Occasionally Erma Wilford feels the need to tell her story. Usually when she’s in church and wants others to know what she describes as “the goodness of the Lord.”
Wilford’s story is that she has been a breast cancer survivor for 16 years. The Attapulgus, Ga., native who now lives in Quincy and works at the Florida Institute of Public Safety recalls that throughout her ordeal, she was never afraid or nervous.
“The Lord had showed me what the outcome was going to be, so I had no reason to be afraid,” she said.
Two weeks after her annual mammogram in 1996, Wilford was lying in bed. She said God spoke to here and told her to feel her breast. When she did, she felt a knot that had not been there before.
“I woke my husband up and told him to feel it. He said he felt the knot and turned over and went back to sleep, so I went to sleep, too,” she said.
She put the knot out of her mind for a few days until she went to the hospital to visit her mother.
“I told her she’d better get well soon, because I had felt a knot in my breast. That’s when she sat straight up in the bed and told me to go to the doctor. I told her I had an appointment already the next month and she said the call the doctor’s office and get an earlier appointment,” Wilford said.
The doctor sent for an ultrasound, and when the results came back they sent her to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for a biopsy. The biopsy confirmed she had cancer in the breast and lymph nodes.
Wilford didn’t keep the diagnosis a secret; she just didn’t discuss it with anyone. One day she decided to tell a friend at work.
“She just started crying and crying, so that was that,” she said.
Wilford turned to the Bible and her mantra became, “Look to the hills from which cometh your help.” She repeated the verse untold times during her surgery and treatment
“I told the doctor to do what he had to do to get me well. Everything went fine during the surgery; they got all of the cancer out. I was supposed to take nine treatments of chemotherapy, but I only did six. I told the doctor that the chemo was killing me, not the cancer, and we stopped the treatments,” she said.
Wilford was familiar somewhat with breast cancer because a great aunt died from breast cancer because she refused surgery. She never smoked and was careful about her diet. When she learned of the diagnosis she never asked “why me”; she put all of her faith in the Lord and never looked back.
Not long after her surgery, Wilford said she was lying in bed again when she saw a strange light that seemed to encircle her body.
“I was kind of like a hoola hoop and the light was very bright. It seemed like Jesus spoke to me and I heard the words: ‘You’re cancer free,’ and since that time all of my check-ups (have) been clear,” Wilford said.
Still, Wilford wants other women to know it’s important to do the monthly self-breast examination and to get an annual mammogram.