has an important message for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
"So many people, they are used to hearing the word cancer and they think immediately it's death. It's not. Untreated cancer is death," she said.