“I Know What You’re Going Through”
By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – Valerie Darden-Davis has worked for the Crockett Medical Center (CMC) since 2008 doing mammograms and helping women cope with good and bad news. A radiologist now for 40 years, Darden-Davis has a bedside manner that makes her patients love her.
The entrance to her examination room is light and comfortable. There is coffee and other refreshments on offer. Sometimes, this room serves as a place to help women through difficult times.
Her room at CMC also comes equipped with some of the most advanced mammogram technology. The big machine does look intimidating. When asked if it hurts, Darden-Davis smiles and says, “I tell my patients I do it all with love!”
Darden-Davis knew the risks and effects of breast cancer from helping her patients – and from her own family which has a history of cancer.
So she knew what might be in store for her when she felt a lump herself in 2019. She took her sister with her to hear the results – she needed someone to be with her no matter what. In spite of her experience with breast cancer patients, the news was shattering.
“Nobody wants to hear that, even though I work in the medical field,” Darden-Davis explained. “When you hear you have cancer, your heart aches. And you think, “Oh my god, am I going to make it? What’s going to happen to me now?’ You are afraid. You go through all these emotions.”
Her cancer was at a stage two, the doctors said. It took Darden-Davis a while to steel herself for the fight she knew was coming.
Asked what the hardest part of the ordeal was, she broke down saying, “telling my children I might not be there. Sitting them down, ‘Momma needs to tell y’all something,’ – that was the hardest part.”
Darden-Davis is strong and not afraid to tell about her experience. Now cancer-free, she said the key is to not give up or give in.
“I am going to fight this and get through it,” Darden-Davis explained. “That attitude is very important because otherwise you are just going to get depressed. You need a good attitude and people around you. You always need some support with you to go through your journey, every step of your way.”
Darden-Davis is able to serve her patients so much better now, because she has been down the road they are beginning. When she sees the look of terror, the tears – the fear – she can now walk them through a process she went through and survived. She does not need to refer them to someone else, but tells them the good and the bad so they are ready for what lies ahead.
“Of course you say, ‘Oh my god, I have cancer.’ You imagine the worst. That’s just human nature. We’re going to go to the worst scenario there is. And we’re afraid of what the outcome might be. The quicker we detect it, the quicker we can start fighting it. I tell them, ‘Come on, so I can get you down and taken care of so we can beat this. We can beat this together and get through this.”
Darden-Davis urges women to get a mammogram, especially if there is a history of cancer in the family. She said to schedule one each year on your birthday is a good way to remember. Self-examinations – both arms raised in front of a mirror – know your body and spot changes that can at first seem small.
Free from cancer now for three years, she has learned not to fear it – even with its devastating effects, even for survivors. She uses her own story and experience to help women detect and beat breast cancer.
“My motto is, ‘I love what I do,’ Darden-Davis said, smiling. “And I know that it matters. I love my patients. I want them to get well. What can be more fun than getting them through that journey?”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at email@example.com