Glamorous Conqueror -LaCrissa Sapp
For the second installment of the Glamorous Conqueror series, we visited with Abilene, Texas native, LaCrissa Sapp. A single mother, full time administrative assistant, gym-rat who collects passport stamps like most collect postage stamps; and we dare to not mention die hard Dallas Cowboys fan -for life! Sapp is also an avid world traveler, she can be found atop the sands of Dubai or meditating in the meadows of Vancouver. And at the heart of it all is her, now, eight year old, daughter Trinity. This Glamorous Conqueror is a living story of self-awareness, perseverance, determination and living the dream!
Mommy Time at The Park
LaCrissa and I know another from a natural hair/sister-lock Facebook group. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and decided to meet early on a Saturday morning for a photo shoot and breakfast. We drove to a nearby water park with our daughters in tow, and emotions were surprisingly high. She was excited about the interview and felt honored, but she was also nervous; and had been up all night thinking of what clothes to wear, what makeup to wear, and what hairstyle to wear. However, it all stemmed from being nervous about opening up and about such a personal and emotional time in life. She’d never done this before.
We took pictures at the waterpark and had fun with our girls, then headed to breakfast. We talked Over pecan pancakes, country ham, and grits. I explained to her that I found her story interesting because I was aware that she battled cancer and battles sickle cell as well. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “The term sickle cell disease (SCD) describes a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People with SCD have abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S or sickle hemoglobin, in their red blood cells.” Sickle cell is passed from parent to child, so it’s something you’re born with.
Born This Way
“For the longest, I didn’t even know what Sickle Cell was growing up, cause I have what is called Sickle Cell Thalassemia. It’s a different type of sickle cell, so-to-speak. I don’t have frequent breakouts or episodes as everybody else does, but they can get bad. My main problem was Anemia, and I would have some pain crisis when I would do things to over exert myself -but I didn’t know. And growing up I never really…because it…they didn’t really know anything about [Sickle Cell] Thalassemia so I was misdiagnosed a lot. And so, a lot of times they thought I was faking when I had pain crisis, so I would just be in pain and nobody knew,” she says in a roundabout way. “It wasn’t until I was in my thirties and moved to the DFW area network that I had gone to the doctor about my anemia. Just being anemic, just being lethargic and stuff like that and he was like ‘Well have you ever heard of Sickle Thalassemia,’ and I was like, ‘uh-no’. And then we did all the testing, and everything came back and he was like, ‘That’s what I thought, because the way you were describing what was happening and from what I’m seeing in your blood work -you know, coincides with the diagnosis of [Sickle Cell] Thalassemia.’
She went on to explain the misfortune of being diagnosed in her thirties and the setbacks of not being educated on the disease and its limitations, “Nobody had told me about altitudes sickness and stuff like that. And being an avid traveler, I didn’t know that I couldn’t go to certain places.” So she set out to learn as much as she could about the disease and its effects.
More and More
She fell in love, got engaged and became a mother; and in 2009, while in treatment for sickle cell, she experienced an unusual number of boil outbreaks and one in particular that lead to more questions ultimately, more diagnoses. “My breast cancer was discovered because I also have a another disease called HS, which is Hidradenitis Suppurativa. And basically, what it is, it is a disease that causes -they say it’s a skin disease, but I believe in my heart of hearts that it’s more autoimmune.”
The National Institutes of Health define Hidradenitis Suppurativa as Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease characterized by recurrent, painful, boil-like lumps (nodules) under the skin.
“I kept having this pain under my arm, and I was asking my doctor like, ‘Can I have a mammogram?” She takes a sip of her coffee and explains how the doctors told her no and ran down every reason that it couldn’t be cancer. Even being told that the only symptom she experienced was pain, and cancer doesn’t hurt. The doctor passed the pain off as a symptom of HS. Being fed up with sub par treatment, she then searched for and found a doctor who would perform a mammogram. Positive results yielded another search for care, as this doctor was offended with being asking up front for a treatment plan.
Life Takes A Turn
She explains how the end of her engagement, being a new mom and new breast cancer patient affected her, “It was hard. I mean like, as a person, a mom; Trinity was one and it was hard.” She explains how she had no real support from family. “The first person I called in my family was like, ‘uh…who gonna get the baby when you die?’ So I just hung up and I called someone else in my family, and they were like, ‘Who’s the beneficiary on your life insurance policy?’ And so I hung up with that person, At the time, me and Trinity’s father weren’t getting along very well and I prayed, and I said, ‘Ok God, it’s me and you.”
Blessed with finding an oncologist who allowed her to not only come in early, but bring her baby and allow the baby to sit at the front with the receptionist, or his wife, who worked there, during treatments. She tells me how life became a revolving door of getting dressed, get to treatment, get dressed again, get the baby to daycare, and go to work. But blessed, yet again, with an understanding, accommodating employer during chemo treatment.
Sapp explains that accommodating health care providers cannot compare to sickness, nausea from smells and movement, weight gain from steroids, tipping the scales at four hundred plus pounds in the midst of starvation, but coming to the realization that, “At the time when you’re going through it, the weight gain. Yeah, you’re conscious of it, but you’re like, ”I just want to live and I’ll deal with that afterward.”
She went through ten months of treatment, had a partial mastectomy on October the 8th and explains that. “My worst day. I remember, was when I went to wash my face and my eyebrows came off. I was prepared for the hair, I was prepared for the roughness of the skin, I had all the creams the lotions and all of that. But no one had ever told me about the eyebrows, and it was like I hadn’t’ prepared myself to lose my eyebrows. And I started crying, and it was probably a build up frustration of everything up to that point; because when you’re a strong person nobody really checks on you. Everybody just assumes that you got this and they don’t know that strong people get weak too, strong people need somebody too. And that was my weakest moment is when -I just lost it.”
Beauty and Finding Your Voice
She explains what she did in the midst of everything to feel beautiful. “Lipstick [smiles, then laughs]! I mean, I made a conscious effort every day to get up and put my makeup on. Even if I didn’t put nothing else on,” she says. “Cause I’m a country girl, and I’ve always been taught, by my grandma, ‘Don’t ever leave your house without lipstick on,’ and my lipstick is what made me feel like I was beautiful. That I was more than what was happening, more than what was around. It was like my escape. Initially, when I started [treatment] my body wasn’t responding. I didn’t know what to do, but I said, ‘Ok If this is it if this is the end and the last things that my child sees me. I would want her image of me to be me put together, me living my life me taking charge of me, dictating what I look like, what I put out there.”
LaCrissa Sapp a living testimony whose advice for those currently going through is, “My advice would be, one: to know your body. Know what you’re putting into your body and the things that are important for you to know, and be your own advocate. Because there are so many times that you’re going through treatment, and they try to show -there are so many people that are going through treatment these days and something when you go to these treatment facilities, it’s a business-it’s business first. And sometimes you feel like you’re just a number, you’re just a patient, and it took a long time for me to remember that I was more than that. That I’m’ still LaCrissa, that I’m still Sapp regardless of what I’m going through. I’m still Sapp, and I had to find me in all of that, so-to-speak, so know yourself and be your own advocate.”