CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- In this Eye of Health report, we learn the story of Suzette Carlisle, whose life took a drastic turn 12 years ago after a routine trip to the doctor.
"The first thing you're numb, you think is this an out of body experience, is he really saying this to me, or am I going to actually have to go through this," she says.
What she was about to go through was a long, difficult, and painful journey. At just 32 years old, Suzette had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
"After the initial shock , it was time to fight," she says.
But the fight wouldn't be an easy one. Not only was she a mother with two young children, but she was also going through a divorce while she was going through treatment.
"While I was in treatment I actually became a single parent, so I was not only forced to be mom and dad, I actually had to be everything that my kids needed me to be," says Carlisle.
And that wasn't easy. She didn't tell a lot of people about her diagnosis, very few of her co-workers at BCBS knew she was battling breast cancer. Suzette says she turned to her faith for strength and guidance.
"I prayed a lot and asked God for guidance and strength to do what I needed to do and once I got over the biggest hurdle I decided it was time to come out and share my story," she says.
And she's doing just that, but Suzette realizes she is one of the fortunate ones. According to statistics over 300,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and unfortunately nearly 40,000 are expected to die from the diagnosis.
One of those that lost the battle was Suzette's best friend who also was the mother of a young child. "My fight was not only for her but for me," she states.
With more research and better treatment the mortality rates have decreased, but that's not the case for African American women, which is why Suzette says it's important for her to get involved in events like the race for the cure and try to make a difference for all of those struck by breast cancer.
"It's not that you have to re-live your story, but it's ok to share your story and it's part of growth, as a survivor, we have to pay it forward," she says.
And that's exactly what she's doing. Since her struggle begin more than a decade ago, she's sent two children off to college and has added to her family tree with her youngest child now nine years old. And she wants more women to have a happy ending.